$6.40 an hour for nine years: how I got stuck in a career as a Walmart employee Thursday 18 May 2017 07.00 EDT


“You don’t know shit!” is a hard lesson to swallow, but it was one of the first things I learned when I started my nine-year career as a sales and inventory control associate at a Walmart in Laramie, Wyoming.

When I was hired by the company at $6.40 an hour, I believed I would only be working there for a few months before I landed a cool gig at a non-profit in Denver, or had my manuscript discovered by Random House. I had dropped out of college to pursue my dream of becoming the next Stephen King. I thought I was wise beyond my years and looked down on many of my new co-workers: soon I would be living in Denver, Santa Fe, or even New York City while they would still be stuck at the local Walmart.

Of course, my Gothic novel was not picked up by a fancy publisher, and soon the harsh reality set in: no one would be hiring a kid from Wyoming with only a high school degree and no work experience in the midst of the recession.

Almost nine years later, I was still working at the same store. I was broke, in debt, and Walmart was one of the few employment options in town.

I earned around $2,000 a month after putting in a lot of hours and snatching up overtime whenever it was offered, working 11 days in a row or taking long shifts. After paying $475 for rent, $193 a month on my car, $75 per month for car insurance, utilities, phone, basic cable, food, minimum payments on my credit card debt that were over $100, taxes (single working people making over the poverty level usually do not get any tax deductions), and $230 a month for health insurance, I had little left over.

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