Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Just Too Big For Their Corporate Britches

I've been having issues with retailers lately. Is there a point where your company gets so big that you completely detach yourself from any sign of intelligent decisions? I'm speaking of the Arkansas Death Star of course. Our friends at WalMart managed to get me a bit upset, and a lot confused recently.

Most large retailers have a web site where you can place orders. Most of them synchronize their pricing with their websites, or at least have a large disclaimer on an item stating WEB SPECIAL ONLY. Not WalMart! They have a website, with many of the same items you will find in the store, but it seems to be run as a separate entity. There is a disclaimer about this, but you have to dig to find it.

Ashley asked me to recommend a new digital camera for her before heading back to school recently. Amy, and I looked online and chose a Canon model we liked. WalMart had the best price (or so it seemed) of all of the retailers in the area. I printed the page out, and headed off to the store with Ashley. They had them in stock, but the price was $50 higher.

When I showed the printout to the clerk, she said "we don't match online prices".

I was confused. "This is YOUR online price", I said.

"Yes, I understand that sir. WalMart dot com is a separate entity and we don't match their prices", she said.

"That's crazy! What if I ordered it on the website to pick up here?" (which is an option) I asked.

"Then they would send one here for you to pick up", she answered.

She then added something to further confuse the situation. "We will match a local retailer, but no online companies."

Ohhh kayyyy.... "So you'll match a competitor but not your own website?"

"Yes sir"


We ended up paying full price for the camera, simply because she wanted it for a trip the next day, and by this time, all of the other stores were closed. I found the disclaimer on You have to order the item to be picked up at a store, and then it tells you about pricing policy. That's just bad business. When I sent a comment in explaining that competing with yourself is a bad idea, I got a canned response which was just a re-hash of what the clerk had said. Idiots!

So, that same weekend, I had received a promotional email from Big Lots for a Sunday night sale. The deal was 20% off my purchases, and they would be open until 9 PM. The exact wording stated that stores normally open till 6 on Sunday would be open to 9, and stores that were open to 7 or 8 would close at 10. I got to the Newburgh store at about 7:40 and shopped while I heard them announcing the store was closing. I went up to ask if the announcements were for everyone or were they staying open for the sale. I was told that they weren't staying open. I showed them the email flier, but I was told that their manager said they didn't have to stay. The woman behind me took it a step further by explaining that her flier had been handed to her IN THE STORE the previous weekend. Didn't matter, and they closed, and we all left.

I sent a comment in on the corporate website the same night I sent the Walmart one. The NEXT DAY, I received a call from the Northeast district manager for Big Lots. He wanted to personally apologize for the mistake, and offer me another 20% off coupon to make up for it. He said he had been on the phone all morning apologizing to people. Are you listening WalMart? are you reading this? Probably not.

On the upside, I also had a fantastic shopping experience with no reason to complain recently. The store was DSW. It's not easy for me to buy shoes, and takes awhile. The clerk, Sarah, was friendly, helpful, patient, and I love my shoes. Nice job DSW. You should open a school for the other ones.