People: Wal-Mart greeter Jeanetta Segar

September 20, 2004|HERB BROCK

Maybe it's a guy thing. Maybe it's just my thing. But I hate shopping.

Half the time when I'm in a long line at the checkout counter and have nearly reached the counter, I note the person in front of me is unloading dozen little-girl-size dresses, each of them on a hanger. The clerk takes each one of the tiny garments off each one of the little hangers. She then scans each one of the Shirley Temple garbs. She then folds each one of them. And then the customer's credit card doesn't work.

The other half of the time when I'm in a long line at the checkout counter and have finally reached the counter, the clerk scans and scans and scans my one blasted item and then utters the words that are like long fingernails scratching a blackboard and yells them at the highest possible pitch: "Price check!"

And then there was that time a few days ago when I was in the 10 items or fewer express lane at a store. Everyone in front of me had carts, dollies, cranes loaded to the brim with way over 10 items and had gotten away with cheating. When it was my turn, wouldn't you know the clerk that had been checking out the customers in front of me suddenly was replaced by little Miss Law and Order.


"I'm sorry sir, you have 11 items. You're going to have to go to a regular checkout line," she snooted.

"But why can't you count the two Coke 12-packs as one item?" I pleaded.

"See the sign. Ten item limit," she harrumphed. "Please go to that line over there. Next customer."

See why I hate shopping? See why I enter stores with a headache and leave them with a migraine?

The aspirin was the ever-present smile

Well, the other day I found a remedy. The aspirin was the ever-present smile belonging to Jeanetta Segar, a greeter at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Danville.

Not long ago, I stormed into Wal-Mart with my head already throbbing. I was whizzing by this woman just inside the door who was pushing a cart toward a customer. She spun around and faced me. What I saw and heard stopped me in my speed-walking tracks.

"How are you today, sir? Would you like a cart?" said Segar with an ear-to-ear smile.

She was wearing one of those trademark blue Wal-Mart vest jackets that has "How may I help you?" on the back. She also was wearing that same message on her face.

All of a sudden those couple of muscles that create a smile overpowered those dozens of muscles that create a frown. The woman had killed me with kindness. She had wiped the frown off my face and replaced it with a smile. The best news was that my headache was gone.

On the aforementioned trip to Wal-Mart I didn't have time to get to know this grinning greeter. But I returned a few days later on official business, as a reporter wanting to find out what makes a woman like this tick and share her recipe with store clerks everywhere - especially little Miss Law and Order.

"I'm pretty much a happy person," said the 62-year-old Danville native. "I'm usually happy on the inside, so I show it on the outside.

"And it helps to like where you work, and I love working here," said Segar, interrupting the chat to help a handicapped person get a special shopping cart.

Her claims that she loves the big discount chain is supported by her resume. She has been a Wal-Mart employee since 1972. She began her career at the then-just opened store at Richmond and worked on the floor there for 20 years. After retiring from her regular floor job in 1992, she became a greeter. She started at minimum wage and now makes quite a bit more than that, but the amount is well under the cap set by Social Security for recipients who continue to work.

She moved back home to Danville a couple of years ago and immediately applied to be a greeter. She usually works 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. three days a week. That gives her the hours she needs to augment her retirement income but enough time to pursue her two favorite hobbies.

"Call me a little different but I love to clean house," said the widow of William Segar, mother of three and grandmother. "And once I clean my house, I love to fill it with my grandkids."

Chances are Segar's grandchildren love the sparkle of their grandmother's teeth as much as the shine of her home.

While she says she being pleasant to perfect strangers comes naturally to her, she gave credit to her bosses at the Wal-Mart in Richmond for honing her God-given talent for making people feel welcome.

"They taught us that the customer is always right and also that the customer should be treated with respect," she said. "And those same lessons applied when I became a greeter, plus the lesson that you should be as pleasant as possible."

Even her high capacity for pleasantness has been tested

But Segar admitted that even her high capacity for pleasantness has been tested, especially when she must follow instructions to check the receipts of every departing customer.

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