53 Sam's Club stores are closing their doorsPosted: Updated:
By Jackie Wattles and Ben Geier
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Sam's Club said Thursday it's shutting down more than 50 locations, and some employees and customers say it did so without warning.
Walmart, which owns Sam's Club, did not respond to numerous phone calls and email requests for comment. Using its official Twitter account, Sam's Club confirmed 53 locations will be shuttered, and 10 will be converted into fulfillment centers.
Workers and customers learned about the store closures on the same day Walmart drew praise from the White House for raising pay and giving out worker bonuses because of the new lower corporate tax rate.
Customers took to social media with questions about why their local Sam's Club stores were shuttered. Some demanded refunds for their Sam's Club memberships, which cost between $45 and $100. Sam's Club replied to some questions with a brief statement.
"After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we've decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy," Sam's Club wrote in one reply. "Closing clubs is never easy and we're committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition."
The company also said via Twitter that pharmacies at Sam's Club locations will remain open for "at least two weeks" while the company works to transfer subscriptions and contact customers.
Employers must give workers 60 days notice before closing a plant or issuing mass layoffs, according to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Sam's Club posted one such alert, referred to as a WARN notice, to the Indiana state government's website. That notice says three locations in the state were slated to be closed on January 26. The move will impact 419 employees.
Several other states where CNNMoney has confirmed stores will be closing did not have such notices posted as of Thursday afternoon.
It's not clear how many stores have already closed. Local news outlets across the country -- including from Houston, Syracuse, Baton Rouge and Dallas -- reported closures happened without notice. Some reported that bewildered employees showed up to work to find out they no longer had a job.
Alex Corona -- who has worked in the tire department at a Sam's Club in Wheeling, Illinois for six years -- told CNNMoney he walked into work Thursday to find the door guarded by two security guards with a sign saying the store was closed.
Eventually, a manager vouched that he was an associate and he was allowed inside, Corona said. He and his coworkers were told by a representative from Sam's Club's corporate office that their store was closing. Employees were offered severance based on how long they had been employed at the store, or the opportunity to transfer to a nearby location.
For his part, Corona, who made $12 per hour at Sam's Club, said he's not looking to transfer.
"I don't want to deal with Sam's Club," he said. "What they're doing is absolutely wrong."
Thirty-nine stores called by CNNMoney had recorded messages saying the store was closed Thursday but would reopen Friday. It's unclear whether or not these stores will remain open.
Nine stores said they were closed effective Thursday, and two more said they would close January 26.
Later -- when asked about Walmart's double-barreled decision to raise wages but close Sam's Club stores -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders praised the company.
"They raised minimum wage," Sanders told reporters at a press briefing. "They are increasing salaries to over a million American workers. We think that's a positive."
In a speech, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin also thanked Walmart for hiking wages and pointed to the move as evidence that the new Republican tax law is good for American workers. The law, which passed before the New Year, offers companies a drastic tax cut by bringing the corporate rate down to 21% from 35%.
Several companies besides Walmart have announced wage hikes or one-time bonuses for workers, citing the tax cut as the incentive.
When asked about the workers who will lose their jobs as a result of the Sam's Club closures, however, Mnuchin responded: "Different companies will do different things. Some companies will invest capital, some companies will return money to workers. Lots of things are going on in the economy, and we appreciate what Walmart is doing.
--CNNMoney's Chris Isidore, Kathryn Vasel and David Goldman contributed to this report.
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