Monday, February 20, 2006

Liars and Cheaters

WAL-MART lies to its customers. Okay, so I covered this topic three weeks ago in “The Customer is Number… 2?” but I have a few more anecdotes that are too good to pass up. While at the service desk at on a Wednesday night I received a call from a panicked woman who detected bleach in a gallon of spring water that she had just purchased. Allergic to bleach, the woman had burned her lips and throat when drinking the infected water. She wanted us to test the remaining product and pull it off the shelves if necessary, which I passed along to the CSM on duty, noting that the woman sounded serious. We weren’t going to do that she said, but would tell an assistant manager nonetheless. Sure enough, the woman arrived just before the desk closed at 10 pm with the tainted water as evidence for me to smell (I declined the offer.) As expected the CSM hadn’t done anything with the tip, so we hurriedly ran back to the manager’s office to brief the assistant manager and co-manager who were still in the store. They rejected the seemingly reasonable request of testing the remaining jugs of water out-of-hand. “Tell her management is looking into it” the co-manager said without a trace of humor. And with that they called it a day, leaving me to break the news to the customer and track down a product-liability form since “it’s all we can do.” Back at the desk I parroted the party line while the woman filled out the form, promising to have the water tested on her own. A good idea, I said, knowing WAL-MART surely wasn’t going to do anything about it.

And the store doesn’t stop at lying to its customers; it cheats them too. One of the CSM’s took me aside when I asked whether we should give a customer double their money back on unsatisfactory beef, a WAL-MART policy for rotten meat or produce. Don’t offer them 200% unless they ask for it she advised me; many of them don’t know about it. I played dumb, asking another supervisor if it was right to swindle customers out of money just because they were ignorant about our policy. Although it took twice as many words, she too agreed that I shouldn’t make good on the company’s promise. I witness this inconsistency between written policy and actual in-store return policy every day. We refuse to accept returns on products from other WAL-MART stores that we do not carry, despite explicit instruction to the contrary in our policy binder. Ditto for our insistence of processing returns according to the mode of payment (e.g. purchases off a gift card must go back to a gift card.) However, the most interesting example of this came when I was left to shred confidential documents back in layaway. Here I found department breakdowns of each items cost, retail price, and total mark-up. Despite all WAL-MART’s talk of bringing customers the lowest possible price, in truth department markups averaged in the high 30%’s, with one topping out at an incredible 56% average markup! Individual products might see a 70-80% increase, or a whopping 93% for a package of beef (I wonder if that was the rotten one…) I would later find out from one of the department manager’s that his 25% markups would yield an $80,000 profit per month!

WAL-MART is a firm believer in equal opportunity however, meaning it swindles everyone around them, not just their customers. There are the suppliers, the natural enemies of our claims department. The main purpose of their job is to try to recoup as much money as possible from suppliers for damaged returns, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when a sign appeared instructing us to never record that a product had been damaged in shipping since we wouldn’t receive credit for it. Of course it is employees who bear the worst of the company’s deceitful ways. After getting busted for violations in several states, management is vigilant about not having employees work off the clock, on the surface anyway. In truth, employees are pressed to work off the clock in countless way, with long lunch hours, unscheduled mandatory meetings, and the incredible pressure put on associates to get enormous jobs done. One associate got in trouble for having her boyfriend work off the clock to help her zone, but no additional resources were sent her way to complete the Herculean task of managing her department. At this point though, employees aren’t fooled easily, and when Open Enrollment time came around my co-workers were justifiably suspicious about a new “Value Plan” for health insurance. Personally, I can not think of a single associate who signed up for this new packaging of the old plan with its high deductibles, poor coverage, and heavy risk. “I think it sucks personally” commented one co-worker. “But it’s better than nothing.”

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing this. If you don't mind some armchair quarterbacking, might I suggest something? If you keep more detailed notes of incidents you see around you, with dates and times, it could really come in handy, especially after you are found out (which is bound to happen sooner or later). Since things like that might be tedious to log, you might need a cheapo tape recorder (or one of the new voice memo tools on the market).

Your audience can probably arrange to pay for it, too. I know I'll gladly spring you the cash for a voice recorder.

Also, log your hours. Time clock abuse is bound to resume as soon as the spotlight is off Wal-Mart.

Anonymous said...

Nice work. You should pass on documentation of the some things you described to the folks at ReclaimDemocracy.org.
They have a phenomenal collection of stuff on walmart corp at ReclaimDemocracy.org/walmart

Anonymous said...

This is only one way that the Customer gets taken for a ride, a while back I remember seeing about Wal-Mart on the scale over charges

This happen to me while I was filling in on a register, I had finished ringing and was taken the money when the customer gave what look like a check for the whole amount I rang the amount but it only took $10.00 of the total, it was my fault I did not look closely it really was a form of coupon that like a check.

So I had to call a CSM, I can not remember how it was done this way, but she manually typed in the upc numbers, the total came up around $32.00 less than the total I got by scanning we check the tape and she had rung up the right numbers, she also has a accounting Degree so she was very fast and good on the number. she then type in some code to make the total what the original total was even through the customer was overcharged

Anonymous said...

I have read all of your blogs,and applaud what you are doing.

I worked for Wal-Mart for 9 months it was all I could take, I was treated well they thought that I was going to be come one of them.

