Tips for Working at Wal-Mart as a Cart-Pusher (2018)

Updated on May 8, 2018
James Foglio profile image

James is a current freelance writer. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Southern New Hampshire University in English & Creative Writing.

Be prepared to devote your time and effort to this.
Be prepared to devote your time and effort to this. | Source

Completing the Basic Training (Inside the Facility)

After you have been interviewed once or twice and the company can confirm that you're a legal U.S. citizen, a manager will want you to fill out a series of forms during your orientation day. One of the papers is the standard W-2 tax form. Your training instructor may even want the orientation class to watch a training video based on great customer service. After the video, you'll be given a tour of the entire Wal-Mart facility starting in the back-rooms. At one point, all of the trainees will be required to make their own ID badges using their blue alphabet stickers.

Honestly, the training isn't difficult one bit, but it can be tedious to complete all of the CBL (Computer Based Learning) tests in the back-rooms. The computers are typically outdated at most Wal-Marts, so they can crash at times. The exams are mostly common sense, but some of the tests might force you to watch videos in-between each question, which wastes time if you already know the answer to a specific question. You must score a passing grade on all of the required CBL tests in order to move onto the more tiresome and physical part of working outside.

Next, cart-pushers are required to wear the classic orange t-shirts with athletic footwear. However, you can wear dark blue or white collared shirts like the employees working inside. Always have your Wal-Mart ID badge in your pocket at all times. As a cart-pusher, try NOT to wear your ID badge on your shirt outside; it can get lost very easily. On slower days such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you might be called inside to unload shopping bag boxes into the supply room by the restrooms. The boxes weigh about 20 lbs. each and you must unload about 24 boxes off of the pallet jack. Using the box-cutter is pretty self-explanatory. You could be asked to do all kinds of ridiculous things on slow days working at Wal-Mart. I was asked to clean the upper walls in the cart garages using a ladder because there were a lot of cobwebs and dust along the metal garage doors. As long as it's not busy, this can actually be fun.

Now, that's funny!
Now, that's funny! | Source

Completing the Basic Training (Cart-Pusher Training)

Your first week as a cart-pusher is going to be hell starting out. There's no way around explaining it. Instead of complaining about it though like myself when I first started, give the job a chance. If you applied to work part-time, this job is certainly doable as a high school or college student. If you applied for full-time, you're in for quite a ride!

Every Wal-Mart store in the United States is a bit different, but the super-stores are usually the same. I chose to work at a super-store, and I did for about two years in the hot Texas weather conditions. The GM (General Merchandise) side of the store will have a much smaller cart garage. The grocery side of the store is for the hard-working cart-pushers. Additionally, just know that people shop in the garden center as well. The garden center at my super-store required about fifteen carts. Not only will more people shop on the grocery side of the store nine times out of ten grabbing shopping carts, you might have more carry-outs on the grocery side. Having said that, heavier store merchandise will be found on the GM side and in the garden center. It's not uncommon for customers to need your assistance lifting flat-screen televisions, barbecue grills, bags of fertilizer, Christmas trees, trampoline sets, basketball hoops, popcorn machines (ordered online) and even steel safes. For carry-outs and carry-ins for larger merchandise, employees love to use the pallet jack. It's easy to use, and the super-stores usually have over twenty of them available in the back-rooms.

Earlier on, I highly suggest messing around with the Cart-Manager (mule) machine until you get a good feel for it. If you ever hear someone refer to the CM as the "mule," it's because the machine is very powerful. You can practice using it right outside the cart garages away from all the cars. On the Cart-Manager remote, there's a red button, green button, a button with a turtle on it, one with a trumpet and one with a rabbit. In order to get the Cart-Manager to move without using the manual throttle at the front of it, you must first press the green button on the remote and either the turtle or rabbit button in order for the machine to move by itself. Needless to say, the turtle symbolizes a slow speed whereas the rabbit resembles a much faster speed. I personally recommend using the turtle button starting out on the remote once you've placed your first 20 carts on the Cart-Manager. On windy days, try not to have more than 20 carts on the mule unless you know you have another cart-pusher nearby to help you. You can even start out with ten carts instead of twenty but beware, this will not be practical on the weekends in the late morning and early afternoon hours. It can get quite busy on some Mondays too.

