May 16, 2005

Saving A Dime Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be...

As I said below, we were at Wal-Mart last Friday. This wasn't merely a trip intended for the fun of going to Wal-Mart, nor merely to buy foods to hep my children up on extreme sugar highs, rather our main purpose was to buy a new microwave.

Our old microwave has been occasionally popping the circuit for the last several years, which I suppose should have clued us in on it's being on the way out, but when it decided to completely die Thursday night, it was a surprise. We briefly discussed installing the floor model, over-the-range microwave that my parents found for us and that has been taking up space in our attic for over a year, but since that will require us to remove a cabinet and cut the cabinet down, and since that's not really fun, we weighed that option for about five seconds before discarding it.

So off to Wal-Mart I trundled with all three children in tow. As most of you know, one cannot go into a store like Wal-Mart and come out with only one thing. I bought a variety of groceries like low priced strawberries, cereal fortified with extra sugar and some baby food carrots, because "they" say you aren't supposed to make your own baby food carrots, because of the possibility of too many nitrates in them, and I found a decent looking cheap microwave.

Two children in one of those large extended cab shopping carts, the baby in a sling and a cart loaded with groceries and a microwave was enough that the very nice and also competant lady checking me out insisted that I should have some help loading things into the car. When I shop at Harris Teeter, they always insist on helping me to the car, which is one reason I shop there. No one at Wal-Mart has ever offered such a thing. I didn't even know you could get help loading stuff.

So, out of shock, I agreed. I knew as soon as she put in the first call for a loader that this was a mistake. I paid for my things and waited with the microwave resting on an empty checkout lane and my cart full of kids and groceries. And waited. She called again. She went to look for someone. She called a customer service manager. She called for help again. The natives were getting restless, but just about then, this short, rather stooped, old guy in a blue vest shambled over. First thing he asked was why I didn't have the microwave on my cart -- um..because the checkout lady put it over here instead. Then he informed me that we had to put it on the cart (on top of the groceries -- good thing I didn't buy any eggs) because, "I ain't carrying this thing all the way to the parking lot." Well, of course not. From the look of him, I would have done better carrying it, pushing a cart and holding a baby in a sling.

But he was there, so I let him help. As soon as we loaded the microwave onto the cart, he started pulling the front of the cart towards the slightly closer door. I stopped and said I was in front of the other set of doors. So he started making fun of me for checking out on the wrong side. When he went shopping, he informed me, he always parked on and checked out on the side of the store he needed to shop on. Very helpful advice, though since the groceries and microwaves were on opposite sides of the store, I guess I should have made two trips or moved my car in the middle.

While we walked to the door, the guy "helping" me out, asked if I could bring the car around, because it would be a lot easier on him not to have to walk to the parking lot. Seeing as how I had the kids strapped in and all the other stuff under the microwave and I was only parked two spots past the handicapped spots, I insisted that I was not bringing the car around.

We got to the door and set off the alarms, of course. So another old fellow stopped us and spent a couple of minutes examining my receipt, probably wondering who in their right mind buys both spinach salad greens and Apple Jacks. We waited for him to finish up while my little helper began preaching to me that although the woman checking me out had obviously made a mistake in not deactivating the security strip, I should forgive her, because all humans made mistakes and the only one never to do so was up in heaven watching over us.

While I am a Christian and believe what he said, I wasn't particularly mad at the checkout lady, hadn't said anything about her and was trying to not get mad at him. That was not the best time to chat about Jesus and I waited and tried to keep the children from exploding.

Finally released to the parking lot, we got quickly to the van, where the man took one look and told me I'd never get the microwave in. It slid right in, of course, though he set it down right on top of The Boy's sunglasses.

We had survived the experience, but I will never, ever agree to have any help with anything at Wal-Mart again. I think that's part of the secret to keeping costs down. If you make getting help unpleasant, no one will request it and then you don't have to hire anyone to help the customers. Fiendishly brilliant.


Stupid Wal-mart. And this comes from someone who single-handedly keeps them solvent. I never have understood why they hire some of these folks, nor why they insist on keeping them around after they've acted like such jerks.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 16, 2005 04:12 PM

I will never, ever agree to have any help with anything at Wal-Mart again.

Good. I had often wondered why it seemed I could never get service at a Wal-Mart, and turns out the reason is that they don't know how.

I once lived in a town that didn't have a Wal-Mart at the time. When the subject of bring in a Wal-Mart came up, my response was, "Who needs Wal-Mart when we've got Kmart? The prices are higher but the service is just as bad."

Today, that town has a Wal-Mart, but the Kmart has been vacant for years -- one of that chain's first closures, in fact. That may be why Wal-Mart finally moved in.

Posted by: McGehee at May 16, 2005 06:30 PM

I was going to go to my local supermarket (a block away) later today, but you made me realize why I HATE going there. Their service is worse than Walmart ever could be. Outside of NY people at least have some standards of service.

Instead, I'll go over to Fresh Direct and order my groceries online. Their prices are a bit higher but the quality of their produce, meats and fish are infinitely better and their service incredible!

Posted by: Michele at May 17, 2005 09:19 AM

Good grief! With help like that, you could have gotten the kids to carry the stuff!

Posted by: Busy Mom at May 17, 2005 09:40 AM

Good story. I've heard some anecdotal reports of Walmart's continuing decline. When they say low prices, they support it with low service. If people tolerate it, then they can get away with it.

Did you consider letting your fingers do the walking and look on the Internet for a microwave? I suppose you'd be taking a chance with it getting broken during the shipping, plus they're not that expensive so shipping costs would take a chunk out of the budget.

Posted by: MarcV at May 17, 2005 11:17 AM

I considered the idea, but being an impatient American, I wanted my new microwave immediately. So I had to shop for it somewhere local.

Posted by: Jordana at May 17, 2005 11:59 AM

Microwaves are the true American appliance.

Posted by: MarcV at May 18, 2005 12:06 PM

What service! lol! I think I'll avoid WalMart tomorrow in your honor when I run my errands!

Posted by: Kim at May 24, 2005 10:22 PM