Saturday, December 27, 2014

How Do You Become The Nation's Largest Retailer Walmart With Management That Is All But Clueless?

I hate shopping Walmart. There. I said it. I used to loathe K-Mart, well before they became Big K-Mart, and even more so after they merged with Sears. But how Walmart ever became the nation's largest retailer I'll never know. With so many employees that show they couldn't care less about the customer, much less their jobs, or are merely there in body but not mind, I shudder at the thought each time I need to enter a Walmart for any reason.  It's one thing when employees are clueless about simple company policies, but when even supposedly carefully trained retail managers at Walmart don't know their own company policies, you begin to wonder how they even stay in business.

I don't normally shop Walmart, I'm a Target kind of guy.  But I do have a Sam's Club business membership alongside my Costco Wholesale business membership. Sam's Club is owned by Walmart.  Sam's Club tries their hardest to compete with Costco on price, selection, and quality, and for the most part succeed,  but when it comes to competing on customer service, both Walmart and Sam's Clubs fail when compared to Target and Costco. I suspect it is the wage differential. Sam's and Walmart pay mostly minimum wage. Costco starting pay is around $12 an hour, more than $4 an hour than Sam's Club, something that attracts better candidates and ultimately, workers with better work ethics.

Yesterday I visited a local Walmart location to pick up a few Walmart gift cards. The cashier at the first location I visited was steadfast that no-you can't buy a Walmart gift card with your credit card. Huh? I've been buying Walmart gift cards for years on my Amex or Visa cards. In fact, I bought a few myself last month without a problem.  Since when can't I buy them on my credit card? She said, it's ALWAYS been that way. Uh, no-it hasn't!  I buy Walmart gift cards all the time to use at Sam's Club because they only accept Discover and Mastercard, and I sometimes prefer to pay with Amex or Visa to get bonus points or miles offered by those cards, so buying a Walmart gift card at Walmart with my Amex or Visa gets me the points, and allows me to pay for my Sam's Club purchases with the form of payment suitable to me, not what is suitable to Walmart.

After going back and forth with the cashier,  she rudely walks away, apparently to go speak to a customer service manager whom she insisted agreed that I can't use a credit card?  The manager also insisted "cash only for gift cards-even Walmart gift cards!" Oh my God I thought.  No!  I insisted, I've always bought them on my credit card for years without a problem. The manager wouldn't budge.

Not wanting to waste more time, I left that store and headed off to another Walmart I would pass on my way home anyway. They couldn't possibly be as clueless there right? WRONG!  Yet another clueless cashier was dumbfound that I was trying to use my Amex card to pay for my gift cards and also decided to seek a manager's opinion when I tried to charge them. Remarkably yet another Walmart manager gave me the same spiel--no credit cards can be used to buy Walmart gift cards. I told her that I understood I couldn't buy say a Prepaid Mastercard on my Amex, but Walmart gift cards I can buy all day long.   Her clueless response and analysis? "No you can't.  What if someone had stolen your credit card and came in to buy gift cards and ran it up to it's limit?"   Ummm well so what?  If you guys aren't smart enough to verify the buyer's ID, it might very well happen. But what difference does it make if they fraudulently used my credit card to buy gift cards or to buy a 60" HDTV? She replied, "most likely they'd buy gift cards on a stolen credit card, not a big TV--it's easier to get cash for gift cards later". This not only sounded ridiculous, but it was absurd to think a credit-card scammer would care what he was able to buy with the stolen card as long as he could walk out with something of value.

During our conversation, yet another manager came along and joined the discussion. She too concurred with the first manager--cash only for any gift cards, including Walmart gift cards, and that if I had a problem or complaint about the policy, I should call 1-800-Wal-Mart to inquire, this was Walmart's long standing policy on gift card sales.  I disagreed with both of them and said, no, this isn't Walmart's gift card purchase policy for buying Walmart gift cards.

I promptly pulled out my phone and called the number right from the store, and amazingly enough, I got someone on the line who was actually helpful and courteous. She listened to my complaint and then put me on hold a few minutes to research their policy on gift card sales. A few minutes later, she came back on the line and read me the gift card purchase policy. Indeed I could purchase Walmart gift cards up to $1,000 on each gift card on my credit card.  There was no limit on how many gift cards I bought as long as I could pay for them--cash or credit card. Certain gift cards were cash only like Amex, Visa, and Mastercard debit cards.

