Thursday, October 4, 2007

I may never set foot in Wal-Mart again.

Just a “brief” rant.

There is a sign in the window in front of the store addressing handicapped patrons with instructions to inform an employee if you have specific needs. I traditionally ignore this sign as I walk by. I don’t anticipate special treatment and as a rule do not require it.

Today I nearly collapsed in the middle of the store, and I am embarrassed to no end. I came in on a simple mission, return a package of broken light bulbs and left a broken man. Earlier I stopped at the furniture store and bought a boat for my bedroom; oh yah, I bought a boat! Actually a rowboat shaped bookcase. It should go well with my new bedroom motif.

Anyways, back to my tale, I went to the furniture store, visited the bank, did my grocery shopping, stopped at Staples in search of a DSL modem and just browsed a bit, then moved on down the road to Wal-Mart to return the unfortunate broken bulbs that were bagged with some canned goods. I stood in line quite a long time as customers returned, complained, picked up and otherwise occupied the only customer service girl behind the counter. After about twenty minutes the line picked up when another girl came to the rescue.

When I finally reached the counter, impressed with the speed and apparent efficiency of the new girl, she was knocking the complaints out 3 to 1 verses the other customer service rep; I got the speedy efficient girl.

She scanned my item without listening to my well-rehearsed and clever explanation (why else do we return stuff but to have our story heard?) and she handed me two dollars and some change. Well you can imagine how put off the speedy girl was when I said I really just wanted to exchange the item. She stopped deadpan and looked me straight in the eyes and said “I refunded your money, you can go get another one and now you won’t have to return here with it.”

“But you refunded the wrong item.” I humbly replied, this set off her annoyance beacon and she glared a hole through me sharp as a laser beam.

“I go by the last four digits of the scanning code, that is the product number you returned right there.” She retaliated. I then realized she must be a high level member of a secret society: the clan codex of superior scanners, and as a master of the craft, was not used to being questioned about her arcane wisdom and skill.

“I am sorry to contradict your scanning prowess, but I bought two twin packs of smaller bulbs as you can see on this receipt, they were each $2.00 and some change. The three pack of larger bulbs cost me $8.77 as it is marked here on the receipt as you can see.” I memorized that smooth line while standing in the customer complaint line without even knowing I would be the one to throw a monkey wrench into the only working cog of customer servicing at the time.

“That is not the item you returned sir.” She insisted. Looking at the words here on paper her response may appear cordial, but I assure you I was standing in front of her and it was far from polite conversation.

“Ok, whatever, can you just get someone to bring me a replacement for the broken bulbs in that pack, and we won’t have to squabble over the price.” Yes I used the squabble word, a word I normally reserve for holiday shopping.

“Sir you can just go get another pack and take it to any check out counter.” That sounded pretty final to me so I set off at my charging turtle pace intent on getting a replacement and making Snooty-Gurlz ring it up. I was grateful in one sense that as I passed many point of purchase items that reached out to my inner shopper, I was able to resist all urges to buy stuff I really don’t need.

I did stop once or twice in a moment of weakness, but managed to go relatively direct to the stacks of light bulb pallets and retrieve a package of bulbs. On the way back I was determined to metaphorically shove the pack into the customer service girls smug face and laugh at her failure, but my legs were trembling, and I noticed my left foot was swelling right out of my sandal. It just then occurred to me that I felt weak and quite headachy; more than I would normally expect from a little altercation with a seventeen-year-old Barbie doll.

I was dragging my left foot along and all my weight was on my good leg and cane. My right leg was trembling something fierce. By the time I reached sight of the first available checkout I deadheaded straight for the counter, shuffling and leaning against anything that might support me. Stubbornness has its percs, it propelled me the last few feet like a drunken sailor to the cashier. I dropped the light bulbs on the conveyor belt, and then dropped the two dollar-bills, and lastly the loose change that came with it as I leaned gasping at the edge of the counter.

“That is only two dollars the cashier said.”

“I know, it is what the customer service girl gave me for those bulbs.” I explained and dropped the marked receipt on the conveyer and dropped my head putting all my weight on the counter. All I could think at this point is I needed to get off my feet and wanted to be at home.

“Those bulbs cost $8.77 sir.”

“I know” was as clever a response as I could manage at the time and I gave up. I just wanted to go home and I stormed off in my snail-paced fashion as the cashier followed me asking if I wanted my two dollars back. I kept telling her no, I wanted my light bulbs, no, I wanted to go home, no, I just wanted to sit down. All the while I am picking up assistant managers trailing behind me like sticky toilet paper stuck on the bottom of my shoe.

“Please! Just let me find a seat for a minute!” I shouted and somewhere in the confusion someone brought me a chair.

By now I was surrounded by concerned and curious faces; employees, managers (how many managers does it take to run a shift at Wal-Mart?) and a few customers trying to extract a case of soda from behind me. Some one offered to call 911 and I insisted I was ok horrified by the possibility of further embarrassment. As I regained a small amount of composure and none of my dignity, I explained as best I could why I was there and what I wanted. I mentioned the sign out front offering assistance to handicapped people and I requested some of that special treatment then and there. I handed everything I had to the Alpha manager, ratted out the customer service girl and remained sitting, trying to work the pain out of my foot as I rested my good leg.

When did I get to be so weak? I can’t even stroll from one end of a warehouse and back? I am so embarrassed. I lost my temper, I lost my dignity, and I lost control of my life for a very short time and it scared the hell out of me.

I do not know how exactly they resolved the entire light bulb scanner fiasco, but I left with my light bulbs and did not have to pay anything more for them than the cash the service girl handed me and all of my dignity.

I might mention that from the glare of the service girls still at her staion tells me that this isn't over between her and me, I am certain I made an enemy for life. I am envisioning myself at some later date or time in my life when I am at my favorite drive through and I reach up to the window to pick up my food, and there will be Snooty-Gurlz glaring at me...


sue said...

Ohhh... I am so sorry this happened to you. You were definately in the right and they were wrong and it should have been resolved without all the hassle and making you run all over the store. I still say there is something missing in customer "service".

Jan said...

I'm sorry about the delay in commenting on this post, but I wanted to see what my husband thought about your experience.

He is a Walmart manager, and he thought it was horrible how they handled the situation.

He said that it was handled all wrong, and that unfortunately, that is the kind of thing that he has to deal with all the time..incompetent employees with attitudes, who don't want to perform their duties properly, and dare you to do something about it.

He said that you could have exchanged the item, right there at the service desk, and not had to have gone through the check-out line.

He said that you should have asked for the store manager, not dealt with the assistants, and had it been in his store, as soon as he had learned what happened, he would have given you the item at no cost, and would have given you a gift card of at least twenty dollars, along with a huge apology for your inconvenience.

You can call 1-800-Walmart and lodge a complaint, too.

About the number of managers it takes to run a store?

Not many at all, he said, if they were properly trained, and were qualified in the first place.

Sad to say, that is not the case nowadays. :(

Vin De Vine said...

Thanks for the input Jan. I had too much to say even for me, so I cut and pasted my comment to an email and sent it to you.

I will however apologize openly for naming the store involved, that was tactless on my part but I assure you what I wrote is true and happened as I told it.

Jan said...

Michael..I know that what you said is true...there is no need to apologize for anything.

I hate it that you had to go through all that.