It’s Time to Thank Teachers Across America

Most of us can recall a teacher who helped us learn, change and grow. For me, there were several, but there’s one who particularly stands out: my mom.

Her resume alone commands respect: She’s taught kindergarten at a rural elementary school since the 1970s. That means that every year, she not only ensures that students learn the basics like numbers and letters – she also shapes a gaggle of fresh-eyed, boundlessly energetic 5-year-olds into polite and productive members of society.

For some students, she may be the first educational influence they’ve experienced, and she takes that responsibility very seriously. When I lived at home, I remember her working countless nights not just grading papers, but also building and creating projects and materials that would give her class an extra boost. All that required was her own extra time, which she didn’t have much of, being a single mother to my sister and me.

So when Walmart announced Teacher Appreciation Week, I couldn’t wait to tell her about it. Through the program, which is happening now through July 31, she and other educators across the U.S. can receive 10% savings on classroom supplies. Over the years, going the extra mile for her class has sometimes meant digging into her own pocket, so I knew she would appreciate the discount. “Every little bit helps,” she replied when I shared the news.

This is the first year for Teacher Appreciation Week, but Walmart has been showing its support of educators for many years. The Walmart Foundation has a Teacher Rewards program, where all Sam’s Club, Walmart stores and distribution centers nationwide give gift cards to local schools to help teachers stock their classrooms. And for the third year, our online tool Classrooms by Walmart provides a convenient way for teachers to share supply lists with new students – and even create classroom wish lists of their own.

I’m proud that after all these years, families in my small town still request to have their kids enrolled in my mom’s class. There are stories like hers in schools in every state, and it’s the perfect time to let those teachers know how big of an impact they’ve truly had.



Gov. Deal on ‘The Silicon Valley of the South’

As Walmart opens a new e-commerce fulfillment center in Atlanta, we caught up with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal for a quick chat about his home state – and its growing reputation as a tech incubator.

WMT: What is the most exciting thing about being governor of Georgia?

Deal: Our economy is seeing positive growth with thousands of new jobs added every month. We’re seeing the telltale signs of cranes and bulldozers humming on newly cleared land. We’re seeing home values recover and Georgia families rebuild their savings. In fact, since the start of my first term in 2011, we’ve helped create more than 400,000 private sector jobs. Companies representing a wide variety of industries continue to expand and relocate here. This growth strengthens local communities and our state as a whole.

WMT: What, if anything, can the public and private sectors teach each other about innovation?

Deal: Early in 2011, we put in place what we call the Competitiveness Initiative, a joint effort with leaders from government, universities and technical colleges and the private sector. The initiative examined six key factors identified by site selectors as the most important influencers in corporate location and expansion decisions:

  • Infrastructure
  • Innovation
  • Education and workforce development
  • Friendly business climate 
  • Global commerce
  • Government efficiency

Based on the recommendations from public and private stakeholders, we’ve been able to implement several positive policy changes and programs. This innovation and collaboration has served — and will continue to serve — Georgians well.  

WMT: What does the Walmart e-commerce fulfillment center opening mean for Atlanta’s identity as a burgeoning tech hub?

Deal: Georgia has experienced rapid growth in the tech sector in the past several years. In fact, Atlanta has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of the South” due to our growing reputation as a technology hub. With the addition of Walmart’s fulfillment center, Georgia continues to cement its reputation as a tech incubator and innovator. These well-paying, high skills jobs are indeed the jobs of the future. We know that between now and the year 2020, STEM field occupations will introduce more than 79,000 new jobs to Georgia. In response, we’ve made significant investments and policy changes in order to prepare our students and workforce for these future jobs. I’m excited that Walmart has chosen to bring these cutting-edge jobs to Georgia, and I look forward to its continued growth in this industry. 

