Community

The Latest on Hurricane Harvey Support and Response

Welcome to our live blog where we’re collecting updates from our volunteers and associates helping to address the needs of those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Stay tuned to this page and @WalmartNewsroom for the latest info.

North Texas Customers Step Up to Help Their Neighbors
Updated 4:03 p.m. CDT – Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017

We’re seeing a tremendous display of working better together across north Texas. A number of individuals and businesses have stepped forward to make cash donations and buy tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise that’s now bound for Houston.

During the past several days, three Dallas-area businesses have purchased more than $26,000 worth of needed staples for those evacuees left with almost nothing. Below, everyone at our Roanoke, Texas, supercenter is working hard to load trailers and get those necessary items to their neighbors down south.


Ellen Surprises J.J. Watt with $1M Donation from Walmart
Updated 2:30 p.m. CDT – Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017

Last week, J.J. Watt, defensive end for the Houston Texans, set out to raise $200,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief, and started the fund with $100,000 of his own money. As of today, he’s collected more than $10 million. Yesterday, we were honored to work with Ellen to contribute.

When #Texas needed him, JJ Watt was there. I was honored to help make this amazing gift from Walmart possible.

Posted by Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Together Through the Storm: Local Associates Care for Communities
Updated 11:40 a.m. CDT – Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Walmart associates all over the country are working around the clock to address the needs of those affected by the storm.

After learning that 150 associates in Corpus Christi, Texas, were impacted and in need of assistance, a group of associates from Store 757 in Pleasanton, Texas, rolled up their sleeves to pitch in and help. Store Manager Rosendo Medina assembled a large team of associates to gather supplies and other essentials.

While some associates prepared hot meals and care packages with basic supplies, others worked together to pack large boxes of snacks and other relief items. Rosendo and his team traveled two hours to Corpus Christi to deliver four truckloads of food and supplies to the impacted associates and their families.

Walmart Associates from Store 447 in Del Rio, Texas, prepared more than 100 care packages for families impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

“Giving back to the community is so important,” said Assistant Manager Lucy Leandro, who helped organize the effort. The care packages included towels, medications, snacks and other essentials. “We want to help those affected by the storm however we can.”

The Del Rio associates plan to distribute the care packages in Houston and other impacted areas.

‘You are Helping Each Other, Our Customers and Communities’
Updated 7:00 p.m. CDT – Aug. 30, 2017

Editor’s Note: Jacqui Canney, Walmart’s EVP of Global People, shared the following message today with associates. The below photo was taken by our Rockport, Texas, supercenter team, who donated the merchandise shown to those in need.

To all of our associates – thank you! I have never been more proud of a team than I am of you. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, you are helping each other, our customers and our communities in ways only we can. You are showing up and living our values during impossible times – and you’re making a difference.

And we are here for you. Thank you to everyone working around the clock in Bentonville and other support offices to get our associates and the stores everything they need. You are getting it done and moving fast, and you, too, are making a difference.

I’m also proud of our company and the $20 million commitment we made today to the relief efforts. Rebuilding will take time and we aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you, our associates in the area, so you can keep being there for our customers, first responders and the communities we serve together. #bettertogether

If you’re an associate in need, please call (800) 236-2875. We’re here to help.

Helping the Communities Hit Hardest
Updated 5:09 p.m. CDT - Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017

Across Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana, Walmart associates are out in full force helping communities hit hardest by Harvey. As the storm moves northeast and the waters recede, residents are beginning to get out and survey the damage. At store 5612, located at 2391 S. Wayside Drive in Houston, associates are handing out water for members of the community in need.

Those in the area around store 5612 are welcome to come by and get clean, bottled drinking water, and most importantly – be safe. As of Wednesday afternoon, Walmart has shipped more than 900 truckloads of water to stores and donation sites across the impacted region.

In addition to water, Walmart has donated nearly $1 million in diapers, wipes, infant formula and baby food – as well as more than $10,000 in kayaks. We’re proud to work with organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Convoy of Hope to help those in need.


