A Sam’s Club employee shouts to offer water to customers waiting patiently and long to enter the store on Saturday afternoon. The line stretched along one side of The Outlet Collection mall in Auburn, with patrons waiting an hour to an hour and a half to enter the bargain-selling store that’s scheduled to close Jan. 26. MARK KLAAS, Reporter

A Sam’s Club employee shouts to offer water to customers waiting patiently and long to enter the store on Saturday afternoon. The line stretched along one side of The Outlet Collection mall in Auburn, with patrons waiting an hour to an hour and a half to enter the bargain-selling store that’s scheduled to close Jan. 26. MARK KLAAS, Reporter

Sam’s Club locations in Auburn, Renton, Seattle abruptly close

Move comes on the heels of an increase in worker pay and benefits at the company’s Walmart stores

Workers employed in Sam’s Club locations in Auburn, Renton and Seattle were surprised to learn Thursday that their stores would be closing as part of a larger nationwide shuttering of 63 store locations, affecting 495 workers in the King County area.

An advisory from the Employment Security Department of Washington State detailed that permanent layoffs will be effective March 16 at three locations: 168 in Auburn at The Outlet Collection mall, 179 in Renton (901 S. Grady Way) and 148 in north Seattle (13550 Aurora Ave. N).

The three store are scheduled to close Jan. 26. The stores were closed Thursday so that the company could notify workers. They were back open Friday.

Droves of customers weathered long lines throughout the weekend to get in on the bargains.

Ten of the affected stores will be turned into distribution centers for online orders, and employees will have the opportunity to reapply for positions at these locations, according to a report by KIRO 7.

These layoffs come on the heel of a Thursday morning announcement from Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, saying that it will be raising its starting wage from $9 to $11, giving bonuses to some employees, and expanding parental leave benefits.

In addition to owning Sam’s Club, Walmart is the largest private employer in the country, and these changes affect potentially thousands of workers throughout the nation. The retailer said it would pay for the raises and expansion of benefits with the money it expects to save under the recently passed tax plan. There is currently no clear indication that the store closures and the pay raises are linked.

Sam’s Club responded to some disgruntled customers on Twitter with a statement that read, “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. Closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.”

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