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A Closer Look at Your Walmart Vision Center

Here’s a statistic to note next time you’re standing in a crowd: 64% of U.S. adults —more than 157 million people — wear prescription eyeglasses. And because Walmart is the nation’s largest producer of finished prescription eyewear, there’s a good chance many of those glasses came from Walmart. In fact, it’s the only product that we manufacture start-to-finish in-house.

Earlier this year, we announced an investment of $10 million to upgrade the manufacturing equipment at our Fayetteville, Arkansas, optical lab. Similar upgrades are slated to occur at facilities in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and Dallas in the next few years.

The ultimate goal, both with Walmart’s eyeglasses and with the upgrades, is to serve more customers, more quickly, with even better quality.

Two associates hold up circular lenses and review them

Looking Back to Look Ahead

When Walmart first entered the optical business in 1991, Walmart was known for its affordable prices on lenses that were similar to other big box stores and eyeglass chains. Then, in 2000, Walmart started offering premium lenses like Carl Zeiss. Customers noticed the difference—and the company’s efforts to become a leader in eyeglass quality continued from there.

“Walmart was at the forefront of putting anti-reflective and anti-scratch coating on lenses,” said Ed Greene, the recently retired CEO of The Vision Council and past president of Carl Zeiss Optical Inc., the maker of Carl Zeiss Lenses.

When Walmart first invested in anti-reflective equipment in 2001, Ed said, other large retailers didn’t have the coatings or were using no-name or store-brand products. From the beginning, Walmart took steps to offer the best products on the market — products at a level of quality that exceeds industry standards. The upgrades happening now continue the commitment.

Machinery and conveyor belts fill an optical warehouse

A View of the Lab

The Walmart Optical Lab in Fayetteville, Arkansas, stands next to a highway on-ramp. The sign outside is small, and the brick building looks relatively unremarkable—a notable contrast to what happens inside.

Production at the lab runs 24 hours a day, with more than 620 associates working in rotating shifts. The record for a single day of eyeglasses production at the lab: 11,000 pairs.

A single pair of glasses starts its journey on a conveyor belt where the lenses are shaped to the appropriate thickness and curve by a generator and polisher before going through several coating processes for premium scratch resistance and anti-reflection. From there, the lenses are placed into frames by hand by “mounters.” (Quality control happens throughout; if any flaws are discovered, the process starts over.) It takes about eight hours from start to finish.

So where do the upgrades fit in?

Walmart is replacing all of its anti-reflection equipment (remember, this is the first key differentiator for the optical business) with newer machines so customers will experience even less glare. Surfacing machinery and edgers are also being replaced to enhance quality and improve capacity so the lab will be able to produce more glasses and serve more customers.

A piece of metal contains circular cutouts filled with glass lenses

Seeing the Customer Experience

The real difference, of course, is what our customers experience — and are able to purchase — in 3,000 Vision Centers at Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs. Along with Walmart-produced lenses, Vision Centers sell premium lenses like those from Nikon, Seiko, and Zeiss. The frame selection is large and includes designer frames like Drew Barrymore’s just-released Flower line.

What customers notice is: Walmart’s low price. Our glasses start at $38 for a complete set of eyewear and come with a one-year warranty—something that other retailers charge extra for. Given that the average cost of prescription eyeglasses in 2014 was $274.20, according to The Vision Council, shoppers can save big at Walmart. David Puchala, New York state-licensed Optician and Vision Center manager at Store 1744 in Webster, N.Y., agrees.

“The biggest reward,” David says, “is seeing the smile on mom’s face when she is quoted $200 or more for her child’s first pair of glasses somewhere else, and then comes to us and pays less than $70.” 

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the September issue of Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates.

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Why This Tiny Chip Has Huge Security Benefits

If you’ve received any new credit cards in the last year or so, take a close look: There may be a microchip right above the card number. While that tiny chip can be easy to miss, soon it won’t be – starting this week, many retailers are using it to make a small change in your checkout process.