Walmart Drivers Make Their Way to Houston
Updated 3:17 p.m. CDT – Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017

Truck Driver Dennis Northam is part of a convoy that just arrived in Houston to deliver much-needed supplies for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.


Walmart Sets Up Pharmacy Inside Dallas Convention Center
Updated 12:10 p.m. CDT – Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017

Hurricane Harvey evacuees seeking shelter at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center now have pharmacy services available on-site to meet their needs.

Local Walmart stores in the Dallas area will fulfill orders placed through the convention center site. A selection of over-the-counter medications is also available at the center.

Pharmacists from other Walmart locations are coming in to support and offer prescription related counseling to customers as they pick up their prescriptions – the same service they would receive in-store.

Existing Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacy accounts are not required. For people who do not have the information needed to transfer their prescriptions, the American Red Cross has medical professionals on site to help determine their needs and help get necessary prescriptions.

The Latest on Hurricane Harvey Support and Response
Updated 4:51 p.m. CDT – Monday, Aug. 28, 2017

It is heartbreaking to see the devastation that Hurricane Harvey has brought to our neighbors in Texas. We are working hard to ensure all our associates in the affected area are safe and customers have access to the essential items needed during this difficult time.

Associates have been working closely with the Red Cross and local government officials to understand how we can best help. At this time, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed at least $1 million in support, and our local teams will continue to provide extra assistance over the coming days and weeks as we learn more about the damage and what is needed.

Many of you are asking how you can help. Click here to support those affected through a donation to the American Red Cross.

To see if your local store is open, check our frequently updated list of store closures.

Stay tuned to this page and @WalmartNewsroom as we collect updates from our volunteers and associates helping to address the needs of those in storm-distressed areas.

Cuero community standing strong.

Posted by Walmart Cuero on Monday, August 28, 2017

Special Thanks to the all Walmart associates who helped with the truckload of water donated to customers of Corpus...

Posted by Walmart Corpus Christi - Saratoga Rd on Monday, August 28, 2017

Thank you assistant manager Kaitlin for ensuring our fire department in Lake Jackson is taken care of during this hard time.

Posted by Walmart Lake Jackson on Sunday, August 27, 2017

Your Highway 14 Walmart is rolling out to deliver a donation of water, pillows and blankets to the Purple Heart Recreational Center. It's open to those needing shelter from Tropical Storm #Harvey.

Posted by Walmart Lake Charles - Gerstner Memorial Blvd on Monday, August 28, 2017

Had the chance to speak with Texas Governor Greg Abbott this morning as he works to help the people of south Texas. We'...

Posted by Doug McMillon on Sunday, August 27, 2017

Walmart has a long history of providing aid in times of disasters, helping communities prepare and recover by donating emergency supplies, such as food and water, home and personal products. Since 2005, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have donated more than $60 million in cash and in-kind donations in response to disaster events.

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Innovation

How Smartphones are Enabling a Smarter Way of Working in Stores

The number of things we’re able to accomplish through our smartphones today is truly amazing.

You can check the weather or stay up-to-date on the news. You can even sync your calendar with family to make sure everyone is on the same page. Thanks to a new initiative rolling out in our stores, our associates can now use their smartphones as that same kind of assistant at work – with tasks that are directly related to their jobs.

We’re rolling out Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in October to give associates another option to stay connected – this time from the familiar turf of their own smartphones. Although our sales floor associates can continue to access Walmart’s digital network by checking out a handheld device at the back of the store (in fact, we’re adding tens of thousands more of them to the stores over the coming months), they will now have the convenience of also using a smartphone if they desire. We know technology is helping our associates be more productive and deliver for our customers in new ways. BYOD is just another option our people will have to access the custom apps that help associates perform their jobs.

Through the new program, participating associates have the option to download our app suite directly to their own personal devices. This is another way to access the tools that help our people understand the health of their business, and spend more time on the sales floor serving customers. And the best part? Associates also receive a discount on their monthly phone bills.

