I went online with walmart.com Friday evening – bought a barbecue grill for my son in California to be picked up at Anaheim Walmart. Got an order confirmation, and $160 hold was put on my debit card.
Woke up Saturday morning to an email from Walmart telling me the grill was unavailable at the Anaheim store – order was canceled – the hold would drop off of my debit card within 5-10 days depending on my bank policy. Suggested I try another Walmart nearby.
Thought I can only stand so many $160 holds so this time I would check to be sure grill is in stock before I ordered again. Found five more Walmarts near Anaheim – all had the same grill in stock. In fact, the Anaheim store showed it in stock. Not trusting the computer, I called Anaheim Walmart. Delightful lady offered to check – confirmed they have four of the grill I ordered in stock.
Called walmart.com – asked why my order was canceled due to non-availability when, in fact, they have four at the store. Young lady named Alberta explained to me that walmart.com is a separate company from the store, and store inventory is not the same as walmart.com inventory.
“Really?” I asked. “So you are not part of the Walmart Corporation in Bentonville, Arkansas?”
“Yes we are,” she answered.
“Then the Walmart store in Anaheim is not part of the Walmart Corporation?”
“Well, yes,” she said, “It is.”
“Which part of this deal is not a part of Walmart?” I asked, “And if Walmart Corp owns four grills in Anaheim, and Walmart Corp confirmed that I paid for a grill in Anaheim, why did Walmart Corp cancel my order and tell me there are no grills available for me in Anaheim?”
“We are all Walmart,” she replied. “It’s just that walmart.com is a different department, and the stores decide whether they want to make any of their inventory available for walmart.com or whether they want to keep it for themselves. They might charge a higher price in the store than we do.”
“So Walmart Corp makes promises then each Walmart Corp store manager gets to decide whether he feels like keeping those promises?”
“Walmart didn’t make a promise to you,” she answered clearly not liking where the conversation was going.
“Sure you did, Alberta. You promised me a grill when you sent me a confirmation and reached into my bank account and put a $160 hold on it.”
“No,” Alberta said, “That’s just the way our computer is set up.”
“It sounds like whoever set up the computer set it up for an auction,” I said. “You should have told me that I wasn’t buying a grill – that I was actually bidding on one, and some Walmart guy in Anaheim had the right to reject my bid and take a better offer if he could get one.”
“Would you like to talk to my supervisor?” Alberta asked.
“Does he know anything you don’t know?”
“No, but he can explain it to you better,” she said.
I then essentially repeated the conversation with a guy named Michael. The conversation was beginning to bore me until, in closing, Michael said, “Your satisfaction is my highest priority.”
“C’mon, Michael. I’m sure you are supposed to say that but we both know that’s not true,” I said, “If it were you would sell me the grill I paid for.”
“I can’t do that,” said Michael, “But how else can I satisfy you?”
“What do you have in mind, Michael? I don’t want or need anything from Walmart other than the grill I bought and paid for. I am not poor but I can’t afford to keep buying grills at Walmart stores around Los Angeles until I find one that has a manager who feels like giving up some of his inventory to make a sale. I could be out a thousand bucks in a big hurry without ever actually getting a grill. Can you do anything about that?”
“You could call the store first,” Michael suggested, “and be sure they will sell one before you place the order.”
“Are you listening to yourself, Michael? Seems like Walmart.com ought to call the stores first to see if one is willing to deliver the stuff before you try to sell it,” I said. “You sound like a good guy. Doesn’t is bother you to make promises all day with absolutely no ability to keep your promises? If anyone else ran a business that took money from people online, knowing they had no control over whether the customers ever got what was promised they would probably go to jail. I would think it would bother you to be the front man for what strikes me as basically a criminal enterprise.”
With that, Michael chose to end the call, politely apologizing for not being able to help.
I then called the Anaheim store and asked to talk to the manager. A young lady put me on hold, then returned and told me the manager was "busy with something important". She offered to take a message.
I asked how she knew what the manager was doing was more important than what I wanted to talk to her about.
She said, "I don't know but she said to take a message."
"Ask her to call me and explain the organizational structure at Walmart and how the accounting system works," I said.
"What?" the young lady asked.
"On second thought, just ask her if she is in cahoots with a guy named Michael in a criminal enterprise."
"What?" the young lady asked again.
I was trying to formulate an even better message when my wife pulled the phone from my hands and said to me, “Will you leave those poor people alone!” To the young lady in Anaheim she said, “Thank you for your time,” and hung up, so we will never know if the store manager and Michael are aiding and abetting each other in a larcenous conspiracy.
My wife then told me she had found a better grill for the same money at Lowes in Anaheim and directed me in no uncertain terms to leave Walmart alone and buy it. I did as I was told, of course. The grill was picked up the same day by my son.