Hey Oprah! Have you ever been to Walmart? Surely in the early days, you stopped into one of those stores, but I believe they have devolved since then.
It is not one of my haunts, and really never has been, which makes it doubly hard when I do go into one. I went into Target the second day after Christmas. It was busy both with shoppers and employees, but the overall mood was enthusiastic and bustling with dwindling shelves of Christmas clearance and clever new products to take its place. It’s just a great store, with its wide aisles, inspired designers, and pretty much everything you could need in one place. Except when Greg wanted to go to Walmart to find a new PS4 game since that game console was his fancy schmancy gift this year.
Off to Walmart we went on Sunday—the fourth day after Christmas. It was nuts, and it looked like Tasmanian devil spun through the place leaving products everywhere. Toys in the aisles. Christmas décor picked over like there was race to get the best items. People everywhere with blinders on and their manners and kindness checked at the door. Greg couldn’t find what he wanted, but never fear, he hit two more Walmarts today (without me.)
He checked on the website to make sure that the particular game that he wanted was in stock at the store he was going to run by. Whooo hooo! It was in stock, so he stopped in to get it. Naturally, not being able to find it, he tracked down an employee, who said that he would go check to see. After an extended period of time and impending doom, Greg discovered the guy helping someone else. “Uhmmm, so do you have the game?” Dude just looks at Greg with a blank stare, as though he were just transported to the future where they had never met before. G, gently reminds him, “The PS4 GAME YOU WENT TO LOOK FOR?” “Ahhh, Nah, man, we don’t have it.” “Great, thanks for the help, you are on it!” (Actually that last line was only said inside Greg’s head with probably a string of expletives.)
Still not having had enough of the Walmartians, he called another one, had them check stock for the game and decided to try a run at another store—an older one in an older part of town—yeah…tired store, tired employees, tired shoppers—you know—great camera fodder for POWM.com.
When G got there, waded through the trash to the electronics department, he found the game! The heaven’s opened up on that one little spot of hell, until he realized it was locked behind glass, and now he would have to find one of the two employees working in the whole store to get it for him. With a little luck, a guy comes by to open the glass case to get a game out for another customer. Just as he hands the game to the customer and begins to slide the cabinet closed, Greg raises his hand to get the attention of the employee to grab the game he wants before locking the case—just then another customer jumps in needing a USB drive and totally diverts the attention of the sales person, and G is left with his hand hanging in the air. Finally, he sees the employee again and asks if he could get the game out of the case as soon as he is finished with the USB shopper. “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah…” disappearing indefinitely to behind the register. So Greg goes up and annoyingly taps out “Moonlight Sonata” on the counter with his fingertips while staring as menacingly as possible at the associate hoping to encourage some help by silent death threat. It works. As the one other associate that works in the store comes up to exclaim that he is going on break, the first guy sensing the big guy’s frustration behind his back, pleads with him to go grab Greg’s game before he cuts out for his 15. Naturally, you need an escort with the pricy merch to the check-out counter, so once again Greg gets in line in the Walmart Electronics department. While he is waiting, this little old black woman meanders unwittingly to the front of the line passing everyone else up, to buy minutes for her flip phone or Jitterbug, or whatever. Nobody says anything because she is elderly, but then comes the drama of paying for her minutes and having her phone programmed by the store employee, since it’s pretty high-tech (as of 2001.) That was where the really comedy began. She pulls out a wad of money, but apparently that doesn’t spend the same, because she continued to dig through every pocket, crevice, and possibly even the torn lining to find a card of some sort with which to pay for her 300 minutes. Finally she comes up with a Macaroni Grill gift card and asks the guy ringing her up if she can pay with it. “AHhhmmm, no ma’am, that’s a restaurant gift card.” Guess the cash was going to have to do…
Meanwhile there is an angry elderly man, who had paid his taxes—(Dad what were you doing at Walmart?)—who lurched up to the other side of the counter where the register was closed, and proceeded to wait irritatedly for someone to rescue him before the people waiting in line. When that didn’t happen he, hollered out “Can’t I get some help here?” To which the associate responded that “this man (Greg) is next, we will be with you as soon as possible. We are short-handed.” Blah, Blah Blah at some point the explanation got too long and pitiful that the old guy just groused “Alright already! I understand.” During Greg’s wait, he realized that the angry old guy had ink cartridges that didn’t fit his printer. Apparently even the Walmart associates didn’t’ realize the Hewlett Packard makes more than one printer, because they asked him what type of printer he had. When he said HP, they seemed dumfounded that the cartridges wouldn’t work—to say nothing of the model number which would determine the product needed. Finally Greg let the man know that he needed to find out what model he had before he could buy ink. Seriously? Should we begin a debate now as to whether Walmart should even have an electronics department if it is this hard to run it?
The funny thing is, that this whole scenario could have played out better even with the ridiculous wait, lack of knowledge, and short-handed staff were someone to use a little courtesy. A simple, “I know you have been waiting, I apologize, but I will get to you as soon as I can.” No explanations needed about how horrible the store is because they don’t have enough people scheduled, or evasive management (mis-management) of customers and their needs. I find this just about every time I go into one of these stores. Maybe I attract it because I already have a certain amount of dread, but I shudder to think that the rest of the world has vacationed in the U.S. and been witness to this total lack of courtesy, every-man-for-himself, disrespecting behavior of both the patrons and the employees of this store. It is no wonder to me why someone may think us coarse and totally self-serving.