Never Shop at Wal-Mart Again

A few weekends ago, in the mail, Bridget and I got a coupon that asked us to be a guest for a day at Sam’s Club. I scanned it so you can all take a look. Go on, take a look. This was apparently mass mailed to people that are within driving distance of the local Sam’s Club. We decided that we would bite and try it out. We had previously stopped shopping at Wal-Mart because a woman was rude to Bridget and they don’t exactly have the most labor-friendly practices. Regardless, it had been ages since we went to a Wal-Mart so we figured it was time to give Sam Walton another shot.

We left for Monroeville and as we approached the turnpike I noticed a sign that read, “No tickets. Flat rate at exit.” We had forgotten that the PA Turnpike workers were on strike. To save staffing costs, the turnpike was charging flat rates to keep everything flowing smoothly. Well, normally a trip to Monroeville costs me $0.75, today it cost me $2.00. I wasn’t happy about this. It made me wish I was driving to Philadelphia just so I could’ve bucked the system out of nearly $30.00. Regardless, we arrived in Monroeville determined to buy a Christmas tree and other odds and ends that we needed. We visited several of the stores and then headed to Sam’s Club to cash in on our “Be Our Guest” coupon. We entered the store and the guy took the coupon and separated the coupon (with perforated edges) from the larger part of the advertisement. Of course, he then tried to staple a membership application to it, but he was out of staples. I thought it was funny because we had no intention of buying a membership. We were only interested in using the coupon and leaving.

We wound our way through the store and went down every aisle looking for especially good deals. We found that most of the items were actually very comparable to Target prices. Target is our store of choice, so that is where all our comparisons come from. It was a few cents here and a few cents there of savings. Nothing too impressive. We were going to get a tree, but found that they were ugly and overpriced. After about an hour or more of searching through the warehouse (this place felt like an airplane hangar) we decided to check out.

Arriving at the checkout line was simple enough, almost all the counters were open. The kid took our items and began to scan them. After Bridget handed him the coupon and papers he said, “You can avoid the 10% surcharge if you become a member today.” Bridget took the coupon back and pointed to it and indicated that we were using a guest pass and that the fee should be waived. He responded with a puzzled look and another woman came walking over. The woman in question snatched the coupon from Bridget and said in a very confrontational tone, “You mean this?

Umm. Yes…” said Bridget.

We never waive the 10% surcharge,” the woman defiantly proclaimed.

But it says here that…

No ma’am,” the woman interrupted. She was certainly treating us poorly at this point. Her tone had moved from defiance to scolding irritation. “Had you read the coupon you would’ve seen that there is a 10% fee if you don’t become a member.

But it says that we are invited to be a guest.

Yes ma’am. But if you had read it closely you would obviously have seen that there would be a surcharge. All non-members are required to pay a 10% fee.

I decided to pipe in at this point. “So you’re saying that this coupon is in fact not a coupon at all?

Bridget says to me, clearly upset, “I feel deceived.

Sir, if she had read the…” she added before I cut her off.

No. This ‘coupon’ that we were sent in the mail, that is asking us to be a guest of Sam’s Club, is in fact nothing more than an advertisement. Is that what you are saying? We can come in here any day and ‘be your guest’ and still pay the 10% fee? This is, in fact, not a coupon at all. Am I understanding this correctly?” I said.

It says right here that… If she had read…,” she stuttered.

Bridget looked at me and said, “I feel as if someone is being rude to me.” She was obviously upset and I was getting angry with the way this was being handled.

No. This isn’t a coupon? It’s an advertisement, isn’t it?” I said.

Yes.” she said. Finally. As this interaction was taking place, the young man at the register had finished totaling out items. The total came in a little over $220.

Your 22 dollar 10% charge can be applied toward your membership,” he said hopefully.

I don’t think we should buy anything at this point. I’m pissed off about this. I didn’t come here to have someone be rude to me even if I hadn’t read the fine print,” Bridget said to me.” I certainly wasn’t buying a membership now that we had been treated like children that needed to be scolded. However, the time we had spent in the store (almost 90 minutes) made me not want to abandon the goods. Otherwise we would need to spend just as much time in Target getting the things we needed. It was already getting late and we were getting hungry. I decided that we would pay for the stuff, eat the charge, and never come back.

We checked out and I was already looking for the customer service desk to talk to a manager about this situation. I sent Bridget to the car with the stuff and she was very upset when I sent her away. I had the receipt in my hand so that I could shove it in the face of the person I wanted to talk to and show them the $240+ I just spent in their store. Bridget quickly returned, tears in her eyes, saying that she couldn’t get out of the store without the receipt. I gave it to her and she departed. I was furious.

I walked to the customer service desk and asked to see a manager. “Is there something I can help you with sir?” the woman said.