I asked her if she would kindly explain to the assistant store manager the policy she had just read me? She agreed to do so.  I told her because in fact there seems to be confusion amongst a number of managers and personnel at multiple stores since this is the second store that I'd been to and turned away. She remarked that apparently there is some confusion between buying debit Mastercard gift cards which requires cash, and buying other branded gift cards.  I walked over to the the manager and handed her my phone so she could be schooled on the correct gift card sale policy.  She was told that the Point Of Sale would reject any payment that isn't acceptable for each gift card type sold at Walmart (Mastercard, iTunes, Starbucks, Walmart, etc.) so there was no need to police this and her staff needn't be concerned what form of payment is used. If a form of payment unacceptable for a particular gift card, the system would reject or block it.

Yet another example of employees and management making up the rules as they go along instead of doing their job. I bought my gift cards and walked out. Amazing what one has to go through to buy a simple gift card Kids! This shouldn't have be so difficult. No wonder I hate shopping Walmart.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Retail Store Price Matching At Best Buy Is Nothing But A Waste Of Time

Retail store managers just don't get it--most especially at Best Buy stores. And price matching policies are nothing but false come-ons that end up being a complete waste of time and are not worth pursuing. Most larger retailers have some kind of policy to match competitors sale prices to gain your business. But getting a retailer like Best Buy to honor competitors prices apparently requires an act of congress.
My latest escapade involves an overzealous Best Buy blue shirt employee who instead of trying harder to make sure you buy from the electronics giant, ends up working against the customer to make sure they don't. The whole purpose (and spirit) of price-match policies is so you do one-stop shopping and forego visiting, much less shop the competition. This concept is lost on most store personnel, sales associates, and store managers at most retail outlets. Even with the newly implemented policies matching online stores, there seems to be an inherent attitude that consumers are trying to "scam" lower prices via false or fabricated competitors ads. Sure it happened earlier this year at Walmart, but most simple price match policies would catch such slight and not honor those prices.  
So fully armed with a current Target advertisement, a printed email announcement, and displaying the online web discount percentage on my iPhone showing the EXACT SAME make and model iPad 2 Air Target was advertising for 15% off, the Best Buy associate almost immediately insisted that the discount was only good on WiFi iPad Air 2 models, not WiFi models equipped with 4G LTE. And despite there being a laundry list of models that were specifically excluded from the offer (iPad Mini, iPad Air 1, iPad 4, 3, 2 and 1), she insisted there was no PROOF that the 4G LTE models were included in the sale. So what part of where the ad that says "Get 15% off ANY iPad Air 2 16Gb, 64Gb, or 128Gb" are you having trouble understanding? Apparently the word ANY was the problem and excluded iPad Air 2 Wifi with a 4G LTE radio option in her opinion.
Not satisfied with her almost dismissive attitude, I thought calling what appeared to be a rookie manager would help, but it turned out to also be a waste of time as he added another 20 minutes to the 30 minutes I had already spent waiting while the sales associated (SA) conducted her so called price investigation. He too felt the need to waste more time on the computer trying to figure out if he should honor the discount. Throughout the whole time he was doing his so-called research, the SA kept repeating to him out loud that 4G LTE models were not listed as part of the sale. The manager finally gave up and told the employee to call the local Target store to verify they had stock of the same exact color, capacity, and capabilities and walked away with nary a comment to me. Seriously now? 30+ Target stores in Metro Detroit and you want to check stock on a high-end iPad Air 2 maybe 1 in 1,000 shoppers would be looking for? Sure enough! "They must have it in stock and readily available for purchase in order for us to match it" the SA insisted. Thats how our price match policy works.
Never mind that I had already told the SA that I just walked out of a local Target store having verified the same item being in stock and available for sale at the discounted price. I prefer to buy at Best Buy for my reward points and interest-free financing on my Best Buy Credit Card over the 5% discount I get on my Target Redcard.  The SA finally gets someone on the line at Target who verified the item in stock and on sale, but said he wouldn't/couldn't confirm the price over the phone. She hangs up and says to me in an what amounted to a happy voice, "Sorry, I can't match the price-they won't verify the price over the phone." she muttered. So let me get this straight: The online price wasn't good enough. The fact that the item is in stock wasn't good enough, now you found another reason to deny the price match? 
I was done. After an hour of time wasted, I told her she can keep it, I'm going back to Target to buy it. Her smug response? "Ok, have a nice day." Really? You should feel proud you cost your store an $800+ sale. Never mind the $300+ other items and high-margin accessories I intended to purchase along with this iPad. 
On my way out, I went back over to where the same clueless manager was standing, explained to him that his all but empty store on the last Saturday before Christmas just lost what amounts to over a $1,200 sale thanks to the rude and not so helpful SA, and how ridiculous it was that not only did I spend over an hour in-store to try and get a price match, but I had also spent over 25 minutes on hold with his Best Buy Store PRIOR to coming out there to verify stock and price (no one ever eventually answered) all the while,  listening to their repetitive recording telling me over and over again about how I can "BUY WITH CONFIDENCE" from Best Buy given the Best Buy low price guarantee and their price matching policies. Yet I come in the store and they do everything to make sure they don't match a local competitor's advertised price. Some guarantee. PATHETIC!
I promptly departed the store and the left the few other items I had gathered to buy and drove back to Target where I purchased the same exact item (iPad Air 2 4G LTE 128Gb Gold) at the price I was trying to get them to match it at $705.00 (15% off the regular price of $829.99. 

