Just a few weeks before he marked his 20th anniversary working for Walmart, Frank Swanson was fired Saturday—partly for hugging his customers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The 52-year-old West Plains, Mo., cashier was canned after his supervisors told him his hugging was inappropriate, as well as for selling a gallon container of tea to a customer for 50 cents off the listed price to honor a store policy of matching a competitor's price. The customer reportedly didn't have the competitor's ad, but Swanson, who the Post-Dispatch notes suffered a severe brain injury when he was in eighth grade, took her word for it. A statement from Walmart noted, per KY3, "Letting an associate go is never easy. But part of being a cashier is making sure customers are paying for their merchandise before they leave the store."
Swanson says he started his hugging spree in November and was warned about it in January; his bosses told him he had to ask for permission from customers first. A woman who says her husband is one of the managers at Walmart posted on Facebook that Swanson had been overheard joking about not giving customers their change until they hugged him; she added that what he's doing could be considered "sexual harassment." But many regulars at the store who say his hugs and caring attitude brighten their day aren't happy about his firing: There's even a Hugs for Frank Facebook page set up to promote a protest against the store on Saturday. "Walmart was blessed to have Frank as an employee, not the other way around," one customer said in a Facebook post. (A woman's body sat in a Walmart parking lot for months.)