I am saying goodbye to Walmart. After years of being a customer, our time together has finally reached the end of the road. Not over some major issue, but over the very basics of customer relations.
Earlier, I decided to get a Google Chromecast to use for a repeating presentation in a lobby. I am not a 100% sure it will work, but it was at the right price point to give it a try. I did all the normal pre-purchase rituals, specifically compared Amazon, BestBuy, Target, and Walmart. The three big box stores are only a few miles from home, and I didn’t want to wait the whole two days for the Amazon Prime delivery elves to work their magic. Besides, the prices were all within a dollar of each other, so I decided to go to Walmart. Besides, I had to be next door for something else. Once more, laziness is the ultimate motivating force.
Before I go any further, let me share the screen shots from the four store sites as they were taken Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 at just before 9:00 pm.
The Problem at Walmart
So, I make the trek over to Walmart, find the Chromecast, and go to pay. It rings up $35.00. I tell them thats the wrong price. They say “Nope. That’s the price.” I counter with the website said otherwise, and that’s when they inform me that they do not honor the prices on their own website. Yes. That is right. Walmart will not honor their own prices from their own website. Nothing on the page says something to that effect. None of their competitors do that either. I offered to buy-it on-line using my phone, and they told me it takes up to four hours for them to see the order. They were polite, but firmly said it was company policy. I chose to shop at the Target 2 miles away.
So lets recap. A store, renowned for efficiency, that already captured my business - I was in the store already - gave it away because they wanted me to order on-line, wait up to 4 hours, then drive back to the store and pick it up after their employees picked up the same unit from the shelf and brought it to the front of the store. Not only is this a model of inefficiency, it based on a deceptive website. The website said nothing about it being an only only price. To make it worse, I told them none of their competitors do this and they were selling it at the lower price. They told me to go home and print out their website as proof. The website on my phone or their own computers would not count.
As I walked out, I went to the customer service desk to tell them that I was upset as a customer, and they just apologized and said it was company policy. So, Walmart, if you are listening, your company policy cost you a customer. Not only will I avoid Walmart, I will even try and avoid Sam’s Club. Bottom line, is that you didn’t lose me over the $6, but over the deceptive practices and poor customer service. Being polite is not an excuse for not addressing my issue.
For anyone that goes back through my blog, you will notice that I have rarely, if ever, commented on a specific store or product. I actually try to avoid commentary like that. Nothing against it, just not my thing. This, however, exhibited what I think of as huge corporate policy mistake by Walmart. They are competing, in many cases successfully, against a horde of other companies - Amazon amongst them. As a Prime customer for years, I know the value that Amazon brings to the table. I also know the value of the other stores, and they all have their merits. The margins are getting smaller, and the way to be on top is through low-margin volume and the occasional high-margin item - especially the impulse buy. When I next need a new TV, or computer, or printer, or most anything else - even school supplies - Walmart is now off my list. Will I be missed or even noticed by Walmart? Not a chance. I represent a rounding error on a rounding error to a single store. The amazing thing to me, is that I cannot be the only one who noticed this practice. I also cannot be the only one who decides to change his (or her) shopping practices because of it. Those rounding errors add up.
Finally, I will throw another opinion in to this. The future of commerce is neither on-line or off-line, but a hybrid of the two. The ratio will change over time, back and forth, but the successful winners in the future of commerce will be those that blend them seamlessly. My shopping experience should not be either or. It should be totally and completely seamless. I should have a single shopping experience from home to car to office to store. In fact, I should barely even notice the difference. The store that delivers that is the one I think will dominate the next generation of commerce. Having different prices based on the on or off-line experience is no different than two salespersons in the store giving me two different prices.
But then again, what do I know, I am only a consumer.
Does anyone disagree? Have a different opinion? Similar experience? Share in the comments. I am really curious.