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Great Communication is the Key

On busy afternoons, you always want to double check to make sure when your fellow cart-pushers are going to lunch. Pay close attention to their schedules throughout the week. You can either ask a co-worker yourself or check the schedules in the back of Customer Service. I'd like to think working outside with others is similar to playing in a football or basketball game. If you leave your teammate hanging in the middle of a game when he's wide open or refuse to pass the ball to others, it will increase the likelihood of your team losing the game.

Get to know your co-workers outside while on the job. Learn more about their favorite foods, restaurants, hobbies, how often they work, sports teams, academic subjects, holidays and other subject matter. Take notice on what their strengths and weaknesses may be while collecting the carts. The conversations don't have to get too personal, and they shouldn't, but this can help build up trust between co-workers when one is on break or needs assistance on his side of the parking lot. If your manager changes your schedule on you without talking to you about it, which does happen every now and then, talk to him or her about it. Simple conversations can establish good chemistry between employees and a healthier working environment.

Perhaps, one your buddies might let you in on a little secret on which cart-pusher slacks off the most while on the job. If you see one is struggling too much, feel free to offer your assistance. If you see someone keying cars in the parking lot or a fight breaks out, it is your responsibility to tell a manager about it if you see it happen. From what I remember, individuals are not allowed to advertise merchandise or pass out pamphlets in the parking lot without management's permission. If a CSS (Customer Service Supervisor) needs a cart-pusher to do a carry-out and you know your garage is full, feel free to speak up and help out. However, if you know your garage is almost empty and there are a lot of carts in the cart corals in the parking lot, ask another cart-pusher to help with the carry-out.

Try to always show respect to the customers as well. Some might ask if the store has a Redbox machine, and others may ask if there's a McDonald's in the area. One lady even asked me if she could borrow my phone this one day. You'll be asked weird things working outside sometimes. All in all, management will take notice on it if you are being polite to the customers every week.


This is very annoying at times.
This is very annoying at times. | Source

How Important is the Cart-Manager Machine?

Well, it's a lot more fun to use a machine to push dozens of carts than to manually push carts yourself throughout your shift. Not only is it quite tiring pushing carts knowing that you work between 20 and 40 hours each week, it's entirely unnecessary. Contrary to popular belief, the Cart-Manager is not as durable and low-maintenance as what some managers might try to tell you. Flat tires are not uncommon, the engine batteries don't last for years, the plug charger can break if you accidentally run it over, the emergency stop button next to the throttle can easily come off and cars can run into it if the driver doesn't see it's in their way backing out of a parking space. The CM weighs about 695 lbs. It can push about two-hundred carts in a straight line on a completely flat surface on a full battery charge. You will never use the CM to push that many carts in a solid row, but it's an interesting fact about the machine. If you ever feel like you have to charge the mule when it has only one yellow dot left, know right now that management typically frowns upon seeing employees push more than seven shopping carts on their own with no one to help guide the pusher.

Moreover, do not try to use the mule when the battery is on red. The machine will move slower than the turtle speed on the remote, so you can only imagine how useless it will be if you need to cross the street with it while it's pushing over a dozen of shopping carts. For me personally, I always charged the mule whenever I noticed it had only one or two dots left on yellow. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, it is absolutely imperative for cart-pushers to use the mules on both sides of the store parking lot. At most Wal-Mart super-stores, management will provide the cart-pusher with a total of two mules to use outside. Always make sure that both remotes and keys for the mules end up back behind Customer Service at the end of your night-shift, if you have to work late hours around the holidays. If one mule just so happens to break down or becomes unusable, the cart crew will have to get creative in order to fill the grocery and GM garages.

If this is a Saturday afternoon, this garage actually looks pretty good.
If this is a Saturday afternoon, this garage actually looks pretty good. | Source

When Is it "OK" to Break the Rules?

Is it ever ok to break the rules while on the job? Of course not. Are there exceptions at times? You better believe it.

The one major rule at most Wal-Mart stores for cart-pushers is to never have more than 20 carts on the mule at a time, unless you're using it to push up the cart rows in the garages. While working outside, there will be times when you are working the whole parking lot alone. Management will know about it more often than not, but they won't offer you aid if they don't have anyone available to help you.

If you're working outside by yourself and you know you're in excellent shape, feel free to skip your fifteen-minute breaks. Whatever you do though, DO NOT skip your lunch break and never pass the six-hour mark without taking at least a half hour lunch break. They can issue you a coaching for doing this.

Not only will the parking lot and cart garages look great after everything is said and done, you might be given a few gift-cards or free drinks for working hard by management. This does happen!

