Monday, March 9, 2009

Another Example of Bad Customer Service

Every time I have ever been to Wal-Mart, which these days is perhaps just a couple times a year when my sense of saving time over rules my distaste for the cheap Chinese crap that stocks their shelves, is a customer service nightmare. I have come to expect it though I still don't accept it. So when I was in need of a gallon of paint for my remodeling project, I wasn't surprised to see no employees around. I walked over to the neighboring sporting goods section where I usually find someone but in this case, it too was vacant. I continued on to lay away, which I've heard it once again, a busy place these days but it too was vacant. No dice in electronics or jewelry. I ended up walking clear to the opposite side of the store before I found a lady stocking shelves of jelly and kindly asked her to page someone to help me in the paint department.

I walked clear back to the opposite side of the store and ended up standing there for a few minutes before finally I heard the page over the intercom. Five minutes rolled by and nobody showed up. I spun the phone around at the paint counter and inspected the keypad. There were buttons for various departments and so I selected the customer service department and pushed the button. Nothing happened. After pushing all the other buttons, I determined that they must be only for picking up a call from that area and not placing one. Now I had a dilemma. I didn't know any extension numbers except the one I was at so what was I to do. I hit the redial button and waited to see where it would take me.

A lady that sounded an awful lot like the one stocking jelly answered and asked what I wanted. I explained that I was a customer who had someone paged to the paint department five minutes ago and no one had showed up. I asked if she could page someone else. She did and another five minutes would go by so I rechecked the sporting goods desk and then repeated the redial and request. Another page and another five minutes. So I did yet check of the sporting goods desk and another redial and this time politely asked if there were any employees at the store at all who were interested in trading paint for cash. She muttered about someone being out for lunch (it was two o'clock) and said she would get someone back there.

The page came out over the intercom and then less than fifteen seconds later, it repeated again. That is when I heard a lady say very loudly from a nearby aisle, "Gosh dang, give me a chance to get back there will yah!"

When the rough looking lady showed up at the paint counter, she sarcastically said that they didn't even give her a chance to get back there before repeating the page. I sarcastically replied back that perhaps if she had answered the three previous pages spread over fifteen minutes, they wouldn't have been so quick to repage you. That caught her by surprise and I had to wait for a few seconds before she came up with an excuse. I knew it was coming by the look in her eyes and when she told me she had been over at the sporting goods counter helping someone, it was all I could do not to say bullshit in a loud voice. Instead I politely asked when they had moved the sporting goods area to the front of the store since the old sporting goods desk which I had checked several times over the last fifteen minutes had been obviously vacant.

At this point, we both knew that she had been lying and so I just interrupted the discussion by telling her what color I needed for my gallon of paint. We then spent the next ten minutes in silence as she went about mixing it up. The rest of my China-Mart journey was uneventful but it wouldn't be but ten minutes later and I would be up to my neck in another customer service fiasco. More on that in another post.

10 comments:

Sage said...

If Kafka was alive and writing today, I can see a version of his "Country Doctor" short story, or maybe even "The Trial," being set in a Walmart...

TC said...

Wow. That's a new low in crappy customer service.

Clearly there were no managers on duty - or a really, really bad one at that - as by page two they should have personally been finding out what the problem was.

Murf said...

I hope you paid cash for that.

The Real Mother Hen said...

There is nothing wrong with WalMart. What's wrong is America used to be a culture that people, ordinary people, took pride in their work. That culture is gone. Over the past 3 decades, a majority of Americans suddenly know all about their rights, their personal interests, but not basic responsibilities and work ethics. And that makes people aloof, makes the country as a whole aloof, subconsciously thinking everyone else is less inferior. So when normal folks are forced to take a manual work, be it at Home Depot or WalMart or Costco, their pride takes over, and the worse thing is they conveniently blame their bad attitudes on the company policy (crap pay, no healthcare etc), but never once themselves.

R. Sherman said...

I agree with Mother Hen's remarks, in toto. I've had one bad experience where the pharmacy assistant failed to order some medication for me. She tried to blame somebody else, but she had been the one to take the prescription and type it in (ostensibly). I called her on it and the pharmacist brought over the store manager who forced a confession and apology. Nonetheless, I avoid shopping there as much as possible.

As for Wal-Mart constantly moving stuff around, something that annoys the crap out of me, they do it deliberately with entire departments and weekly in others. There's method in their madness: they want you to have to walk around the entire store to find something. In that way, perhaps you'll make an impulse purchase.

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - I am not familiar with him. I'll have to google him.

TC - Personally, I think that is just the norm these days for China-Mart.

Murf - Since I hardly paid cash for anything, I'm guessing it went on my credit card. However, I don't think she could tie my paint to me since there were a couple other people waiting for paint behind me.

Mother Hen - I think that is some of it but I also think it is epidemic at certain stores like China-Mart. There are plenty of places I go to where the help is excellent and the store stands behind their employees. Wal-Mart just isn't one of these stores.

R. Sherman - Like I said to Mother Hen, I think it is more of an epidemic with big box chain stores. My local lumber yard and pharmacy would give the shirt off their backs if that is what I needed.

That was probably the first time I have been in Wal-Mart in several months if not longer. There is a good reason for that as you have pointed out and my lack of good experiences.

Beau said...

Fortunately the Wal-Marts in our area are comprised of cheery sorts... and they're usually quite helpful. Of course my expectations are not very high either, and I approach shopping there as a do-it-yourself endeavor! Sadly I agree that customer service is not what it used to be in so many places...

The Real Mother Hen said...

You have seen King Corn? What's your thought then, considering you're from Iowa?

Ed Abbey said...

Beau - I'll have to stop in at one in your neck of the woods sometime because frankly, I have a hard time believing you. Must be something in the water.

Mother Hen - I have. I really liked the movie and how it carried through to the food market but I thought it focused too much on the corn syrup sweetner aspect when most of corn goes towards feeding livestock which very efficiently convert it into meat. Still, the movie wouldn't have been as good as it was if too seasoned farmboys had made it instead of two cityslickers.

Beau said...

The water's pretty good around here :) I met an older service rep in Wal-Mart a couple weeks ago... she took the time to explain a lot of details about cell-phones/electronics to some elderly customers- she was also very knowledgeable and had a great attitude. Went to a 24hour WM last fall early one day when I had forgot to purchase a special deer tag- the guy was only too glad to see someone at 4:00 in the morning to help out! And get this- around Thanksgiving I couldn't find a dang can of cranberry sauce- the checkout lady closed the register and walked me back personally to find a can! I told her that was okay but she insisted. Maybe they have a good team/management at those stores? We probably go once a week, and are willing to drive a little more to a store we like. The only thing I've been bothered about with Wal-Mart is not investing in the company in the early 1980's when a friend mentioned it to me...