My wife is outside crying in the car because of the way one of your employees treated her. I want to talk to a manager.” I said coldly. The woman that had been rude to us came over and began talking to the customer service lady about the weather or some other inane topic. She stood no more than 3 feet from me. I was seething.

The manager approached and the rude woman left. I explained to the manager that we had received this alleged coupon and we attempted to check out with our guest pass. I said to the manager, “I realize that we did not read the fine print. I also see that this is nothing more than a bait-and-switch marketing ploy. However, that does not give your employess the right to treat us the way we were just treated. We just spent $240 dollars in here and my wife is outside crying because of the way that woman treated her.” I pointed at the woman as she pretended not to see my accusatory glare. “We have both had similar experiences like this in Wal-Mart. This is the first time in about 3 years that we’ve shopped here and because of the way we were treated, we won’t be coming back. Target will be getting all our business from here on out.

I’ll see what I can do to talk to that employee about the situation.” said the manager. No offer to refund the 10%. No explanation as to why we received a deceptive ‘coupon’. Not even an apology.

I left and got in the car to console Bridget. We talked about it and decided we would tell everyone how we were treated. This is our story. If anyone talks to me about shopping at Wal-Mart I will tell this story. I’ll tell them how the customer is never right at Wal-Mart. I’ll tell them how a nasty employee caused Wal-Mart to lose the business of me and my friends. I’ll tell them of the unfair labor practices and other questionably ethical dilemnas that Wal-Mart is tied to.

Some other reasons not to shop at Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club:

  • Always low wages–always. Everyone knows retail jobs are low-paying. But Wal-Mart is special. It pays so little to so many that it drives competitors’ wages down as well. Not only does Wal-Mart hire poor people; it keeps them poor. A recent Pennsylvania State University study found that counties that gained a Wal-Mart store during the ’90s were less likely to climb out of poverty than Wal-Mart-free counties. (cecd.aers.psu.edu/pubs/PovertyResearchWM.pdf)
  • Wal-Mart the welfare queen . Many Wal-Mart employees can’t afford the company’s expensive health insurance. So it encourages them to apply for state assistance. A University of California at Berkeley study (laborcenter.berkeley.edu/lowwage) concluded that health care, housing subsidies, food stamps, and other forms of public welfare for Wal-Mart workers cost California taxpayers $86 million a year, or $1,952 a year per Wal-Mart “associate.” Other states have also documented large numbers of low-paid Wal-Mart employees using tax-funded public health insurance.
  • Lock ’em up! The New York Times has reported on many allegations of illegal employment practices at U.S. Wal-Marts. Among them: locking workers in overnight to prevent theft; forcing people to work through breaks and mealtimes; contracting with cleaning companies that recruit workers from overseas, bringing them into the U.S. illegally, and then threatening to have them deported if they balk at seven-day work weeks and working “off the clock.”
  • Don’t sweat it . The company continues to buy from sweatshop suppliers, accused by human rights and labor activists of hiring children and physically abusing workers.

Bulleted list is pulled from an article entitled Rednecks & Blue States

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16 Responses to Never Shop at Wal-Mart Again

  1. Pingback: VaxCave » Super Wal-Mart in Huntingdon

  2. Ol'Froth says:

    This is why I go to Costco. They treat their customers and their employees much, much better than Wal-Mart.

  3. knomat says:

    I’ll join your club. Huntingdon, unfortunately, is getting a Wal-Mart next year. It’ll be interesting (sad) to see how it affects the economy in this area based on what it’s already done to others.

    For more info – http://www.walmartwatch.com/

  4. ajd says:

    I also refuse to shop at WalMart because of the same situation. They finally were allowed to put one in Columbia about a year ago.

    It didn’t do much to damage the economy (there’s not really any “mom and pop” shops here), but it totally ruined the area they put it in. I won’t go to any of the shops around it because the roads and parking lot are a disaster now.

  5. CRS says:

    All that and you still gave them $240. What does $240 of public humiliation feel like? When it became apparent they were using bait and switch, you should have gone looking for the manager. WITHOUT paying for jack.

  6. Tadbot says:

    You should have come to Philadelphia to visit me and buck the system out of $30. And I get free membership to CostCo’s.

  7. cindy says:

    Warning, Biased, extremist rant to follow:

    A Wal-Mart in Huntingdon?! That hurts my heart. Does this mean that awesome “video store” is going to go out of business? Will City Lights go out of business? I love the middle-age guy at City Lights. He’s indie as fuck. Will the OIP be replaced by the Little Cesears or whatever the hell crappy corporate food that Wal-Mart buys out to serve their cstomers “fat munchies.” Because you know, the fatter we are, the lazier we are, and the lazier we are the more we need to save money because we aren’t working as hard. For all I know they will build that giant box of evil brainwashing corporateness on The Peace Chapel. Bastards. You know what, in fact, Wal-mart in general hurts my heart. The mere fact that they made my Bridgey cry is enough for me to want to go out and burn every fucking Wal-Mart in the country! And Mexico. Bastards. No one makes my Bridgey cry. No one. Seriously, Dave, every woman needs a man like you. One who is willing to defend the honor of not only the woman he loves but all of us out there who hate Wal-Mart and all that it stands for. Word.

