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:

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