NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- Craig Goodwin has worked for the same company in Naperville for 19 years. It's his home away from home.
"I'm one of the few people who likes my job," Goodwin said.
But the Naperville resident's days with Walmart may be numbered.
Goodwin, 39, started as a greeter at the store on Route 59 in Naperville when he was a student at Naperville North High School.
When Walmart moved to a bigger location on 75th Street, Goodwin moved with them, bringing along with him his uncanny ability to remember customers and their names.
Unless Walmart can find another role for him in the store, Goodwin could be out of a job April 26 because the company is phasing out greeters in favor of what it calls customer hosts.
Switching to a new position elsewhere could prove challenging because Goodwin has cerebral palsy and doesn't have the ability to lift or carry boxes.
Goodwin is not alone. Greeters with disabilities across the United States are appealing to Walmart to reconsider.
The idea for the shift in roles started four years ago when Walmart launched a pilot program in which hosts not only greeted customers, but also checked receipts where appropriate, assisted with returns, and helped keep entrances clean and safe.
Walmart officials in a May 2016 blog noted the pilot was so successful, the company planned to roll out the changes in its U.S. stores.
Craig Goodwin's mother, Sharon, said her son was offered a position as a fitting room attendant, but she said he'd never be able to meet some of the requirements -- such as lifting more than 10 pounds and climbing a ladder -- without accommodations.
"Craig lives and breathes Walmart," she said. "He's always been a people-person. ... People connect with him."
His parents have tried to help their son get answers. "So far it's been frustrating dealing with the store manager," said Bill Goodwin, Craig's father.
Bill Goodwin said he tried to appeal to the district manager, human resources department and even the president of Walmart's U.S. market.
Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg in an email said the company has tried to make accommodations for employees with disabilities.
"As we strive to constantly improve the experience for our customers, we will need to adjust roles from time to time," Lundberg said.
The company has shared its plans to change the responsibilities of the people greeter role in some stores and that involves associates with disabilities, he said.
"We recognize that our associates with physical disabilities face a unique situation," Lundberg said via email. "With that in mind, we will be extending the current 60-day greeter transition period for associates with disabilities while we explore the circumstances and potential accommodations, for each individual, that can be made within each store. This allows associates to continue their employment at the store as valued members of the team while we seek an acceptable, customized solution for all of those involved."
Goodwin has been a model employee, literally; a photo of him was incorporated into advertising on the side of a Walmart semitrailer.
Sharon Goodwin shared her son's plight on Facebook and has received hundreds of comments from Walmart customers who recognized Craig and are disappointed he might be let go.
Among them is shopper Janet McManus Born, of Aurora.
Born said she makes a point to seek Craig Goodwin out on her trips to Walmart. "We always look for him. He's usually down by the produce," she said.
When he's not in his usual spot, she said she'll make her way to the other entrance to see if he's there.
Born said she looks forward to seeing Craig Goodwin's smiling face. "He is like family as he takes an interest in people," she wrote on Facebook.
Two years ago, Born said she told Craig Goodwin about a secret vacation to Disney she planned for her granddaughter. Each week he'd ask if the two had completed the trip.
When she finally had stories to tell, Born said she brought her granddaughter and he asked lots of questions. "He just remembers everything," she said.
Born said having a friendly face who knows her makes her want to shop at Walmart. If Craig Goodwin is gone, there's no reason to shop there, she said.
Sharon Goodwin said a few of the connections her son has made over the years moved beyond the store.
He befriended a centenarian woman who would sit near him while her daughter shopped, and the two would carry on conversations between greeting people. The woman, who is 102, now looks forward to visits from Craig in the senior care facility in Naperville, Sharon Goodwin said.
Craig Goodwin said he's humbled by the response on Facebook. "I'm so honored people feel that way about me," he said.
He said if he loses his job, he will try to find something else to make up for the 32 to 40 hours he works each week in order to remain living independently and not require government assistance.
"I don't need anybody to feel sorry for me," he added.
What he'll miss most are the customers. "I will always care for them, and they will always be in my heart," Goodwin said.
NW News on 03/01/2019
Print Headline: Walmart greeter with cerebral palsy may lose his job when company switches to 'hosts'