The sad part about this whole story? Best Buy had offered the same exact iPad 2 Air 4G LTE model only a week earlier for almost the same price at $100 off $729.99--which only made this deal about $24 about cheaper than that price--so it wasn't like they were giving away the store had they honored the price. Plus with margins of 50% or more on accessories, they would have easily made up the difference. Instead they lost it all.

Bottom line, they lost an iPad Air 2 sale, PLUS, a number of other items totaling about $300. Their loss. Next time I won't even bother to ask for a price match, much less make it to their store.  I'll simply buy where it's cheaper and save myself the aggravation. Live and Learn Kids!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

T-Mobile Is Up To Some New "UnCarrier" Tricks Offering A 2-Line Unlimited Everything Plan for $100 or 3-Lines for $140

‪#‎TMobile‬ is upping the ante' in the wireless games as it will launch it's best Family plan ever Wednesday December 10, 2014.  2-Lines with Unlimited Talk, Unlimited Text and Unlimited 4G LTE Data. $100. 3-Lines $140. Additional lines 4-10 are just $40 Each. Five lines are $220. Wow!

Just in time for the holidays, and for as low as $44 per line when you activate Five lines, you get the nations fastest and most advanced 4G LTE network, nationwide unlimited talk, unlimited text, and unlimited 4G LTE Data including up to 5Gb of data tethering for your tablet or laptop every month on each line. Plus, you'll also get FREE unlimited WiFi calling, FREE unlimited Rhapsody UnRadio music streaming (a service similar to Pandora Premium). 

Want more? How about Free Data Roaming and texting in over 120+ countries, FREE Wifi calling from anywhere in the world to call back to the USA from any country in the world. FREE texting aboard any GoGo Inflight equipped flight, and FREE International texting from the USA? Not enough to convince you?
Did I mention there are NO CONTRACTS, NO OVERAGES,  and NO METERING? And They'll even pay your early termination fee (ETF) up to $350 per line for up to five lines from any carrier just to get you to switch. Need a new  smartphone? They'll even sell you one of the latest and greatest available today like the Apple iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, Google Nexus 6, or Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for ZERO down and give you 24 months to pay for it. They won't even charge you a DIME of interest. Already have a phone? No problem! They'll give you a sim card and off you go. Only catch? Leave before you payoff your phone and you have to payoff your EIP (finance) plan. Thats fair right?

Sound like a great offer? You betcha it is.  Already AT&T and Verizon are warning analysts about lower margins and higher churn this quarter. This thanks to healthy competition from the likes of Magenta. It's no wonder T-Mobile USA is poised to become the third largest carrier in the USA by years end, replacing Sprint--which continues to hemorrhage subscribers. T-Mobile CEO John Legere said it best: We're not gonna rest till the industry changes. You can bet they are paying close attention and losing sleep Kids!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gadget Lover on your Christmas Wish List? Get a Brookstone $50 Voucher for only $25 Via Groupon

#Groupon is offering a $50 #Brookstone in-store or online credit for only $25. Click the link & Search Brookstone. Everyone who has been to a mall has most likely stepped into a Brookstone to check out the plethora of innovative gadgets and gifts for the person who has most everything. Unique and helpful products that you don't normally find anywhere else.

This Groupon entitles you to $50 worth of Brookstone merchandise by spending only $25 today. In other words, up to 50% off your purchase if it costs $50.  You must spend at least $50 to use the voucher. Can be used online or in-store. FREE SHIPPING on orders over $99 using the code SHIP99 at checkout.

Limit one voucher per person, although you can buy one as a gift. But there are ways around those purchase limits by registering alternate Groupon accounts using different a different email address--just be sure to use an alternate credit card on additional orders. Limit one voucher on each order or item. Click this link and type "BROOKSTONE" in the search box to find this great offer Kids! The promotional value expires 12/31/14, but the amount you pay for the Groupon NEVER EXPIRES. In other words, if you don't use the voucher, your $25 remains in your Groupon account to use toward future Groupon offers.