If you buy perishables at Walmart, be sure to shop at 7am. Reach into the back of display cases, check expiration dates – oh, and be sure to bring back your rotten produce for your money back!

Those are among the tips contained in an “urgent,” “highly sensitive” internal memo said to have been leaked by a disgruntled Walmart store manager.

The memo, obtained by the New York Times, urges Walmart managers across the country to step up their game in their fresh food departments. Some suggestions seem like common sense to most supermarkets and shoppers: rotate stock, remove expired items, discount products that are nearing their sell-by date – and please remove moldy and rotting produce, because no one’s gonna buy it.

Walmart has been plagued with problems in its fresh food selection, and with out-of-stocks. The corporate office has aimed to solve those problems, with initiatives like a money-back guarantee on fresh produce, and a pledge to ensure that produce lasts longer when you bring it home.

But the memo seems to indicate that the corporate promises are not necessarily trickling down to the store level.


Dated last month, the memo tells store managers they should avoid having too much backup inventory that never makes it onto shelves, to mark down soon-to-be-expired food beginning at 7am each day, and to keep “complete records of daily throws” of expired meat and poultry that end up in the dumpster.

Managers’ number one concern must be sales, the memo states.

The motive of the unnamed disgruntled manager who leaked the memo is not expressly stated. But many Walmart managers and employees have complained that the reason for their stores’ lacking performance in selling fresh food and avoiding spoilage is not inattention, but understaffing. They say many products sit unsold in the back room, while expired items sit on the shelves. And unimpressed customers walk on by.

“Our most loyal shoppers only spend 40% of their total weekly spend on fresh in our stores,” the CEO of Walmart U.S., Greg Foran, told investors last month. In other words, even the biggest Walmart fans choose to buy more than half of their meat and produce somewhere other than Walmart.

Over the summer, Foran identified what he called six “key customer requirements: being in stock, clean stores, the right price, the right items, improved service, better productivity.” Later, he acknowledged that “there are places where we need to put more hours in the store.”

Corporate initiatives and orders via internal memos are a good start. Whether Walmart can turn them into reality, and hire the staff to help make it happen, remains the big question.

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