Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You Get What You Pay For OR Why I Don't Shop at Wal Mart!

I don't shop at Wal Mart. Gasps from the readers. I know. It's unAmerican! People usually respond to that statement by telling me that they can't afford to shop elsewhere. They tell me that things cost more elsewhere. They are the LOW PRICE LEADER. They tell me they have the cheapest groceries, the lowest price prescriptions, the most affordable household items. To which I reply, 'you get what you pay for'.

I don't think I have ever gone into Wal Mart and walked out in a perky mood. Most of the times I previously shopped there I encountered unhappy employees, unhappy customers, unstocked shelves, aisles blocked with items that needed to be stocked, and dirty, out of order bathrooms (lacking soap and hot water).

Frequently, I would arrive at Wal Mart searching for a particular item and find a gaping empty spot on the shelf. I would return week after week to find the same shelves bare. Once, when a friend encountered the same problem, she called the manufacturer of the item to find out if Wal Mart still carried their product. The customer service rep explained the problem to her. Wal Mart purchases enormous quantities of a product at a time. They buy enough to send to all their stores. So they negotiate for a huge cost break. When they are ready to reorder, they often want an even greater deal. So they enter into negotiations with the manufacturer. Often, Wal Mart will not budge, and the manufacturer will be given the option of taking a loss in order to have Wal Mart carry their product, or losing the order. Wal Mart will gladly replace the product with one from a manufacturer who is willing to give in to their demands. This is how Wal Mart is able to keep their prices so low - by using their bulk to bully.

The customers and employees both seem unhappy. Wal Mart doesn't have the best track record of employee satisfaction. They bully their employees the same way they bully their suppliers. They treat their employees as if they don't have any options. I spoke to a cashier who was getting married in a week from the time of my last visit. She had only been an employee for a couple of months, but was working her last day. She informed me that when she had applied for the job she had informed her new employer of the date of her wedding, and told them she would need to not work that day. They scheduled her to work that day. When she spoke to them about it, they told her that she could either work that day or find another job. So she quit to attend her wedding. I have listened to employees of Wal Mart complain about customers to other employees while I am waiting for service. I was standing with my (then 5 year old) daughter, waiting for a dressing room while three employees were engaged in trash talking about a customer they had just let into a dressing room. I stood there for a minute or so, and one employee turned to another and told her that she had a customer waiting. That would be me! She loudly proclaimed "I see her. But did you see the look that other one gave me?" And she continued to make me and my daughter wait while she loudly swore about the other customer.

But, really, how high are they going to rate the importance of customer satisfaction if their employer doesn't value employee satisfaction? You can't blame them for being unhappy. You can't blame them for treating customers as if they are disposable and easily replaced.

In Wal Mart's defense, they don't promote themselves as the CUSTOMER SERVICE LEADER. The are the LOW PRICE LEADER. Customer service is not their priority. Low prices are. And you get what you pay for.

Daily, I hear people complain about how customer service and common courtesy are extinct. They aren't extinct. They are merely endangered. We are not willing to pay for them. There are few full service gas stations anymore, and those that are, are priced much more expensively. Most grocery stores don't take your groceries out of your basket anymore, and only a few of them bag them. We have self check out, so we can spare stores from having to provide any customer service. We find these changes acceptable if it means we can purchase things for less money. We want stuff cheap so we can have more of it. And stores like Wal Mart know that we are willing to trade customer service for a low price. They know they can get away with it. They know that no matter how upset and frustrated people become at their stores, they will keep coming back....because they can get more stuff for less money. I have gone to the 'customer service' department with valid complaints. I have received no customer service from that department. They are indifferent to complaints. I think they believe that for every customer that leaves, two will come.

So I don't shop at Wal Mart. I choose where I shop based on the service I receive. I choose where I shop based on the quality of the product I receive. Some of you are thinking "Must be nice to have that much money". I assure you that I'm not rolling in money. I am a stay at home home school mom of two who is married to a farmer! We aren't exactly making the big bucks. So how do I do it? How do we shop at the upscale Harris Teeter where the average price is higher, but they get your groceries out of your cart, ring them up, run to get you a replacement for a damaged product, bag your groceries, and politely load them into your car for you?

I will tell you my big secrets! Drum roll please! We buy less. We only buy what we need and a couple of reasonable wants. We don't binge shop, and we rarely buy something that we don't really need just because it is a good deal. We don't have a closet full of clothes we don't wear. We have a few good quality items, and we replace them as needed. And we shop carefully. We shop the sales, not our desires. Those few quality items in our closet, just like those in our freezer were bought on sale. And we spend less than your average shopper.

But we pay for quality, and we pay for customer service. We pay for smiles. And we pay to walk out of the store in a happy mood, having enjoyed our shopping experience. We are happy knowing that we are contributing our money to companies that care for their employees and suppliers as much as they do their customers. We are happy to know that we are contributing our money toward companies that give to their communities. We are willing to support such causes. And we are happy knowing that we have less in quantity, but more in quality. After all, you get what you pay for. So....where do you shop?

1 comment:

Anne-Marie said...

What? They were going to make her work on her wedding day? Good for her for standing her ground! What a sad situation!