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Sandy Journal

Harmons cashier flourishes in his job and gains hundreds of neighborhood fans

Jan 03, 2022 03:46PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Community members talked online on Next Door about friendly Harmons employee Chad Willoughby (center), then they decided to surprise him with a recognition on Dec. 6. (Photo courtesy Candee Allred)

An employee at Harmons grocery store on 672 E. 11400 S. had his own “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment on Dec. 6. Community members who shop there showed up to surprise and recognize a unique cashier, the ever-positive and friendly Chad Willoughby.

“I was shocked at the response—we kind of just put this together, and about 25 people from the community showed up at Harmons to express their appreciation for Chad. They came after work, during dinner time—they made the time to recognize him. It’s the kind of warm fuzzy a lot of people need right now,” said Candee Allred, a Sandy resident who shops at the store and organized the impromptu gathering. 

Allred got the idea after another Sandy resident posted a comment on the Next Door app about Willoughby, who greets everyone he meets and is genuinely interested in striking up a conversation and helping them. 

“Be nice to Chad at Harmons. If you are ever in the checkout lane at Harmons off 114th and 7th and an employee named Chad is talking to you in a polite way, please be nice to him back! He’s just a genuinely nice person and talks to everyone that way,” wrote Christine Green. 

While Green didn’t write about any specific reason for the post, she did seem to allude to negative behavior from other shoppers. 

Green ended her initial post with a gentle reminder: “[Chad’s] colleagues are appreciative of his uplifting attitude and feel he deserves to be treated better by some people.”

Green’s post on Nov. 20 set off a flurry of Next Door comments. It turned a community of virtual neighbors into friends, who realized they all had something in common: they all appreciated Willoughby’s friendly attitude while shopping. 

“Chad is great! He is so forthcoming he can catch you off guard. But he is truly genuine and sincere,” wrote Richard Miller the same day as Green’s initial post. 

Another customer who had just checked out at Harmons and interacted with Willoughby added her appreciation. “I was just in Chad’s line and he is very excited for Thanksgiving. He’s uplifting every time!” wrote Leslie Wadsworth. 

Comments flooded the thread, and within 24 hours there were 98 comments acknowledging Willoughby specifically. Several called for more community kindness in general. Slowly, the idea of recognizing Willoughby publicly began to take shape. 

“I reached out to the store director at Harmons and asked if as a community we could give him some kind of recognition. He was more than willing to facilitate it,” Allred said. 

Allred posted her update on the app and let the community know that on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. anyone who was available could gather in the eating area at Harmons to recognize Willoughby. 

This wasn’t the first time a community rallied around Willoughby. Local news reports including the City Journals reported that in early 2020 Willoughby lost his job at Walmart in Taylorsville, where he was also a cashier for several years. 

Willoughby was a minor celebrity at the Walmart, and knew many of the customers who shopped there by name. Reports say that the problem happened when customers came through with items that wouldn’t scan, and Willoughby would put in a price without waiting for a manager. 

With customer service always his priority, he said in a news report, “I figured it was saving time, the customer was happy and I was doing my job.”

Willoughby’s superiors didn’t see it the same way and figured that he had lost the store about $40 in revenue due to underpricing items. 

“I did not receive a warning, they did not come and say, ‘Chad, look, don’t do this anymore,’” and Willoughby lost his job at Walmart without further comment. 

Over 9,000 people took to and signed a petition to get Willoughby his job back, but at that point he was already interviewing and being offered jobs elsewhere. A GoFundMe account raised nearly $6,000 to help him with the transition time between jobs. 

Fast forward nearly two years and customers at Harmons are now the beneficiaries of Willoughby’s job change. Allred said that Willoughby was very surprised by the recognition that evening, where she presented him with all the comments from the post about him. 

“We took some pictures and told him how much we appreciated him. It really was something that people needed; that 15-20 minutes of not being divisive and seeing a warm fuzzy. I think it was good for everyone and lifted everyone who was there,” Allred said. 

Allred was stopped by people who didn’t know about the event, but were there to shop and saw the signs. “‘Is this for Chad?’ people asked me. ‘We love him!’” Allred said.

A Harmons employee from another store found Allred in the parking lot. She used a tablet to communicate because she was deaf. She didn’t know Willoughby personally, but had heard about him through the work grapevine. 

“She wrote on the pad that she came clear across the valley to meet Chad because he was a fellow Harmons team member, and she loved what he was doing,” Allred said. 

One woman got teary as she told Willoughby that whenever she has a bad day, if she’s there at the store and goes through his line, he makes her day. 

Willoughby loved the recognition, mostly because it meant that he was doing right by his customers. 

“He was very touched. He said that he really appreciated what we were doing,” Allred said. 

But then he started to get antsy—he was still on the clock, after all, and he had a job to do. 

“After several minutes he said, ‘I love you guys, but there are customers waiting on me and I have to get back,’” Allred said.

Customer Service supervisor Sandra McMurtrey works with Willoughby at Harmons. She said his former employer’s loss is definitely their gain. 

“Chad is always early for work. If someone calls in sick or late, I know that Chad is probably up in the break room and I can just go up and get him and ask him to fill in,” McMurtrey said. 

She appreciates that Willoughby is always trying to improve. “If something happens or didn’t go well, I can talk to him about it. He always says thank you for letting him know, and then he fixes it,” McMurtrey said. 

Willoughby is willing to clean up a mess, collect carts or sweep the store. But McMurtrey agreed that he really does shine when it comes to caring about customers.  

“There was a night at the store just before Thanksgiving when we were just slammed, just so busy. Chad’s shift had ended, but he kept his checkstand open for two hours after he had gotten off, and didn’t say a thing, didn’t complain. 

“And the thing I love is that when someone comes in and is having a bad day and telling him all about the things going on he will really empathize. He wants to do whatever it takes to serve customers and help the store,” McMurtrey said. 

Among the comments that Allred printed up and gave to Willoughby was one from Gerardo Castillo about how Willoughby’s attitude spreads kindness throughout the community. 

“Chad always inspires me to open up to people more and share positive energy. I wish we could all be a little more like Chad,” Castillo wrote.