Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

NPR
Faces Of The Coronavirus Recession

For This Walmart Employee, An Angry Customer Was The Last Straw

857112758_850808816.jpg

Cynthia Murray's hours at Walmart had already been cut and she was worried about her health in the pandemic. After a customer shouted at her, she decided to go on unpaid leave.
Chuck Kennedy, MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Cynthia Murray's hours at Walmart had already been cut and she was worried about her health in the pandemic. After a customer shouted at her, she decided to go on unpaid leave.

Cynthia Murray has worked at a Walmart store in Maryland for nearly 20 years, most of them as a fitting room associate.

Her 64th birthday was fast approaching when the coronavirus pandemic hit and Walmart workers were suddenly "essential." Murray started worrying about her health and wondered if she should keep working every time she looked at customers who came into the store.

"You could see it in customers' faces — the panic," she says. "Don't get me wrong, some of our customers are awesome, ... they appreciated us being there. ... But you could see the panic, and it's really eerie."

Murray's daughter too worried about her mother getting sick from being around so many customers and advised her to stay home. But Murray kept telling herself she had bills and rent coming due. The store had cut back her hours in recent years, making it harder to accumulate enough paid time off – she says it takes her more than a week of work to earn one hour of sick time.

But one angry customer put her over the edge. She says the man shouted and demanded access to the fitting rooms, which have been shut as Walmart tries to limit the spread of the virus. The next day, Murray went on unpaid leave.

"I just really felt uncomfortable," she says. "Whether I get paid or not, I'll just have to suffer whatever consequences."

Support comes from

Editor's note: Walmart is among NPR's financial supporters.

Read more stories in Faces Of The Coronavirus Recession.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.