Daniel Coles, a Walmart worker in Paramount, California, feels it’s impossible for him to do his job well. “Right now we are understaffed big time,” says Coles, who works in a predominantly Latino working-class community. “Especially at the front end, we don't have enough cashiers to take care of customers, so we have long lines.”
Coles says he faced similar problems at his previous Walmart job in Crenshaw, a majority-black neighborhood in Los Angeles, but had a much better experience at a Walmart in San Bernardino, which he says catered more to middle-class, white customers. “At San Bernardino, we had enough staffing, we weren't really short at all,” says Coles. “We had coverage in every department, so customers respected us because it was a good experience.”
In Coles’s experience, Walmart seemed to prioritize adequate staffing and customer satisfaction far more in white communities. New research suggests that his experience may be shared by Walmart workers in communities of color across the country.
Adam Reich, an assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University, conducted an analysis of roughly 35,000 Yelp reviews of Walmart locations around the U.S. Among the 2,840 stores the reviews pertained to, Reich found that the higher the percentage of black or Latino residents in a zip code, the lower the Yelp reviews were of stores in that area, even when controlling for the area’s average income.