Sunday, October 28, 2012

Retirement Updates — Binders of Seniors

One of the more memorable images that emerged from the presidential candidates’ debates was Mitt Romney’s binders full of women. While that may have appeared tacky to some of you, it didn’t surprise me. When I was in Marketing at Colgate-Palmolive, we had binders full of MBAs looking for internships. Of course, that was back in the 1980’s.

It turns out that this resource device, though antiquated, is not limited to women and MBAs. There are also binders full of seniors at that paragon of American retail, Walmart. Back when they decided to hire the elderly (now defined as anyone 65 or older) as “greeters,” they hit a brick wall with their sourcing efforts. The word went out to the local AARP and Gray Panthers: “Bring us binders full of seniors.”

The letter that was sent listed qualifications seniors needed to have in order to make the cut. “Must look good in blue” was the first criterion. “Able to maintain balance on three-legged stool” and “Able to hold their water for at least four hours at a time” were also up front on the list. “Have sufficient dexterity to tie their own smock or pinny” and “No hearing aid needed” were listed as “preferred skills.”

The Walmart binders of seniors had several tabs to organize the material and these varied according to the area of the country. In the South, there were tabs for men named Billy Bob and Jessie Joe and for women named Sue Ellen and Betty Grace. Those in New England had tabs labeled Chip and Muffy. One universal tab read: “Speaks more than one language.” In most areas, there were only a few sheets behind that one.

Now that Walmart has cut back on its greeting service, it’s selling its binders of seniors to other entities. One of the first organizations to open its wallet for this so-called asset was the National Association of Velcro Manufacturers and Distributors (NAVMAD), whose wallet has a Velcro closure, BTW. Apparently, they plan to mine the pages for consumer research on new ways to hook seniors on that miracle invention.

Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) has also expressed interest in the binders. They claimed that Walmart paid so little it was like volunteering anyway. Adopt-A-Grandparent toyed with getting them, but they need seniors who can use smart phones. The Walmart binders are a bit thin on that criterion. The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) looked into acquiring the binders. Sadly (or perhaps mercifully), they found very few executives among Walmart’s pinny-hopefuls.

Speaking of scoring, one group that was particularly happy to have access to binders full of seniors is the Sisterhood of Boca Raton Widows. Not surprisingly, they jettisoned all the papers for female Walmart greeters. Likewise for any married gentlemen. Although that left a pretty thin binder, the Sisterhood feels it’s a better way to find available men of a certain age than hanging out at the cemetery gates.

The Brotherhood of Boca Raton Widowers, on the other hand, was looking into whether Romney was willing to share his binders full of women. No word on Romney’s response, but one of his Florida campaign staffers was rumored to have floated the idea of trading “a page for a vote.” Fortunately, that idea fell on deaf ears. Something about it being at risk of becoming a three-ring circus…

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