Wednesday, December 24, 2014

An Ordeal at Walmart in Farmingdale, NY

I ordered a toy Christmas train from Walmart to be picked up in-store. When my wife got to the store, they didn't have it and there were none left. I believe they sold our reserved item to someone else. No one ever apologized. Here's the full and detailed account:

On 18 December my husband and I ordered the North Pole Express 27-Piece Christmas Train. On the Walmart website it was listed as available for pickup in-store at the Farmingdale location on Long Island. It was also available in other Walmart locations, but Farmingdale was the closest to our house (a half hour drive). So we ordered it and paid by credit card. The next morning we received a confirmation email that the item was being held and ready to pick up. It also clearly stated that we had until 1 January to come for it.
On 22 December I drove to the Farmingdale store with a printed copy of the confirmation and handed it to the clerk. After several minutes of various employees searching and conferring with one another, he returned to me and stated plainly, “We don’t have any left.” I told him that’s not possible and unacceptable as I’d already paid for it and it should be held in reserve. The attitude of your staff member was that it wasn’t a big deal and little was done either to rectify the situation or even to express how strange, unfortunate, or beguiling it was that an item paid for and held in reserve was nowhere to be found.
When I expressed the urgency of the need to have this gift for my son only three days before Christmas, your staff member’s appalling response was, “If it was so urgent, why did you wait four days to come pick it up?” Let’s unpack this a little. In the first place, when I reserve and pay for something and am given two weeks to come claim it, it is none of your associates’ business why I wait a day, or two days, or even the full fourteen days to pick it up. That is my prerogative. I can only think of three possible things your associate was trying to imply with his insulting question: 1) That I was lying about the urgency involved; 2) That if I really wanted it, I should have come sooner; 3) That it’s common practice at Walmart to sell reserved and paid for items to other customers who are physically in the store in order to guarantee sale of the item. As it this weren’t enough, your associate asked me for the printed email confirmation after I’d given it to him upon my arrival and he’d taken it to go searching for the train. When I told him that he had the printed confirmation, he said he didn’t have it and didn’t know where it was. At this point your associate again stated that there were no trains left, with no apology, and offered, “I can refund your money if you want.” Huh? If I want? Did this man imagine any scenario in which I would be willing to let Walmart keep my money without giving me the product?
At this point I asked to speak to a manager. He radioed for a manager who never came. I asked again for a manager and again he called. Still no one came. The manager had to be called three times before anyone bothered to consider that this was a problem that should be dealt with immediately. A manager finally arrived after I’d waited close to fifteen minutes. I explained to the manager what the situation was. He told me he would check what happened and then disappeared behind a door. After an unreasonable amount of time had passed I asked the associate again to get the manager as I could not spend all afternoon waiting. I had a two-month old infant with me who was about to need a feeding. The associate, not satisfied I suppose with his first insulting question, said, “You’re not going to get a train. There are none left.” Someone should explain to him that restitution comes in many forms. In the end, a female associate came over. This was not a manager because she had been there the entire time. She said I would get a $20 gift card. I never saw the manager again. Not a single person ever even apologized for the mix up, confusion, error, or intentional sale to another customer. No one seemed to think this was a big deal or even worth treating with anything resembling sincere regret.
I would like to add that in the time I was waiting I listened to two other customers complain about Walmart customer service or general mix ups (neither of whom felt reasonably satisfied with your customer service department’s handling if their situations) and one customer who was listening to my situation and said the same thing had once happened to her. I believe this is standard Walmart practice. I think Walmart cynically sold my reserved item to a paying customer in-store rather than risk being stuck with a Christmas Train after Christmas if we didn’t pick it up.
There were so many points at which I could have been made to feel slightly better about this issue, or at the very least made to feel as if what happened is unacceptable and some form of compensation made. Refunding the money is not compensation. That is a given. A $20 gift card was an insult to the amount of driving I had to do (one hour round trip) and time wasted (two and a quarter hours in total) to come home empty-handed. This is all not to mention the level of annoyance I experienced through the whole thing.

Now let's see what happens from Walmart's end. This story brings this "Seinfeld" episode to mind:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Die Hard Movie Review

I guess Die Hard has achieved something close to classic status by now. It’s a beloved action movie from the 80s (the heyday of big dumb action) with an up-and-coming movie star that spawned four sequels and a catch phrase. Taking another look at it I’ve found that it holds up well, but it’s certainly not great. It does just about everything right and hardly missteps until the very last scene, I’d say.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Classic Movie Review: King Kong

One of the great pleasures of revisiting the really old classics is to see how concise Hollywood storytelling used to be. Watching the original King Kong from 1933, directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack and written by James Creelaman and Ruth Rose, I was amazed by how much adventure is packed into such a tight timeframe. It’s a little more than half the running time of Peter Jackson’s bloated remake from 2005, but their stories are virtually identical and most of the set pieces have the same basis.

The Babadook Movie Review

It might seem strange to recommend a horror movie as something that every parent should see and pay close attention to, but The Babadook, the feature debut from Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent, is a treatise on the aspects of parenting that people tend not to talk about. It is a sort of psychological horror film clearly inspired by and borrowing from Nosferatu as equally as The Exorcist, Halloween, and even A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Wild Movie Review

There are journeys where it’s the destination that matters. Then there are others where it’s the journey itself that defines the story and the character taking it. The latter kind is what makes for better films, in my opinion. In the new film Wild, a young woman hikes the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave desert in southern California to the Oregon-Washington border – a 1,100-mile walk. Along the way she recalls moments from her past that brought her to the decision to make this trek.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pleasantville Movie Review

I reviewed Pleasantville in 1998 for The Connecticut College Voice, but upon revisiting the film recently, decided that a new review was in order.

It’s so nice to return to a sixteen year old movie that you thought at that time was very good and find that it remains just as interesting and just as powerful now as it was then. I put Pleasantville in my top ten for 1998 and am happy to discover that it will remain there. I think the salience of the messaging of Pleasantville has only increased with time. Sure, the TV landscape has changed considerably since then. The Prime Time schedule hardly dominates anymore. Every basic cable station and even streaming providers have gotten into original content production. But TV’s roots still stretch back to the 1950s and a schedule full of wholesome plots directing family values toward the American public.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From My Collection: 25th Hour Movie Review

In 2002, New York City lay beaten and bruised, injured and left for dead but not without some bite left in her. Certainly the city was ready and willing to dole out punishment to anyone who intended harm again. It’s a lot like the dog Doyle at the opening of Spike Lee’s 25th Hour. Someone has abused him, but he lashes out at Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), who only wants to help. Monty takes Doyle in and when the story picks up a year later, the dog is reasonably normal while the city is still reeling from catastrophe.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

From My Collection: Rounders Movie Review

I reviewed this film sixteen years ago in the Connecticut College Voice. It is far too embarrassing to republish the original so in revisiting the film, here is my new and updated reviews.

For a brief time in the 90s and early 2000s, director John Dahl was establishing himself (in my estimation, at least) as a maker of dark and fascinating tales of low moral character or the underbelly of places we thought we knew. In 1998 he brought us, via a screenplay by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, to the underground and illegal poker scene of New York City in Rounders. He showed us a seedy version of New York that stands outside the realm of most Hollywood movies. And it’s populated with a cast of characters, most of whom you wouldn’t be too quick to invite into your home.