I worked in all Department's including the Front End.

Believe it are not, the Front End Associates are really treated the best in most Stores if you really want to see the dehumanization of the Associates you have to work on the Floor.

I would suggest that you apply for any Department Manager's position that open up, do not worry let the Store Manager know that you are interested, you fit the profile they will post the opening it will probably go to you, I seen this happen many times in the Store that I worked in the job was posted but the Store Manager had already gave the job to some one else

Anonymous said...

Figure I'd give you some love. I read all the entries to date and truly, I'd rather flip hamburgers than work Wal*Mart.

I have to admit the bit I enjoyed most was the badly needed worker sitting in the break room for two hours when the CSM could have put her on the clock any time she wanted to. I've never worked for any place as bad as that.

Good work! You have been linked to by Daily Kos!

Gratis said...

I'm a former Wal-Mart employee in Ohio who left because I couldn't stand their tactics anymore. I was wondering if you could give information on the "Value Plan" insurance. I know that it has a $1000 deductible (which is absolutely insane) but is there anything else in the package that makes it stink? Just curious. Thanks in advance.

DoIAmuseYou said...

Actually many retailers introduce extensive markups within the retail formula. It's not just Wal-Mart folks. The next time you venture out to the mall, try to guess the markup on that Tommy Hillfiger shirt. You don't actually belive the wholesale cost is anywhere near the 80 dollar price tag do you? Most people who do not own or operate a business do not realize the costs that are incurred. The markup pays for rent, utilities, maintenance, employees salaries, merchant accounts and payment gateway, phone system/fax, computer network, advertising & promotion business insurance, health insurance, taxes & licenses (business, property & self-employment), payroll, transportation, etc. Pretty extensive list there and we haven't even gotten to the inventory yet.

Anonymous said...

1. Do you seriously think that bleach got in a bottle of spring water in any way other than the customer putting it there? How do you think that could have happened at the source? Oh, I guess it might be possible that a supplier's employee went ahead with her plan to sabotage her employer -- and didn't chicken out like you did.

2. Didn't major in business or economics, did you? If I can buy something for less at Wal-Mart than I can anywhere else, I am obviously getting the lowest price. Wal-Mart's margins are none of my business. Hell, there's no solvent company in the world that tells its customers that they can get is products or services at "the lowest possible price." The lowest possible price is zero -- or, if that doesn't make you happy, 1 cent. Companies that sell at negative profit margins typically don't stay in business very long.

3. Am I missing something? Why should Wal-Mart be expected to eat the cost of something that was damaged in transit from the manufacturer to Wal-Mart? Until a shipment is "received" and verified to be in good condition, the responsibility for any shipping damage typically rests with the shipper, not the receiver.

Anonymous said...

walmart is such a big organization of liars sorry but it is. they don't pay you enough to make it possible. well they have done stuff to me and i don't like it at all. for instance they said i stolen an item. in no way means i would never do a such of a thing. i do love kids and try to help another person to steal or take something no. will never shop there and i will never step in there store again.

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Trenton said...

Come on, this is a joke. You tell us what Wal-mart's policy is, then you tell us that the manager or co-manager didn't follow the policy, and you expect us to believe that it's Wal-mart's fault?

Hate to burst your anti-capitalist bubble, pal, but there are people like that in every company.

Anonymous said...

I have worked for Sam's Club and Wal-Mart for eight years in store management. This job has provided for my family neeeds. Any place you work has problems or people who are dishonest. Wal-Mart does have some work to do with the culture, but overall I think Wal-Mart makes an attempt to obey the law. Time after time it is the customers I see that make things worse for Wal-Mart. Do you really think Wal-Mart could stay in business with low prices for the consumer if they had the best wages, staff, and way they are projected to the world. Wasn't Wal-Mart first to start $4.00 prescriptions? Then see what alll the other companies did, what they did the same thing has Wal-Mart. As for me I see it is the person's attitude that will make it or not make it. Wal-Mart has a lot to offer that is good, but like any company more room to improve on.

Anonymous said...

hey that is so true. ive worked at store 1882 for about a year and a half and i am really naive. when they told us about that health care program change they old us about a week befopre it happened so only the full time asscociates wher allowed to change it. so im stuckpaying $50 out of evey paychek plus $20 as a co pay and i have to pay for an insuranc cars that they say the doctor needs to make sure that we hav it. its a bunch of crap but i need the job as i am going to college i,almost done but yea.they have me working full time hours getting over time and i only get paid as a pat time associate with no benifits no raise and no nothing. they hav me go everywhere the service dest fittingroom automotive site to store garden customer service and they even had us girls pushing carts outside because they didnt wanna call in a guy to do it cuzhe was going to get overtime

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Anonymous said...

I just read a little here and am compelled to say that my mgr. Works off the clocks daily because the area (dairy) is staffed with one person working where previously there was six . I suspect asst. Mgr. bonuses are tied into maintain low staffing hours. They simply Will not staff our dairy. If some one lung ke an overnighter quits they will not replace him m/her for months. the food just goes bad sitting in bins and they throw it away. They also throw away perfectly good overstock because it just sits in the back. We used to donate overstock to the food bank. Sick egh?

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$4.00 until all of a sudden they can't get that particular product any more, then it is full price for the replacement.

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