There were some times when I worked outside I would put about 30 carts on the mule. On Thanksgiving night and Christmas Eve, my friend and I would put about 40 carts on the mule depending on which row we were on. Outside the Wal-Mart store that I worked at, there were about 12 numbered rows. I could get away with doing this by myself on rows 7 and 8, 3 and 4 and 1 and 2. You should not attempt putting any more than 30 carts on the mule in the middle row of your store parking lot by yourself. This is an accident waiting to happen. When I know I have more than 20 carts on the mule, I guide the cart row from about the middle while steering from the front. This is easier said than done, but I know that I have long arms. On icy or snowy days, never have more than 20 carts on the mule. This is one of the times when it's just not worth it. Like trying to drive your car on ice, it's almost as difficult with the Cart Manager. If one of the mule keys gets lost, I like to use a paperclip to get the mule to turn on. Yes, it is possible to get it to turn on with a paperclip. No, you cannot use one mule key to turn on both mules. The key cannot be removed unless the machine is turned off, which is why using a paperclip works if one key gets lost. Two mules is always better than one.

When I am working outside by myself, I like to use a tactic I call "Snakes." Snakes is when you start collecting carts on a specific row, such as 1 and 2, from the top of the row instead of the bottom. You're slithering from one row to the next with a lot of carts without going back to the cart garage. One word of advice, watch out for cars when you do this. If your store parking lot is on a hill, this might pose a challenge for collecting carts while going down backwards. It can certainly be done though without messing up. Anyways, after I collect all the carts on the 1 and 2, I'll finish my mule load at the top of row 3 and 4 without going back to the garage. After I've cleared 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, then I'll go back to the garage with all of the carts. One time I ended up with 20, and then other times I finished with about 35 total carts. Snakes is difficult to do, and I wouldn't recommend it to cart-pushers first starting out. Give it a few months before trying it out on your own. Whatever you do, try not to finish in the middle of the parking lot. You want to finish your collection load on the rows closest to the cart garages. The more turning you have to do with 20+ carts, the more difficult Snakes is to use on the job.

In terms of clocking in, always be sure to clock in at least five minutes prior to your shift. This will give you an opportunity to evaluate the cart garages, and to view what each side looks like from the outside. If you know it's raining outside and it's cold, don't wear gloves. The feeling of numb, wet fingers while wearing gloves outside is awful in colder temperatures. Clocking in a little bit early will also give you time to put on sunscreen if you know you're going to be working outside in temperatures in the 90s and 100s.

Cart-pusher associates are not allowed to accept tips from customers but if the customer insists after you refuse the first time, accept it anyways. Always say "Thank you" regardless.

Staying on Management's Good Side

If you clean the parking lot when necessary, sweep all the cigarette butts next to the entrance doors, don't slack off on the weekends, don't call in sick every week and constantly have a full garage of carts, management will take notice on it. I received free drinks for a few weeks and the option to pick out certain snacks at the register because I worked outside by myself for about a month straight. Every Wal-Mart is different though.

Hey, you could even win "Employee of the Month" or in Wal-Mart's case, 1st Shift or 2nd Shift Associate of the Month. I won this award back in July of 2015, and it was one of the best days I ever had working at Wal-Mart. It feels good inside to be given an award like this to add to your résumé.

Try to make the best out of working at Wal-Mart whether you're in high school, taking courses in college or are working full-time. It's easier said than done, but working here can lead to something special if you truly set your mind to it. There are days you may feel like cursing at some of the customers, and other days you want to help them load store merchandise into their vehicle.

Give it your all with this job because depending on the managers, it can pay off well in the end. If you think about quitting in your first week on the job like I did, reconsider this choice. In Texas, I went from $7.50 an hour, to $8.50 an hour, to $9.00 an hour, to $10.00 an hour over the course of about 2 years working at my super-store. It might not sound like much, but just know that I started back in 2014 and left in 2016. For high school and college students, the pay is not bad. If you work hard enough, who knows! Perhaps, you could become an assistant manager some day or work in customer service as a CSS. If you earn your bachelor's degree, you could work your way up to becoming a regional manager or creative director.

For high school and college students, I would highly recommend working at Wal-Mart. Instead of standing at a register throughout the course of your shift, you get a lot more exercise working outside and have a lot more freedom working as a cart-pusher. As long as you don't crash into someone's car or sideswipe a customer, the managers may even let you listen to music while you work. Give the job a try!

© 2018 James Foglio

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