As a consumer, as a buyer, as a shopper, as a HUMAN, I am someone who deserves to have a voice at any company or organization in which I choose or am forced into spending my money at (see situation as it unravels below). Where my moolah goes, there my convictions will follow.
I believe that even Walmart owes things to its customers. So does Walmart (see their website/history/core beliefs, etc.). My dad always joked that Walmart specializes in “cheap, plastic crap.” As time has gone on, I have realized how true this is. But the thing is, Walmart doesn’t want to be known as such. Again, just take a look at their website which details Sam Walton’s vision for the company and the values that Walmart claims to have.
After an alarming and frustrating Walmart experience recently, I contacted Walmart Coporate to get some more information about WHERE I could direct my letter of concern. After no response after two attempted efforts to retrieve this information in the past three weeks, I have yet to hear something.
And so here I am. I’m not asking anyone to boycott Walmart, but just to say that customers are people and deserve to voice their experiences and concerns. Especially when places like Walmart claim to give their customers “what they want.”
This, my friends, is an open letter to Walmart.
1900 Maplewood Commons Drive
Maplewood, MO 63143
To whom it may concern:
I visited the St. Louis area recently from Chattanooga, Tennessee, with a friend. On our way out of town, one of our tires shredded and because it was a Sunday, most specialty tire shops were closed. We had at least a seven hour trip ahead of us, but I was thankful that your Walmart store was close to where we had been stranded, and that we would be able to be taken care of there.
Upon our arrival, the young lady working in the auto center (who seemed to be single-handedly running it on her own) greeted us initially but kept walking away from the counter as we were trying to provide her with information. She was distracted (and by extension, quite rude), and did not seem concerned at all with the growing line that was piling up behind us as she took down our information. She would grunt and glare when we asked questions about the tire options available, waiting times, and other service-related inquiries. She stepped away and came back several times without notice, but as we handed her the key and seemed to get everything settled she advised us that the wait would be an hour and a half and that she would call us when our car was ready. My friend and I grabbed some books from our car and headed to a nearby café to pass the time.
We waited for two hours before I decided to call the shop and see if I could get an update or an estimate on how much longer the wait would be. When I called, the gentlemen advised me that the car was ready for us. I asked him if he could tell me how long the car had been ready for and he indicated he could not provide that information. I then asked if there was a reason why we were not contacted immediately once the service was finished. He did not apologize or offer any form of sympathy, but simply stated, “we’ve been really busy.” At that time I explained to him that we would walk over and pick the car up immediately but that from the customer perspective it was overwhelmingly inconsiderate to excuse what I would consider to be a “guarantee” of business in such a way. He advised me again that the car was ready to be picked up, but did not offer an apology for aforementioned shortcoming.
When we returned to pick up the car, we waited in line for fifteen minutes because the girl who was assigned to the auto center was going into and out of the garage without paying attention to the growing line of customers. She did not acknowledge us or any of the other customers in line, or advise that she would be with us shortly. I cannot speak for any of the other customers who were there with us specifically, but I know that this was frustrating for my friend and I because we were already running behind what we had anticipated and behind what we had been advised by Walmart staff.
I requested to speak with the manager of the auto shop regarding my frustration and the staff member initially advised me that the manager was busy in the shop and could not assist me at this time. As I prodded, she reluctantly went to get the manager. After explaining my situation, what was promised by his staff members and not delivered on, my brief conversation with the gentleman who answered my phone call, and the absence of an apology throughout the entire situation, the manager finally did apologize. I was grateful for his apology except that he said “I’m sorry, but–.” He explained that the reason why we hadn’t been called was because they were short-staffed and because they just didn’t have the time. I explained to the manager, that it was no real concern to me why I was not called, but that I was told I would be called and then that I was not actually contacted. Moreso, I advised him that simply making a phone call that would have lasted 30-60 seconds to notify us that a service was complete could have saved two of their customers from frustration, the three minutes that I spoke with the car technitian over the phone requesting an explanation, the four minutes it took me to convince the service desk girl to get her manager, and the five minutes it took me to explain ALL of this to him. All in all, I explained why a 30-60 second call is actually the most practical thing to do for them as a business and for us, as their customers. I must note, too, that the entire line of customers who stood behind me overheard this entire exchange while they were waiting and were able to see these events unravel. I believe that this shows the initial ripple effects that customer service can have on other shoppers regardless of whether they are directly or indirectly involved in the situation.
