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Chuck Haga, Forum Communications, Published December 09 2012

Grand Forks Wal-Mart’s most cheerful cashier has a fan club

GRAND FORKS - Darlene Kittner made her way through Wal-Mart’s aisles Friday and loaded a cart full of provisions for the trip from Grand Forks to her home in Zhoda, Man.

By chance, she found herself in Jimmy Daughtery’s check-out line.

“How are you today, ma’am?” the five-year Wal-Mart veteran asked with his usual exuberance. “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

He kept talking as he filled bags, not in the routine, obligatory way that’s easy for a jaded customer to dismiss, but with what seemed genuine enthusiasm.

“Don’t be so happy,” Kittner told him, smiling. “You might pass it on to others.”

He has.

“Jimmy is a Grand Forks treasure,” said Lucy Dombovy, who before she moved to Denver this summer took her son around town to pose for pictures at local “landmarks” — including Daughtery’s aisle.

“I wanted a memory of him to take with me,” she said.

Months later, she reminisced about “Jimmy at Wal-Mart” on her Facebook page. Friends back in Grand Forks and people around the country who had passed through Jimmy’s line at least once rushed to “like” the posting as if it were a Black Friday special — nearly 2,000 “likes” and more than 200 comments, almost all positive.

“You would never know if he is having a bad day,” a woman named Claire wrote.

“I love that guy!” Christina wrote. “People should take customer service tips from him!”

Breanna added simply, “LOVE HIM!”

Dombovy said she expected a few responses to her Facebook post, but the overwhelming embrace of a store clerk persuaded her to share the thread with Wal-Mart executives. They thanked her and promised to pass the compliments along.

“Wal-Mart can be a frustrating place, especially at this time of year,” Dombovy said from Denver. “But when Jimmy tells you ‘Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart,’ you know it’s genuine.”

Melody Fiordo, Daughtrey’s supervisor, agreed.

“Jimmy comes to work happy, he’s happy at work and he leaves happy,” she said. “He makes every customer feel like the most important customer in the store. It’s what we ask of every cashier. Jimmy excels at it.”

People skip shorter lines to be in his, she said, “and you hear children ask, ‘Is Jimmy here today?’ when they come in with their parents.”

Wal-Mart is a big place with a big inventory, but “Jimmy is the most requested item in the store.”

Daughtrey, 28, is from Virginia. The Air Force brought him to North Dakota, and he decided to stay when he left the service.

“People are very friendly here,” he said.

In a close-contact business that can wear on clerk as well as customer, especially at this time of year, how does he stay so consistently upbeat?

“I keep my negative side at home, behind closed doors,” he said.

“I love my job,” he said. “I get to talk to people. I get to meet new people. And it’s an inside job where I don’t have to work outside in the cold. I’m a Southern guy.”

Wal-Mart has had to weather criticism recently over employee compensation and other issues, and not every shopper thrills to the prospect of an extended foray through the superstore’s aisles, “always low prices” or no.

And while posters on Dombovy’s thread were full of love for Jimmy, a few did take a shot at the retail giant.

“Love Jimmy!” Mandy wrote. “He makes Wal-Mart a semi-enjoyable experience, that’s for sure.” Added Teresa: “He definitely makes my torture (AKA ... SHOPPING at Wal-Mart) a lot easier to stomach!”

Heather wrote that Jimmy “is an absolute sweetheart. Going to Wal-Mart is always crazy … but going into his lane you know you will get greeted and be treated very kindly.”

Most postings were just about Daughtery. “Never seen him in a bad mood,” Alex wrote, and Regina wrote, “My kids love to go to Wal-Mart just to talk to Jimmy.”

“Jimmy is awesome!” added Angie. “My kids look for him in the checkouts and it doesn’t matter how long his line is... we have to wait for him.”

Casey, too, wrote that he “would wait in his line regardless of how long” the line was. “He was the first person I met when I moved to Grand Forks, and I’ll never forget Jimmy from Wal-Mart. If only every person was as outstanding and beautiful, both inside and out, as Jimmy!”

Another woman ranked Daughtery with the Herald’s Marilyn Hagerty as “a city treasure” and suggested that he, like Marilyn, should have a city lift station named after him.

Another wrote that she and her sister “had the pleasure of having him check us out on Black Friday, and you didn’t see any stress on his face! I used to work for Wal-Mart for many years as a cashier, and I can tell you it is one of the hardest jobs at Wal-Mart. Customers are not always very appreciative. But you would never know it from Jimmy.”

Yet another customer wrote, “Anyone (who) doesn’t love Jimmy has no soul.”