Fired Walmart employee receives thousands in GoFundMe donations amid social media frenzy
Apr 06, 2020 04:06PM
By Carl Fauver
After his firing at the Taylorsville Walmart store caused a social media uproar, Chad Willoughby rolled up his sleeves and found new work quickly. (Courtesy Jaron Wallace)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
You instantly know you are dealing with someone a bit different when they answer their phone saying, “Yes, this is Chad, and how may I help you today?”
According to his friends and supporters, Chad Willoughby is kind of the Salt Lake Valley’s Mister Rogers of the grocery business. But his ever-positive attitude with customers was not enough to save his job recently, following a misstep.
Willoughby had been working at the Taylorsville Walmart store (5400 South Redwood Road) nearly five years when he was unexpectedly fired after costing the company a small amount. That’s when he learned the friends he had made at the store had his back.
“I started in the Walmart electronics department in June 2015, but had recently shifted to the ‘scan-and-go’ (self-checkout) department,” Chad said. “I am a people person, and I was there to help people check out quickly. I soon discovered, when customers had an item missing a price tag, it took a long time for a manager to come to deal with it. Since I didn’t want our customers to be upset, a couple of times I entered a price without waiting for a manager. I think this ended up costing the store about $40, but it made the shoppers happy.”
Clearly this did not make Chad’s managers happy. Willoughby claims he received no warning to stop doing the self-pricing from his Walmart bosses before he was let go.
“I am nearly 50 years old, and my son Otto is 6,” Chad said. “Suddenly, I was without an income, with child support to pay and my own living expenses. It was very upsetting.”
Despite how he was treated, Willoughby has nothing bad to say about Walmart. And that does not surprise one of the many shoppers who became his friend, Jason Wallace.
“Before my wife and I were married 2 1/2 years ago, we were in that Walmart store all the time,” Wallace said. “That’s where we met Chad. He quickly learned our names and was always so friendly. We were curious to see if he was really always that nice — even outside work — so we took him out to dinner a couple of times. We soon learned, he is that friendly.”
Wallace learned of Willoughby’s firing from another satisfied Walmart customer, who thought it was unfair and posted about it on Facebook.
“The girl who posted it on line was seeking Chad’s contact information, because she wanted to reach out to him to offer assistance,” Wallace said. “So, I contacted her, and we decided to put together a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Chad so he could keep up with his bills until he found a new job.”
On his GoFundMe post, Wallace wrote: “Everyone in the community always loved seeing [Chad] and being around his positive energy. Chad is the most dedicated Walmart employee there ever was. It is time for us to give back and be dedicated to him in his time of need. Chad is the single happiest person on the planet.”
Soon after the GoFundMe posting went up, Willoughby’s story drew the attention of a few Salt Lake media outlets, and his account quickly grew.
“Initially, we set the GoFundMe goal at $500, but we reached that in just a couple of hours,” Wallace said. “So, we changed the goal to $5,000 and met that several days later.”
At last check in mid-March, a month after his firing, Willoughby’s GoFundMe total was at $5,811.
But, in the meantime, Chad went out and turned things around for himself quickly.
“After being fired, I started job searching very quickly,” Willoughby said. “I was practically living at Job Services for a week or so. I must have had a dozen job interviews. Then it finally paid off.”
Willoughby is now sharing his positive demeanor with customers at the Harmons grocery store in Draper (700 East 11400 South).
“I started out as a cashier, earning the same hourly wage I was getting Walmart,” Chad said. “Plus, Harmons is a better company with better food. The cheesecake is better.”
So, all’s well that ends well for a customer service employee who proved to be so popular among those he served, that when he faced a hardship, those he touched provided some service of their own.