With BYOD, the moment associates clock in at work, they have tools that enable them to do the best job possible, right in their pockets. Our suite of custom apps, which become accessible at clock-in, is also broader than ever before, complete with features like the PlanIT app – a hub for all announcements that directly matter to our associates, coming right from our home office in Bentonville, Arkansas.

For many associates who want to use their own device for work, privacy can be a concern. That is why we have been very specific about what Walmart can and can’t see on associates’ phones. Some pieces of information are helpful in making the program more useful for our associates. Other information is not necessary, so we don’t access it.

What CAN be seen by Walmart:

  • Battery Level
  • Make and Model of the device
  • Operating System (OS) version
  • Corporate Email and Data
  • Storage Usage
  • Carrier
  • Phone Number
  • Country

What CAN’T be seen by Walmart:

  • Personal Email and Data
  • Photos/Videos
  • Voicemail - Corporate or personal
  • Text – iOS or Android
  • Web Activity
  • List of Apps
  • Location

Spencer Schmidt is a sales floor associate at a supercenter in Fort Smith, Arkansas, one of the first stores that tested the BYOD functionality. He says the best thing about using his own device at work is the convenience of logging in as soon as he clocks in for his shift.

“BYOD basically works just like our store devices – I can pop it open when a customer needs help, look up items and find where they are in the store. But with my phone, the apps are always on me. As soon as I clock in, I can see what notes have been assigned to me and start working on them right away.”

And as our applications continue to evolve with the technology that delivers them, our people will have access to even more. Associates are excited to have more information at hand – to better themselves and to serve customers better. Whether it’s with BYOD or a store-issued device, each individual associate is more empowered than ever to take a leadership role in the success of their own stores.

We’ve introduced a lot of advanced technology to help our associates work faster and smarter, from virtual reality-based training to our Bossa Nova shelf scanners that make the inventory process quick and easy. Associates have caught on really well, but what I love about BYOD is that the tech we’re introducing is something that’s already second nature to most of our associates. It’s a smarter way to work – for the business, for our associates, and for customers.

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Community

The Delivery That Saved the Day for One Florence-Affected Community

Fielding phone calls. Answering emails. Organizing an airlift. Just a typical day for your average Walmart market assistant.

On Sept. 18, Misty Amos, who works as an assistant for Walmart stores in the Eastern region, received a call from Walmart’s Emergency Operations Center.

Days before, Hurricane Florence had ripped through North Carolina’s coast. With flood waters rising, over a hundred people had evacuated their homes and found refuge in a shelter in Fairmont, North Carolina. One problem: The surrounding roads were flooded, leaving the shelter completely cut off from food and supplies.

The 145th Airlift Wing of North Carolina’s Air National Guard had decided to deliver much-needed goods to the shelter via Blackhawk helicopter, but they needed supplies. They called Walmart for help, and that’s where Misty came in.

Misty’s Market Manager was out of the office leading a team of associates who were helping a local store return to normal so when the National Guard request came her way, it was up to Misty to help mobilize associates to help on the ground. She worked with a local store manager to collect supplies for 130 men, women, and children – including a 4-week-old infant who was refusing formula but would accept whole milk.

First, the associates at store 2058 in Raleigh loaded up carts with food, toiletries, underwear and baby supplies. They were even able to find shelf-stable whole milk for the baby. The team boxed the items, grouped the merchandise into pallets, and loaded it all into a U-Haul, which they then delivered to the Air National Guard at Raleigh-Durham Airport.

Meanwhile, a local Sam’s Club was also on the case. Club associates moved with speed to load a Red Cross vehicle with donations for the shelter.

Wait, were the Walmart store and Sam’s Club duplicating efforts? Was there going to be more merchandise than the helicopter could handle?

No problem, said the Guard unit. We’ll just organize a second drop.

It’s a good thing they did. Right before the second chopper took off to make the delivery, the Red Cross reached out to say that not too far from the shelter, a medical facility was in desperate need of blood donations. The Red Cross was able to add blood supplies to store and club donations, and the helicopter made a slight detour to deliver blood, too.

