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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How one Wal-Mart lost my business for good

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 By

Note: This post is super long. But I am super irritated. Still.

AUGUSTA, GA. - Christmas is a time for giving. But what do you do if your gift is a no-show? That happened several times this year to me.

We don't buy a lot of gifts for Emerson. She doesn't need a lot and we would rather DO things than HAVE things. But for Emerson to have lasting gifts she enjoys, I plan carefully and budget accordingly. She chose a 24-inch mountain bike that would last her four or five years, at least. Her only stipulations were that it was "a girl's bike that can ride over stuff because I want to do tricks" and that it is "not pink. Pink is my most hateful color."

The best deal I found was at I ordered the bike to go to the Bobby Jones location through site-to-store, a service of theirs that I have used several times in the past.

I received an order confirmation email.
Then I received a shipping confirmation email.
Then I received an arrival confirmation email.
Then a reminder.

Then I called the store and verify the bike's arrival and assembly. They assured me that the bike was in and they would assemble it. I borrowed a van (Thanks, Molly!) and went to pick it up.

There was a red-headed woman in her mid-50s working the counter. She was beyond frazzled. "No one wants to help me out here," she complained, and she repeatedly went in the back to request assistance. It took 30 minutes for her to help the four people in front of me.

When she was able to get to me, I produced my order information with a smile and a thank you. I wish I could say she responded in kind, but she was just beyond the extras - like smiling - and was boiling it down to basics - like not chucking the register onto the floor and rage-quitting that job.

She brought out a giant box. There was no one available to assemble the bike, and I said I'd just figure it out at home. Then I realized: This was not the bike I ordered. It was a boy's bike in every way.

She tried to argue with me in a very exasperated tone. "Is this your name?" "Yes, ma'am." "Then this is the bike you ordered." But I pulled up my email confirmation on my phone, which clearly showed a different bike and item number. She huffed and stomped to the back.

A few minutes later, she returned. "This is the only bike we have for you."

I blinked and frowned. "There must be some mistake. This is not the correct item that I ordered. I cannot take this home to my 9-year-old daughter."

"Would you like a refund?"

"Ma'am... no, ma'am. I would like for someone to find the bike that I ordered. I received a confirmation email of its arrival. I called and got a verbal confirmation. So the bike must be here somewhere."

She glared at me and stomped to the back again. She returned with another woman, Michelle.

"Can I help you?"

I explained the situation.

"Well, we don't have your bike. Would you like a refund?"

"No, ma'am... Listen, um, maybe I'm not being clear. I'm not looking to buy a bike. I already purchased a bike. I paid for it. It was shipped here. I have three confirmations. I'm just here to pick it up."

"I understand. But it isn't here. So would you like a refund?"

"Ma'am, it's Christmas Eve. And it's 5 p.m. How am I supposed to find a bike for my child?"

"I don't know what to tell you, but it's my Christmas Eve, too. Maybe you don't know what it's like to work on Christmas Eve. So if you could just be a little more..." She held out her hands in a gesture that was supposed to symbolize... something. I don't know what.

"That's... no, I just got off work two hours ago. And I have worked many a Christmas Eve. And that is not the point. I need to leave here with a bike. All I'm looking for is a girl's bike that isn't pink for my 9-year-old."

She sighed, because I'm apparently a big pain in Wal-Mart's ass. "Give me a few minutes."

Fifteen minutes later, she wheeled in a small child's bike.

I stared at her. "Be serious."

"I am serious!"

"That is not appropriate for a 9-year-old."

She stormed off and returned some time later with a tween-sized pink princess bike.

"Ma'am, thank you, that's closer. But she's not looking to cruise the beaches of the Mediterranean in a sundress. She wants to do tricks and stuff." I probably could have been less sarcastic. My bad. She set her jaw at me.

"Well, I don't know what to tell you. I can give you a refund, but that's it."

"Ma'am, there must be something else you can do."


"Can you help me find the bike at another store? My phone just died so I can't call around."


"Okay, can I just speak to a manager, please?"

She huffed over to the phone and called for two males by name, all while glaring at me. A minute or two later, I saw them. They cruised through the site-to-store area (now filled with people whose orders were wrong, no joke) cutting their eyes in my direction while I leaned calmly against the unmanned counter off to the side. Two Columbia County sheriff's deputies. You have got to be freaking kidding me.

Obviously, I was not creating any disturbance. So a couple of minutes later, one of them sidled up to me. "How's it going?"

I smiled brightly at him. "Fine. A little confusion, but I think it will work out."

He nodded and looked around. "Crazy holiday crowds, huh?"

"Not too bad. This is my last stop. Just picking up a bike for my daughter. You have kids?"

He ignored my attempt to get personal, as cops are trained to do. "So what's the issue?"

