Today I went to my local Walmart because I needed tupperware to transport my now three betta splendens to college in.
I went to the fish aisle, like I always do, and prepared for hell as I walked in. To no one’s surprise, we found the first picture and some extremely unresponsive fish in the cups. Our Walmart is notorious for its lack of care for bettas; with a Petsmart next door, they get little fish business but the Regional Manager refuses to stop selling stock.
I was angry at this though, but unlike so many who get angry, complain online and raise their fist and lament “Damn you Waalllmmmaarrrtt!!” I actually did something about it.
So I searched around for someone who wasn’t purposefully avoiding me (knowing I would ask them to help, since no one in the store is trained to do “fish” stuff), which turned out to be a man named Matt. Matt’s a tall, goofy guy and was very sweet.
So I told him, “Matt, these bettas are in awful shape. Please come fix this for us, this is very serious.” He looked sad. His smile went from sincerely happy to one of genuine pity and perhaps a bit of anger. Matt quickly asked us to show him where they were.
Even from an entire aisle away, he was appalled. We could hear a grumble of frustration and, in all honesty, I thought it was at my boyfriend and I. But, as he did a slight jog over to the cups, we could tell it was anger not at us, but at his employees. He was pissed.
“Oh my god. These poor things. How do I fix it? How do I help them?” He was sad. And pissed. And hes asking me for help. Oh Walmart gods, you’ve finally given us a good one; someone who gives a shit.
Matt’s an assistant manager. Not a fish guy, not a stock guy- a manager. All fancy clothes and he’s now holding 5 cups in each hand and hurrying to the sink. Oh my god he’s actually gonna help us, right now. Oh my god.
He fumbled with the lids and looked scared. “How do I do this? Do you know? I really don’t want to hurt them, I dont want them to get sick or shock them.” I asked if I could show him. Most Walmarts do not, for any reason, allow non-staff to use their taps/meds/cups, etc., but this guy’s asking me to. Wow.
So I show him: You take the lid off (I made him smell the water!), pour the fish gently into the plastic container for the changes, take the cup, rinse the hell out of it, fill it with water (to the top- and reminded him it should always be so), add conditioner (which he took right off the shelf!), then get rid of the nasty water from the change container as best you can. I showed him to keep his finger at the edge to prevent the fish from sliding out.
He watched my every move.
The once invisible fish, with water so filthy his shiny blue self could not be seen, was now happily wiggling around in a full cup. We all had big smiles, but none bigger than Matt. He thanked us up and down and we told him how we genuinely appreciated his willingness to learn and fix this.
I told him about how, not even a year before, I’d told a manager of the same issue and he literally told me to leave it be- and that I wouldnt know what I was doing. Matt was appalled and grumbled about how “lip service” should be held back when actual living creatures were involved.
We left Matt to it- he now had 10 cups to clean, and all of them were filthy.
My boyfriend and I gave him a bit, as not to pressure him, and came back not even 10 minutes later to the bottom picture, all lined up, every single fish inside now happy, clean and frisky as ever! I honestly choked back a sob. Not for the fish, even, but that someone gave enough of a shit in Walmart to listen to me, fix it, and actually care.
Matt and another manager saw us and our excitement and came to thank us. We thanked him, too, and told him how much it meant to us. The other manager made notes of this and congratulated Matt for addressing a big issue, which it really was.
Quite a story, yeah? You don’t often hear ones like these I bet. Because most people, instead of actually at least trying to fix it, just do nothing and come online and bitch about it. Well, here- photos and all- I say to you, shut up or put up. Don’t come on and blame Walmarts up and down for being horrible and then walk away from these poor things. Fix it. Ask someone. Demand they clean it. Be kind, respectful, and be forceful.
And then you can walk away knowing that you saved a bunch of fish from burning away in ammonia and scum, and not just having taken a photo and only complained.
Thank you so much, Matt. Good on you. Keep being great.