A few years back, Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., asked thousands of Walmart workers to email him with their thoughts on where the mega-retailer may have gone too far when it came to reducing operating costs at its more than 5,000 stores nationwide.
"Can you email me three things where you think we've cut muscle instead of fat," was Foran's marching order. "Immediately, I could feel the emails coming in,” he said. “I ended up getting about 2,700 emails."
While the emails covered a variety of topics and issues, what was referred to as a "surprising theme" slowly rose to the top.
Walmart workers wanted their toilet-seat covers returned to the store's restrooms.
"Small thing, but really important," Foran said. "In the interest of saving money, we'd taken those things out."
The toilet-seat covers had been removed as part of a cost-cutting/turnaround program initiated by Foran. At the time, the retailer was pouring millions of dollars into its e-commerce website to compete with Amazon and other online retailers. Additionally, its brick-and-mortar stores were struggling, reporting sales declines over several quarters.
Reducing operating costs, even if it meant removing toilet-seat covers, was considered one of the retailer's best options.
"Obviously, this was going too far, especially because toilet-seat covers are not an expensive item," says Vicky Adams, who heads Impact Products Washroom Accessories Division. "Restroom hygiene is important not only to store employees but to customers as well."
When seat covers are not available, studies find that people often hover over the toilet.
"If employees must do this every time they use the restroom, the takeaway is that their employer does not think very much of them," Adams says. "It is hard to motivate people and keep them happy when they think this about their employer."
Apparently, Foran agrees. "I've learned a few things over the years: You can't motivate anyone until you fix things like this."
Needless to say, toilet-seat covers are now returning to a Walmart store near you. For more information, contact an Impact Product representative.