  8. Kristan says:

    Wal-Mart is a myth. People feel like it’s this very American thing, when in fact, nothing is more un-American. The company’s tactics against its competitors is monopolistic, and its exploitation of its vendors, workers, AND CUSTOMERS is disgusting. I liken it to crack dealing. Deckers, I’m so sorry you had that horrible experience. Thanks for sharing it to enlighten your friends.

  9. bridgey says:

    I’d just like to add that we had just traveled home from Orlando that day. This means that we had gotten up early, driven tot he airport, flown 2 hours to the Burgh, gotten on a bus for another hour, gotten back to work where we picked up our car, and then drove another 20 minutes. We actually didn’t feel that tired at the time and felt like, oh, we’ll go buy our christmas tree! It will be great! That’s when we discovered the coupon. I was looking through the stack of mail for the target add, and I saw it, and I was like, Oh, I bet we could get a tree there!

    I indeed read the flier wrong. I was looking for an expiration date because I was so skeptical! I didn’t find one, but missed the more obvious trick. The woman was really awful to me. On another occation, I probably would have let her have it, but being so tired and hungry, and after all that shopping, I just felt so defeated! I guess that is why we bought the stuff. I felt like, we can make the choice to purchase these items, or we can let them have our time on top of our cash. While cash may be worth more to them, my time was too precious. That’s why we won’t spend any more of it at either Sam’s or WalMart.

    I do hear good things about Costco – that its nice AND cleaner, which is a plus. I have not shopped there, and since it is quite a trek for us, we’ll probably be going to other local options.

    Feel free to share your other, “We boycott this place because…” stories…this is the only recourse we have nowadays. On the list of stories we’ve heard: add Best Buy and Circuit City. Email the kids at swisherhive.com for the Best Buy story. It’s a good one.

  10. knomat says:

    Some businesses are safe. Others, not so much. The grocery stores will be threatened because of the super center. OIP won’t go out of business because you can’t get 40’s and and a 6-pack of Michelob Light anywhere else in Huntingdon on a Sunday night. At least that’s what I hear 😉 The mom and pop stores will suffer – the office supply stores, hardware stores, gift shops, etc. On a good note, I’ve heard talk of the Chamber of Commerce holding conferences for local businesses about how to adapt to the change of having Wal-Mart come here. Outrageously, the township is fronting the money to have their damn utilities hooked up for the store to be built. As if the bastards don’t have enough money to do that themselves. The whole idea kills me.

    City Lights is actually in State College. I approached the guy about opening a store in Huntingdon. He chuckled.

  11. Pingback: knomat.

  12. cindy says:

    They tried to open a Wal-Mart here in C-Town. The community came together for a big unanimous “No.” But I’m sure they will try again and will eventually succeed because a lot of people are moving to the Eastern Shore to get away from the stress and pressure of living in Central MD. They will want a Wal-Mart here simply because they will get tired of driving 45 minutes for tax-free shopping at the Target in Dover. Anyone who knows C-Town knows that this place is the antithesis of corporate America. In fact, the only corporate things we have here are 1) a grocery store 2) a couple of fast food retaurants. I know it’s not Defiance or anything, but I guess it comes close, you know, minus the mountains and all.

    I do wish we had a decent record store though. The one here is called “Shakedown Street” and you can pretty much only find The Grateful Dead there. The men that own the store refer to music as “tunes, man.” I guess I’ll be driving to Annapolis on March 22 for the new Decemberists album. And you know what, I don’t mind one bit.

  13. exit says:

    Touché, CostMart!

  14. Ken says:

    Sorry bout your experiance. We stopped going to Wal-Mart when they refused to carry the morning after pill. Don’t forget their right wing support…..

  15. knomat says:

    Corporate America is what I’m worried this will spawn in Huntingdon. Aside from the fast food selections, Huntingdon is sans corporate which is what I love about this area. I hate to pollute the beauty of this place nestled in the valley with a gigantor corporate money sucker. People here are tired of driving to Altoona to get anything, which is why it’s so welcomed. It just kills me to think that every time I decide I want to go kayaking, I’m going to have to pass Wal-Mart to get to where I want to be so I can get away from everything.

  16. Simon says:

    So, you guys had a bad experience at Sam’s Club. I’m sorry about that. I really am. I love you both and I don’t like to think of anybody being a jerk to you. However, (brace yourselves because you’re not going to like this much), I have to tell you that in reading your report on the events a couple of thoughts occur to me:

    1. You were already pissed off about the extra money you had to spend on the Turnpike.
    2. You were tired because you had just flown back from Florida that day.
    3. You were hungry, (like me, Dave reacts really well to being hungry).