"I ordered and paid for a bike, got several confirmations that it was in, but they claim not to have it. I'm just trying to get a manager to help find a bike. They're not being much help."

He nodded. "They're really busy."

"I understand. But I need to leave here with a bike. I asked her to help me find one at a different store, but she flat-out refused. My phone died while I was waiting, or I'd call around myself."

Michelle, who had been pretending to work nearby but was really listening as we chatted, jumped in: "I never said that! I said they probably wouldn't even answer their phones because it's Christmas! I'm not going to have someone putting words in my mouth!" She cast her gaze around for someone to take her side.

At this, the lady in line behind me shook her head gravely at the officer, backing me up. I resisted the urge to call Michelle out for a blatant lie. This wasn't personal, and I wasn't playing to a crowd.

Suddenly the officer said, "Hey, the Grovetown store had a bunch of bikes. Why don't I call the officer working the special there and see if he can find one for you?"

I stared, open-mouthed. What a kind offer. This was definitely not his responsibility. "I would appreciate that so much," I said. He nodded and began calling numbers in his cell phone.

At this, Michelle stomped over to the phone and began dialing. The Grovetown store answered. She asked for toys. They put her on hold, then transferred her. The line rang four or five times.

"See? They're not answering," she said, and hung up.

"Don't hang - ohhh..." I sighed. I would have been happy to man the phone while it rang until someone answered. Too late now.

The officer clicked his phone closed and shook his head. "None of the officers at the Grovetown or Evans stores are on duty, yet."

"Well, thanks for trying. That was really nice of you."

"Ma'am, I'll be happy to give you a refund, but I don't think there's anything more we can do for you," Michelle tried to interrupt. I cut my eyes at her over my shoulder and finished thanking the officer. "That was really above and beyond. How long have you worked for Columbia County?"

He chatted about his experience, and I relayed who I thought might be a mutual contact. It was. Then another. Then another. He asked how I knew the folks.

"Oh, I used to work dispatch in Milledgeville for those guys. I've known [redacted] for 20 years, since I was 19 and a total idiot. I'm amazed he still speaks to me," I laughed.

Michelle stared at us, open-mouthed. She was not going to be able to convince him to arrest me today. I turned back to her.

"I guess I'm looking any solution you might have. A bike. For a 9-year-old girl. Not pink. Any ideas? Anything at all? I'm desperate. She's a really good kid. You would love her. Everyone does. I'm just trying to make her happy on Christmas."

She snapped: "I TOLD you that there were more bikes out on the garden patio."

I stared at her and briefly lost my composure. "You said no such thing!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, I did!" she said, smugly, happy that she had gotten to me.

I choked back a nasty reply and gave her a flat stare. She blinked. "You're welcome to check out there to see if we have anything."

"Thank you. I'll be back shortly."

I walked out and saw a rain-soaked hodge-podge of bicycles. None of them were for Emerson's age group. But one 26-inch blue and grey women's mountain bike was as close as we were going to get. I took a moment to let out some tears of frustration, then wiped my face of expression and wheeled it back through the store. This is never how I treated people when I worked in retail, or food and beverage, or even in high school when I worked for Wendy's and Taco Bell. This is never how I treat people, period. I didn't like being on the receiving end of a meaningless power struggle with a woman whose job must really, really suck on a good day, and be a special kind of hell on Christmas Eve. But she stood between me and a special purchase I had made for my child, on a very tight budget, when two other gifts I had ordered three weeks ago were most definitely not going to be in. I wasn't about to lose her "main" gift, too.

"Did you find something?" she asked, in as nasty a tone as she could manage. I tried to use a kinder tone, but I'm not sure I accomplished it. I hope I did. I was at least calm.

"I would like to point out that this bike is too tall for a 9-year-old. However, if you will be so kind as to match the price, I will be happy to take this bike home, so she will have the one gift she is expecting to be under the tree - with the understanding that I will most likely be returning it to the store the day after Christmas. And that I will still be filing a complaint with corporate, and using your name."

Michelle did so, without another word, glaring at me the entire time. I shook hands with the officer, who walked with me, chatting, until I stopped and grinned at him.

"Are you escorting me out of the store?"
"Nope," he said, with a grin of his own, and veered off through a side aisle.

I hope he got home early.

I wheeled the bike to the borrowed van, which was now late for its return, and... I couldn't get the bike into the van. I sat on the tailgate and tried to just breathe. A few tears escaped, despite my best efforts. I hated that I was this upset. I hated that I had used Wal-Mart. I hated that poor Michelle was so miserable with her job that her only recourse to take back any control over her own destiny was by engaging in a stupid power struggle with me. And, frankly, at that moment, I hated Christmas.

A nice man walked up and patted my shoulder. "Let me help you get that in," he said, and wrangled the bike into place. He gave me a hug and wished me a merry Christmas.

