Today’s rant tale of business woe comes to us courtesy of the Wal-Mart folks. While I’m not usually surprised at the silliness that is foisted upon the customer from any business entity, this was a new low, at least in my experience.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was helping to cook for a party this weekend and part of the menu was fried turkey. I went to my usual source of peanut oil on Tuesday (my preferred frying lipid) and discovered that there was none to be had. I get that – why stock an item that’s not in demand until late November. I checked several outlets online and Wal-Mart had what I wanted at a reasonable price. They could also deliver it by Friday – Saturday was the cooking day. I placed the order and got my confirmation. So far, so good.

Two days later, I get an email from Wal-Mart – “Unfortunately, one or more of the items in your order have been delayed.” Oh oh.  The email won’t allow you to cancel to order electronically (fail #1) but does give you a number to call to do so.  I speak with a very nice rep who assures me the order is cancelled and I should see a credit within 48 hours.  I then spent some time frantically searching various sources in the area (online ordering is now not going to happen – overnight shipping costs for 6 gallons of oil are seriously expensive).  I finally give up and buy several gallon jugs of soybean oil which I lug home.  By the way, good luck finding a whole, fresh turkey in July.  Even frozen ones aren’t readily available.

If this is where the tale ended, you wouldn’t be reading this post.  Stuff happens – maybe their inventory system didn’t update the online store quickly enough – I can handle that.  Late Thursday evening (like 10pm) I get another email from Wal-Mart – your order has shipped!  It will arrive by 10am Friday (which is what I was told Tuesday when I placed the order).  Here’s a tracking number.  Sure enough, Friday morning I have peanut oil and well of 6 gallons of soybean oil I know have to return to the store.

Wal-Mart was trying to do a good thing.  They got out in front of a potential problem by notifying me that I might not receive my order as promised.  I dealt with it.  Obviously, however, the order was neither cancelled nor delayed.  Whatever triggered the “it’s delayed” mail was wrong.  Whoever said the order was cancelled was wrong.  Putting aside the unnecessary concern they caused me and the time it took to find replacement oil (and to return it), do you think there is a chance in hell I will ever order from this three-ring circus again?

We can’t pull the fire alarm on our customers unless we know there is something ablaze, even with the best of intentions.  Wal-Mart has an issue with their inventory management and maybe with customer service too.  The systems problems they have and the short term issues those problems caused me  has resulted in a long-term issue for them – the lack of a customer.  Moreover, this customer is telling all of you.  Thoughts?

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