Because this tiny chip offers much greater security benefits versus traditional signature-based, magnetic stripe technology, on Oct. 1 many retailers, including Walmart, will begin prompting customers not to swipe, but to “dip” – aka insert and briefly leave the card in the payment terminal. 

Here’s how it works:

A GIF of a Credit Card being swiped in a credit card machine at cash wrap

Using a chip card to pay means the chip assigns a dynamic code that changes each time consumers use the card. Even if the code were obtained, it could not be used to make an additional purchase.  So when considering the risk of counterfeit, a chip is much more difficult to duplicate. 

So why the significance of Oct. 1? That’s the date set by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover for the liability of credit card fraud to shift from credit card issuers to retailers. Merchants that haven’t changed their terminals to read chips could be responsible for fraud.

Walmart has long been pushing toward payments that give our customers more security than the traditional signature-based, magnetic stripe technology. In fact, here’s something else you may not know:  We began installing hardware that had the capability of accepting microchip cards more than nine years ago, and we activated the functionality on Nov. 1, 2014. Additionally, in 2014, both Walmart and Sam’s Club issued chip-enabled MasterCard cards to our branded cardholders. 

While the cards are changing, you will still have the quick, simple checkout experience you're accustomed to at Walmart and Sam’s Club. If you don’t have a microchip card, you can continue using your magnetic stripe card at Walmart and Sam’s Club just the same. In fact, when it comes to debit cards, many banks have not issued chip-enabled cards anyway: Only 25% of debit cards will be transferred to the new system by the end of 2015, according to a recent study by Pulse, a PIN debit network.

Walmart was among the first retailers to implement chip technology to better secure payments for credit card holders, and now, we’re finally starting to see this shift take place.

For additional resources regarding chip-enabled payments, visit the news section of our website.

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2 Dreams, 2 Degrees, and 1 Unconventional Path

Like most moms, Lisa Moore has always bent over backward to put her son Joseph “Joey” Moore in a position to make his dreams come true. But there was one such dream that weighed especially heavy on her.

“I’ll never forget the day Joey came to me and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,’” Lisa said. “He was only 11 years old when he told me, but his mind was made up. I wanted to help make it happen but, as a single mother, I honestly didn't know where the money was going to come from.”

When Joey neared the end of high school, Lisa’s manager at the Walmart store in Mooresville, N.C. where she worked turned her onto the Associate and Dependent Scholarship Programs offered by the Walmart Foundation. Not only could associates like Lisa apply for scholarship assistance, but so could their high school senior dependents.

That was 2007.  Joey applied for and received a scholarship, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  And he’s used his chemistry degree to springboard into a successful career with Henkel Corporation.

Associate Lisa Moore with coworker inside store

But that isn't where the story ends with the Moore family.

“It wasn’t long before Joey started telling me I could do the same thing – that it's never too late to go to college,” said Lisa, 52. “A light came on inside me.”

Already a pastor at Scott’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Statesville, N.C., Lisa recently decided to apply to the Associate Scholarship Program to help finance her enrollment at Hood Theological Seminary School. She, like her son, was awarded a scholarship and is on track to graduate in 2018 with her Masters of Divinity degree. At that point, she plans to focus her efforts full time on the church, pursuing her dream of becoming an elder and possibly even a chaplain.

And she has quite the cheering section behind her.

“There are so many people lifting me up and cheering me on,” Lisa said. That’s why I’ve been with Walmart for 16 years. My job at Walmart has helped put a roof over my head and raise my son, and now it has [helped to support] both of our college educations.

“When I enrolled in seminary, Walmart allowed me to cut back some of my hours to concentrate on school,” she said. “Walmart has always been flexible with my schedule, no matter what was happening in my life and I’m so thankful for that. I’m the biggest cheerleader for this company, not just because of the scholarship program, but because of how it has looked out for me and my family.”

For more than three decades, the Walmart Foundation has made resources available to help U.S. associates and their high school senior dependents fulfill their educational goals through scholarships. More information is available here.