    The combination of these factors suggests to me that you were not feeling especially groovy when you were in the Sam’s Club store. This is coupled with that fact that you already had a pre-existing bias against the Wal-Mart organization, hence your boycott of the store for the past three years. So, I wonder if perhaps you were already prejudiced against the store and that your justifiable anger, frustration and disappointment were exacerbated by the negative feelings you already harbored?

    Just a thought. (By the way, I’m not suggesting that the bitch at the register didn’t need an enema. She did and she’ll be getting one as soon as I have a chance. She’s on the list.)

    As to the comments that I read, posted in reply to your sad tale, here’s my two cents:

    I agree with the guy who suggested you should not have paid for the items. That’s the ONLY way to get any attention. The folks who work for large corporations are almost always uninterested in anything you might say or do, but they are trained to be very interested in anything you might spend. I repeat – the ONLY way to get any leverage in a situation like this is to withhold payment until you get a satisfactory apology, or whatever else you seek. This might mean more inconvenience for you. It might mean a longer delay in your lives. It might even mean that you don’t get the items you had selected. Nevertheless, if it’s worth fighting over, it’s worth doing it right and winning!

    A Wal-Mart in Huntingdon?! Shock, horror, the end of civilization as we know it? For heaven’s sake, get a life. It’s big store person, that’s all. You don’t like it? Don’t shop there. Simple. Continue to drive for 45 minutes to Altoona or State College. That’s fine with me. But for those of us who actually live in Huntingdon, (with the exception of Matt, I don’t know that anyone else does), please understand that there is nowhere in the town to buy most of the items that are available to urban dwellers on a 24 hour basis. The few stores that are in town provide mediocre service, higher prices and very little employment. There are some notable exceptions. The food businesses, such as OIP, Mimi’s, and Boxers, all provide good service and a good product. The new art store, the canoe store, several of the service businesses, and others are perfectly fine. Look, I don’t love Wal-Mart, (I’m a Target guy actually), but the truth is that the range of products, the cheap prices and the convenience that Wal-Mart offers, is very attractive to people.

    Some business will be affected by Wal-Mart. Some of those effects will be bad. Some businesses will fail. Why? They are more expensive, or less convenient, or have insufficient customer loyalty. Some of those effects will be good. Some businesses will prosper. Why? They offer products that Wal-Mart doesn’t carry, they have superior customer service, they cultivate loyalty from their customers, and they benefit from the increased traffic that Wal-Mart will bring. All those folks who drive to Altoona and State College to go to Wal-Mart currently will be able to do their shopping in Huntingdon and guess what? They will stay in Huntingdon to do the rest of their shopping outside of Wal-Mart. Get it? They don’t just shop in Wal-Mart and then go home.

    If you believe that Wal-Mart is involved in some conspiracy to make people fat, lazy or stupid, you’re just not paying attention. That’s not Wal-Mart. That’s humanity. They are merely filling the void. What do you think the “indie” guy in the cool video store is doing? Filling a void, my friends. That’s all. Nature abhors a vacuum and business abhors an unfulfilled need. Simple as that. Wal-Mart is not the devil. Really!

    You don’t like Wal-Mart’s tactics against its competitors? OK. Change the law. Unless they’re breaking the law, then they are doing what all businesses do, even the “cool” ones. Nothing is more American than capitalist success and that’s what Wal-Mart represents. Not nice, not pretty, not cool, but very, very successful. Monopolistic? I don’t think so. If that’s the case, can someone please explain Target, K-Mart, Costco, etc., etc. to me? Exploitative? Freewill baby, it’s a wonderful thing. You don’t like working there – LEAVE!!

    I guess this thing got me more wound up than I realized. I’m so tired of hearing how the impending arrival of a Wal-Mart store in Huntingdon means that the whole town is going to hell in a hand basket. Look around chaps. It’s been going that way for the longest time. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has moved on and moved up. It’s time that Wal-Mart came to Huntingdon and it’s time that we stopped arguing about it and started doing something constructive to get the town out of the doldrums.

    A shot in the arm from a manufacturing business would be nice, but equally problematic. Any manufacturer worth their salt would only stick around as long as the labor costs were low and the tax incentives were high. As soon as that situation changed, they’d have a simple choice – stick around and go broke, or move elsewhere leaving another empty factory and a bunch of unhappy, unemployed, and disheartened workers.

    I’m not saying that Wal-Mart is the answer to Huntingdon’s economic problems. It’s unlikely that any one business could achieve all that. I am saying that Wal-Mart is nowhere near as bad as some folks make out and that it might just be the beginning of a step in the right direction. I, for one, sincerely hope so.

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