Maybe the most surprising part of this story? This whole mission – from the time the call came into the Emergency Operations Center to the time the helicopter touched down in Fairmont – took four hours.

Yes, you read that right. Four hours.

This is just one example of partnership during this multi-state disaster. Misty set her coworkers into action, and by working cross-functionally with the public sector and NGOs such as the American Red Cross, Walmart associates were able to make a meaningful difference to neighbors who had suffered unimaginable loss.

Misty and her team were able to deliver a bit of dignity to the families at the shelter. When asked about the airlift, the 23-year associate downplays her efforts. Having worked for the company during Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, and Maria, she knows disaster recovery has become an integral part to the way we do business.

“We’re Walmart,” she says, “It’s just what we do.”

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Opportunity

How My Disability is Helping Make Walmart.com More Accessible

On August 28, 2000, I began my career at Walmart eCommerce.

I began as a product copywriter, responsible for writing thousands of item descriptions. I progressed to become a senior manager on our site merchandising and customer experience team.

At the same time I was expanding my focus on customer experience, I was also losing my eyesight.

By 2015, I was in the thick of vision loss, but refused to let anyone see the battle I was fighting inside. I came to work every day without using a white cane or guide dog, because I was afraid of what people would think if they knew I had a disability. Would their perceptions of my abilities change? Would this impact my career growth?

I soon began using assistive technology called a screen reader that read all accessible content on my computer, tablet and smart phone – enabling me to thrive in a digital world. Within a matter of days, I quickly realized that for the first time in 15 years, I could no longer shop our website. Walmart.com was not accessible for screen readers. I immediately thought about the more than 20% of the U.S. population touched by disabilities and wondered how many of them couldn’t shop our site, either.

I suddenly realized that I had an opportunity to make a difference on inclusion for our associates and accessibility for our customers. It was time to take what I perceived as a liability and turn it into an asset. As I began to share my situation with a trusted HR partner, she introduced me to a colleague, and now dear friend, Russell Shaffer, who has the same degenerative retinal disease as me. Russell’s passion for inclusion and his invaluable support (along with my first guide dog) gave me just the dose of courage I needed to be able to bring my true self to work.

Nearly three years later, I can tell you that the day I stepped out of my comfort zone is the day I stepped into the most challenging, yet rewarding, job of my career. Today, I am proud to lead accessibility for Walmart eCommerce, proud to co-chair our internal group for associates with disabilities and proud to be part of a company that continues to promote the importance of diverse thought leadership as part of its overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.

I am now principal product owner of digital accessibility, and my job is educating and enabling teams across our company to build accessibility into our culture and the way we work. When we start with digital inclusion and universal design, we deliver a better experience for everyone. Walmart eCommerce is just embarking on the accessibility journey. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and excited about the opportunity to continue optimizing our digital properties. From the audits of our site and apps to the changes we’ve made in our processes, we’re continuing to make our experience more accessible. We have also made great strides with our grocery offering, as we know how important it is to make grocery shopping easy for everyone. And, our customers with disabilities have told us online grocery pickup and delivery are making a difference in their lives.

Another key focus area is driving accessibility innovation for internal software applications, ensuring that everything Walmart builds for the accessibility of our customers is also built to make associates’ lives easier as well.

Sharing my story has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am grateful for both the personal and professional connections that I’ve made along this journey.

In addition to my day-to-day work at Walmart, I also frequently travel to conferences to speak. The thing that humbles me the most, and what makes my work so rewarding, is the fact that other major corporations are also making accessibility a priority for the benefit of their customers and colleagues. When Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google can all sit down together over the issue of accessibility and devote their resources toward tackling this challenge, it transcends competitive boundaries and sends a clear message that people with disabilities are assets. We bring new and different perspectives to the workforce, we adapt quickly and are extreme problem solvers.

Thanks to the culture of trust within Walmart, I am really proud to be me. The me with a disability. The me that is so honored to be part of a team of associates who have leaned in and learned how to truly make a difference in so many people’s lives.