The way in which the manager approached this was disconcerting in that he seemed to imply that when Walmart is busier than usual, customers are not entitled to or are not able to receive the same friendly, quality service that they would otherwise receive.
As I browsed the Google webpage for this Walmart location, I noticed that you currently have a 2.3 star rating out of 5, and that the majority of the reviews on this page have noted “terrible customer service,” “rude” associates, the “worst customer service,” “slow service,” and several comments about departments never answering their phones. Others noted frustrating situations where no apologies were offered despite a very obvious lack of delivery on the part of Walmart associates. These reviews in combination with my recent experiences should be of utmost concern to you as someone who represents the Walmart brand and what it claims to stand for.
The corporate Walmart “History and Mission” website contains this quote by its founder, Sam Walton:
“The secret of successful retailing is to give your customers what they want. And really, if you think about it from your point of view as a customer, you want everything: a wide assortment of good-quality merchandise; the lowest possible prices; guaranteed satisfaction with what you buy; friendly, knowledgeable service; convenient hours; free parking; a pleasant shopping experience.”
The only things I can truly speak of or attest to regarding this Walmart location in light of my recent experience there is the convenient hours and free parking – neither of which are of much worth noting.
The Walmart History and Mission page also states:
“…At the heart of Walmart’s growth is the unique culture that Mr. Sam built. His business philosophy was based on the simple idea of making the customer No. 1. He believed that by serving the customer’s needs first, his business would also serve its associates, shareholders, communities and other stakeholders.”
My experience at your store in no way indicated that I, as your customer, was made a priority. In fact, I cannot say for certain what the priority was in those moments and in those hours. Ultimately what ended up happening is that the manager offered us a $5 discount off of our total price because he couldn’t take anything off of the tire since “the tire isn’t mine [Walmart’s].”
As someone who has worked in retail and in customer service for upwards of eight years now, I understand that it is important and true that you do not want to “lose” product when engaging in day-to-day business. I understand it is not profitable. But when the business has erred and when the business has made a mistake, it should not be the customer who suffers or who pays for the shortcoming.
What I think is more notable in this situation is that in no way did any of the associates I came into contact with communicate that customer service, customer satisfaction, or customer experiences were valued and taken seriously. I did not feel that there was anything being communicated about the importance of customers regardless of how busy the store is or not. What this situation has showed me is that Walmart values protecting their assets more than giving priority to their customers, especially when the store is busy.
I am not writing to you to be reimbursed for the money that was spent on the tire we received. I am not writing to be reimbursed for the remaining “service” fee that was not able to be discounted. I am not writing to be compensated for the time we waited in addition to what was quoted to us, or to receive some kind of peace offering for the unknown amount of time we were detained in waiting to be notified that our service had in fact had been completed. What I am writing about today is simply to notify you of how much I believe that this concern I have and the concerns that others have voiced in more public forums have and will impact the overall growth of your brand.
The action that is taken to remedy or repair the problems that have come up now or that have been continual problem areas for your store are your own business and your own decision. I do not know that that means requiring additional customer service training for your associates, a reminder to associates of the commitments that Walmart makes to low prices and “friendly service” or any other number of things. I do not know what you will do, or that you will be able to do anything here. I simply ask that you take action as a way of considering that Walmart is nothing without their customers and that if customers are truly the priority that steps ought to be taken to make that principle known.
Thank you for hearing my concerns.