4-State Walmart Region Requires Photo Proof – Then Doesn’t

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, WSA Executive Director and Editor, WorldSweeper

In early October I received an email from one of the members of the World Sweeping Association. In it, the contractor expressed dismay at a new reporting requirement received from the Walmart service director in his region.

Effective immediately, s/he told me, sweeping contractors sweeping Walmart parking lots in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee are required to take before and after photos each time they sweep Walmart lots. The photos must be uploaded along with each invoice. Further, if the store is open when services are performed, the sweeper operator must get a managerial sign-off that the work was done. I suggest that you read the written directive, linked here as a PDF file, prior to finishing the rest of this article.

To see what I could find out, I contacted Walmart management via email on behalf of the members of the World Sweeping Association. Here is the content of my email:

Referencing the recent provider notification, I wrote: “This was just sent out but the pushback from the power sweeping community has already been swift and vocal re: the requirement for before and after photos of sweeping. Such a mandate is clearly overly burdensome. The requirement would seem to suggest a number of questions, as well, primary among them of what the photo(s) should be of. With sweeping, it’s not like a pothole or large item drop-off, in that before and after photos at a specific location would be possible.

“A general photo of the entire parking lot won’t show anything of value, either before or after. Specific photos, where there is debris and then there isn’t, won’t mean the rest of the parking lot was or was not cleaned, either. Plus, the work is typically being done at night, creating another set of problems.

“On behalf of the members of the World Sweeping Association, many of whom provide services for Walmart, I request that this requirement for parking lot sweeping be rescinded. Not only does it not make sense to require, but I believe insistence on the practice will result in Walmart ending up with only a lower tier of sweeping contractors being willing to perform the sweeping for your company.

“Please feel free to contact me for further details about the reasons for our opposition to this new requirement.“

I then received an email directly from one of the senders of the directive, regional manager Kristin Garling. Ms. Garling’s response was the following:

“We continue to experience issues in our region in sweeping and other trades. The team spends countless hours watching video footage, talking to store managers, market managers and providers to try to figure out whether the lot was swept or the store is just busy and trashed after they left. The same happens in other trades.

“The letter we sent to providers is not a new process in FM. We require photos and manger (sic) sign off after work is completed at our stores. My assumption is that some regions ensure this happens and some don’t. If you have a concern, then call me. I’d be happy to discuss any concerns you have.”

On October 11th I spoke to Kristin via phone, introducing myself as both editor of WorldSweeper.com and director of the World Sweeping Association. Here’s what she said:

“In my region I have had numerous instances where my team has been caught in the middle, standing up for the providers to say the work has been completed and then we’ve got the store saying that it has not been completed. Hopefully, to mitigate that, we are requiring photos and store manager sign-offs with any work that’s being done in the store.”

On behalf of WSA (and power sweeping contractors) my response was the following: “When it comes to power sweeping, let’s talk about the mechanics of that. First off, the work is typically being done at night. We’re not fixing a pothole, we’re not taking away some type of large item or removing graffiti, where a photo could be easily taken showing a before and after result. Instead, a service is being performed that spans the entire parking lot.

“Let’s say the sweeper operator takes a picture of some trash along the curb line and then takes a picture of the same one spot after they sweep it. Doing so has probably cost them at least 10 minutes of time, and they need to get at least $1 per minute for their time. And that’s just for one small spot along the curb line. So, how do you foresee this program requirement being feasible for a sweeping contractor since your interest is to know that they’ve cleaned up the entire lot?”

Ms. Garling replied that she wasn’t worried so much about a ‘before’ picture, but wanted to see one ‘after’ photo because sweeping is one of the biggest areas we spend the most time trying to figure out if someone has swept the lot or not. We’re now losing a lot of time watching security cameras, she said, to see if the contractor has swept the lot or not. Or, are associates coming after dropping trash, or is it that the store is so busy that after the time the person who sweeps leaves and the next store manager comes on it looks as though the lot hasn’t been swept?

Because it takes so long to determine all of that, she went on, we’re requiring a photo afterwards and store manager sign-off unless the store isn’t open during sweeping.

My argument was that it would perhaps make more sense to just require that all sweeping contractors servicing Walmart lots have GPS, but Ms. Garling responded that they were learning very quickly that showing the sweeper was there via GPS versus that they were there actually sweeping the lot were different things. That, she said, was something they were learning very quickly.

I responded that the system of requiring photos would not actually solve the problem since an unethical sweeping contractor could just have someone drive to the lot, take a photo of some trash in a curb line, pick up the debris and then take another photo, perhaps hand-picking obvious trash as they left.

Ms. Garling’s response to that argument was that Walmart had over 5,000 vendor contractors and she had only received maybe three calls complaining about the new requirement so she wasn’t concerned about continuing the requirement in her 4-state area.

I told her I believed the logical outcome of that would be two-fold: higher pricing by the contractors doing the sweeping as well, as a ‘dropping out’ of higher-tier contractors — those who tended to provide a better work product like the educated members of the World Sweeping Association — such that Walmart would be left with lesser contractors doing Walmart’s sweeping.

At that point, Ms. Garling asked what specific contractor in her area I represented and I told her again about my affiliations with World Sweeping Association and WorldSweeper, the largest information resource for power sweeping, along with my intent to publish an article on this topic that would include my conversation with her.

The line went dead. About five minutes later, Ms. Garling called me back, re-confirmed my contact information and said that the Walmart legal department would have to call me to dispense any further information.

However, a day later – and there can be little doubt this is a direct result of the extensive informational content provided by the World Sweeping Association – a ‘revised’ email was sent to those in the affected area by Walmart management in Region 12 & 13. Here is the content of that email:
__________________________________________________________
Provider,
The below request for photos should NOT include any Exterior services.  The only exception is when there are performance issues, then we may request photos.
If you are a landscaping, parking lot sweeping, power washing, or any other exterior service provider, then you DO NOT need to submit before or after photos of work completed at Walmart stores.
The request for photos and manager sign off is meant for providers submitting proposals or completing a major project in the store.
Examples:
If a wall was repaired and repainted, then submit photos.
If the floor has to be excavated to repair a plumbing line, then submit photos.
__________________________________________________________

The email revising the requirements was sent with a reprinting of the initial notice linked above.

If contractors reading this article have any comments, please use the comments area below to enter them. The power sweeping industry is small, relative to many others utilized by Walmart. As a result, it is vitally important that we address these kinds of issues as a group, as was done in this instance via the World Sweeping Association.

If contractors reading this article have comments on the story detailed above, including any ideas/options for how Walmart management might proceed in a less onerous fashion to confirm that store lots are being swept on schedule, please use the comments area below to enter them. After review, we will consider passing ideas along to Walmart on a confidential basis.

Thanks to all of the current members of WSA: Thanks to their support, this situation — with its serious consequences and a high likelihood of migration across the Walmart spectrum — was averted.

If you are a sweeping contractor who is reading this and are not yet a member of the World Sweeping Association, what are you waiting for? Membership is just $325/year and WSA’s many benefits will likely more than pay for your membership. In any event, WSA Membership is provided with a complete 90-day money back guarantee. To sign up, use the ‘join’ link shown above.

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