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Business

Q&A: Eko Founder on Walmart Deal, Changing the Game in Entertainment

Walmart and Eko’s new joint venture, W*E Interactive Ventures, is poised to bring an exciting approach to entertainment to a much larger audience. We caught up with Yoni Bloch, the CEO of Eko, to learn more about the future of his company’s work with Walmart.

Q: For those who don’t know Eko, tell us about your technology and approach to interactive media.

A: Eko is a technology company leading the charge in interactive entertainment. We have over 15 patents that enable the creation, distribution, measurement and monetization of streaming interactive video. All these things come together as a storytelling platform that empowers participants to shape stories as they unfold.

Since 2010, we’ve created interactive content for major brands like Coca-Cola, Samsung, IKEA, Shell, Madewell and Red Bull. We’ve collaborated with artists like Coldplay, Carly Rae Jepsen, Aloe Blacc, Major Lazer and Bob Dylan.

More recently, we’ve ventured into interactive serialized entertainment. We’ve launched the comedy, That Moment When, with Sony and a reimagining of 1983’s WarGames with MGM.

With our Walmart partnership, we are excited to explore groundbreaking interactive content even further.

Q: What separates your interactive content from other entertainment sources?

A: There’s a vast landscape of entertainment sources out there; from Candy Crush to Game of Thrones to social media. They’re all valid and exciting mediums, but none combine interactivity with filmmaking.

Eko Originals are created by acclaimed Hollywood storytellers and game visionaries to harness the best of both of these worlds and give audiences greater participation than ever before. A viewer suddenly transforms into a participant creating an incredible sense of collaboration and complicity in the story itself. With our content, we suddenly have the “water cooler effect 2.0”: Instead of discussing the season finale, you’ll discuss what happened on your season finale.

Q: How do you envision Eko’s technology changing the ways that we interact with entertainment?

A: We all interact thousands of times a day. Every single person has a media playing device on them at all times (sometimes two or three). Texting, playing games, chatting—everything we do is interactive. And then video starts to play and...we lean back. Storytelling is the last medium to catch up.

But those days are over. The bandwidth is here, the hardware is here and now the software is here. Everyone’s ready to be a part of their stories, and we’re happy to give them these experiences.

We’re not changing the way we interact. We’re catching up to how we already do.

Q: Why are you passionate about audiences interacting with their media in this way?

A: Rather than sit back as passive viewers, interactivity empowers audiences to participate in stories. This drives deeper emotional connections with content, leading to unprecedented levels of engagement.

Depending on the interactive experience, participants could shape a protagonist’s decisions and personality or completely change the tone of the show—the possibilities are endless. You get drawn in when you make choices. You become more empathetic, more invested, more inspired.

Our belief is that interactivity should bring you closer to the feeling that your imagination is part of the story. Otherwise, interactivity is just a gimmick. And, we’re not a gimmick. We’re a powerful tool for self-expression.

Q: Talk about this deal with Walmart. What possibilities will this open up for Eko and Walmart?

A: This is the biggest investment to date in interactive video entertainment. It creates an unprecedented opportunity to develop premium interactive series but also to link commerce and entertainment in innovative ways that are entertaining and helpful.

By pulling in consumers to engage and shape their own personalized experiences, we are innovating far beyond the passive viewing experience of traditional digital video, branded or not.

Our partnership is part of a larger entertainment ecosystem Walmart is building. Through interactive content, Walmart will ultimately connect with its customers on a much deeper, more meaningful level. Through our partnership, we’re combining forces to bring the next generation of premium interactive entertainment to a diverse, mainstream audience.

Q: What can customers and viewers expect from this venture?

A: If you’re a gamer, your jaw will drop the first time you play a movie. If you love movies and TV, your jaw will drop when you realize you can be part of the story.

Everyone who participates in an Eko Original has the same reaction: “This is the future.”

From the moment you begin, you realize you’re on the cusp of an entirely new art form. By just participating in it, you’re part of it.

Passive entertainment isn’t going away. But interactive entertainment is here at long last. So, what can they expect? They can expect to have their minds blown.

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