I cried all the way back to my house, then to Molly's. It was pathetic, really. But I was overwhelmed by Michelle's negativity, and by the helpfulness of strangers. Molly and her husband were wonderful, as usual, not at all irritated with me for being an hour late like a big jerk, and making them miss a family event.

Christmas Day, Emerson was ecstatic when she saw the bike, and insisted on riding it immediately. Mere minutes later, she injured herself while dismounting it - because, as expected, it is way too tall for her. As she cried, I felt angry with Wal-Mart all over again.

But she got back on it a few minutes later. And then rode all over the neighbor's lawns to show me how her bike was "a real mountain bike, not a kids' bike." Sorry, neighbors. Let me know if you need some grass seed.

Emerson insists that we keep the bike. We lowered the seat as far as it can go, and then I stomped on it for an extra centimeter or two. She uses the curb as a step stool and kicks off really hard to get going. Then she does a controlled fall when dismounting. It's kind of hilarious. She loves it. I guess that's all that matters.

As for Wal-Mart, I filed a complaint. The store manager called me. He didn't really care. He left me a $30 gift card - which I didn't ask for, but was nice of him, I suppose.

I spent it at the Evans Wal-Mart.

Some folks might think I am overreacting. But it's not the first time I've encountered a metric crap ton of rudeness or frustration at this very store - 45-minute checkout times, malfunctioning self-pay registers, reduced selection (at this point, the cookie aisle is just 15 different varieties of Oreos and Chips Ahoy), treating workers like dirt - and now they had essentially threatened me with arrest. It's just not worth the stress to go back.

Do you hear what I'm saying? I feel stressed out before I even enter that Wal-Mart. Why on earth would I go back there, when I have a whole city full of choices? How can they expect me to?

They can't. Because now I have a Costco membership.


  1. How awful! It's so wonderful you were able to hold it together like that. Kudos to you!! It looks like Emerson is having a wonderful time on her new bike. So glad you're not going back to that horrible store!

  2. Well, within about a mile radius of that store, there's Lowe's, Home Depot, Aldi, Jin Long. Walden's Sporting Goods, Kashmir Asian market, a liquor store, two consignment stores, a dollar store, a clothing store, and a furniture store. Within two miles? There's the entire Augusta Exchange shopping center. Yeah, it's easier to get things all in one place. That's why our mamas dressed up to do their all-day Saturday shopping back in the day, because it took all day to get everything you needed from the individual stores. But is the convenience still worth it? I don't think.

    1. L Murdick-Hansen1/21/2015 3:49 PM

      Wal-Mart can keep its gift cards! If I had complained , they probably would've treated me the same. I would've given them their cards back to them. That is like a slap in the face!

  3. L Murdick-Hansen1/21/2015 3:41 PM

    I had a very bad situation with Wal-Mart in North Augusta last week. A long story, but I was treated like dirt by the management because I had a question about an item on sale. I did get my items on sale, like I was supposed to , at 90% off. It was a Christmas item at 90% off. I had to discuss the situation with 2 managers for about 20 minutes. While waiting for the second manager, the first manager and an associate were talking about me and I was standing two feet away and I heard it all!! Anyway , I got what I wanted with glaring looks from those managers. They proceeded to ARGUE, and ARGUE with me about this. They finally gave in. I thought complaining to corporate, but they don't care about their employees , much less employees. But I am boycotting all Wal-Marts.

  4. I totally understand. I don't know why they throw gift cards at everything. I don't WANT a gift card. I am not asking for FREE things. I want the thing I paid for already, and that you delivered, and that you probably sold out of the stock room when someone else whined about it earlier. If Wal-Mart spent less time investing in technology to control its payroll expenditures, and more time investing in supply chain technology and inventory control and connectivity, the company wouldn't have these problems. And people might not hate them so much.

  5. Stacey,
    At long last I hear the end of the bicycle story. What a shame for you and your child. I am glad you were able to give the bicycle to Emerson at Christmas. If she really loves that bicycle, keep it, as she will grow into it.
    I worked for Sears from the time I was in high school until, honestly, I was midway through my third year of medical school. The money was too good, the people were wonderful, and every little bit helped. I would have been fired and thrown out on my ear had I done half of what this woman did you.
    And as for Wal-Mart, remembered that it is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. We live fairly close to that area. Wal-Mart is a last resort. We have Meijer up north, which, although like Wal-Mart, is a much more pleasant shopping experience. Indeed, I have asked Lisa before if she wanted to do a short trip to Kentucky so we could eat at Culver's(another story) and shop at Meijer. She laughed.
    Have a great and wonderful new year.

    1. LOL, I have heard tales of the glory of Meijer. I am hoping they will plan a southward expansion.

      This all worked out in the end, so I'm trying to focus on that. I tend to focus on obstacles, and not results. But I also don't think there is any reason for Wal-Mart to put obstacles between customers and purchases. :-)