Saturday, August 12, 2006


AKA: Reason #7127 why I hate Wal-Mart.

I am sure there are at least one or two places in the world that are hotter and more humid than Georgia in the summer. Perhaps, say, standing in Death Valley at high noon wearing thermal long johns and holding a solar panel over your head. Or Hell. I can only assume Hell would be hotter. But considering all the places *we’ve* ever lived, Georgia wins hands-down as the hottest, wettest place to spend a summer. Thank heavens I had the common sense good luck to suck up to make friends with families who have pools, who were willing to share the cool, refreshing pastime of swimming with us. However, there are only so many hours in the day one can invite oneself over as a guest to swim, so a while back we found ourselves looking for a way to keep the kids cooled off and entertained here at our own house. Blaine and I would like nothing more than to put in a pool, but considering our backyard is more diagonal than an Olympic downhill ski course, it just isn’t happening. Well, that, and the fact they cost a lot of money, which we are too cheap to spend. After all, I have other, more important things to spend my money on, like aerobic tennis shoes and workout clothes to buy and never wear!

So, after the poor man’s dunk tank the kids were forced to entertain themselves with over Memorial Day Weekend, we broke down and joined the craze sweeping the nation, and bought a Bonzai Water Slide. For those of you who haven’t seen one, it’s an inflatable slide that hooks up to the garden hose. I know, images of a Slip-N-Slide come to mind, but it’s on a much larger scale. You actually climb up the back of the slide, and the water sprays over the top, and collects in a small pool at the end. It has a motor that inflates it, and is actually pretty awesome ….. here, let me just show you

(PS. This is a stock image off the internet --- NOT our backyard!)

While it certainly wasn’t as expensive as hiring a demolition crew to flatten our backyard and put a pool in, it wasn’t what I call cheap, either. We bought it on sale at Wal-Mart for $350.00. (I know, I know, I said I hated Wal-Mart and wouldn't shop there, but they were one of only two places in town selling these things, and in their defense, they *were* fifty dollars cheaper … but I digress) The kids loved it! It was fun! It was refreshing! It was like a siren song for the neighborhood children each time we turned on the motor and inflated it! It was … oh, shit. It was defective …. Look at that, the entire center seam just ripped out of it. Hmmmm. Not so good. It came with a patch kit, but none of the patches were two feet long, which was what we needed to repair the rip.

And that’s about the time we realized we couldn’t find the receipt anywhere.


So Blaine packed the whole thing back up in it’s original box, with the price and UPC code on the side, and I took it back to Wal-Mart, feeling self-conscious about the fact I didn’t hang on to the receipt, but darn it, there was no way to repair this thing and we sure as heck hadn’t gotten our $350 worth out of it! The girl at Customer Service called an assistant store manager, who, to put it bluntly, was mean to me. Mean, hateful, I-have-no-business-working-in-retail-nasty, somebody-must-have-peed-in-her-post-toasties-that-morning-grumpy to me.

The gist of our conversation:

Me: I realize I don’t have a receipt, but I don’t want my money back. Could we just exchange it since this one appears to be defective?

Mean lady: No, we don’t have any more.

Me: So, when will you be getting more?

Mean lady: We won’t. It’s a seasonal item and the season is over.

Me: Um, ok. So what can we do?

Mean lady: Nothing. Without a receipt, you’re out of luck.

Me: What about a store credit?

Mean lady: No.

Me: What about --

Mean lady: No.

Me: Well could we possibly --

Mean lady: No.

Me: Well is there any --

Mean lady: No.

And that was the end of that. She took my name and number, grudgingly, at my insistence, and told me she would talk to the general manager to see if he knew where we could possibly get another one, and then she would call me back later that day.

I came home and told Blaine she was mean to me; the grown-up equivalent of “that bully picked on me and stole my lunch money.” Blaine knows how incredibly non-confrontational I am (understatement of the year) and I think he *sort of* believed me when I said that lady was not helpful, but that didn’t solve the problem of our inflatable slide which would no longer inflate.

Three days later, when we (big surprise) hadn’t heard back from her, Blaine decided he would give it another try, and dragged the thing back to the store. I was curious to see if he would fare better than me.

When he arrived back home, he walked in the front door, looked me square in the eye, and said, “That lady is mean.” Ah, vindication! Apparently during the course of their conversation she said the same thing to him she had said to me (verbatim): “It’s not our problem if you don’t have a receipt”. Now, that’s a happy customer service attitude to have. Promote that lady right on up the management chain, for her ability to think outside of the box and find a solution and do what it takes to keep the customer satisfied.

But! Apparently HE got mean right back, and demanded to see a different manager and asked why they couldn’t look up the receipt in their system since we still had the original Wal-Mart sticker and UPC code on the box, good grief, you can do anything with computer technology nowadays there has to be some way to track this, and how if they agree we’re entitled to a replacement, but they don’t have one in stock and won't be getting any more, how exactly is that OUR fault??? You know, the logical things I would have *liked* to have said, but didn't have the courage.

The manager said if we could bring in something -- anything -- that showed the date we bought it, she could look up the transaction herself. She was all martyred up about it, with heaving shoulders and big sighs about how difficult it would be to pull all the register records, and could I possibly remember what time of day I bought it and from what register????? Here’s the first time procrastination has paid off, since our credit card statement for that month was still sitting on top of the shredder, in the “to be shredded” pile. No time or register number, but cold hard proof of the date of purchase.

So the next day (is this like the longest story EVER?) Blaine went BACK in, but that manager was gone, so he had to start over. And do you know what happened? They called up a different manager, who listened briefly to Blaine’s explanation of what had happened, scanned the UPC code himself, and in less than thirty seconds had credited our Visa for the entire amount. Um, hello?!?! WHY couldn’t that have been done the first time I went in there??? Is it because I’m spineless, and roll over and play dead the minute any kind of conflict happens? Did the Wicked Witch of the Wal Mart instantaneously decide she didn’t like me for some reason, and simply wasn’t going to help me, no matter how nice I tried to be? Or was it because when Blaine, a male customer, walked in and spoke with a male manager, they cut through the b.s. and fixed it.

Who knows? All I know is I have an extra $350 on my credit card, and now I can buy me another new pair of Avia tennis shoes for aerobics!!

ps. Ironic, isn’t it, that if they had given me the store credit like I asked for the first day, that money would have stayed in the store. Now, Wal-Mart just lost the entire amount, because I’m taking myself right back to Target. And making Blaine take back all returns for the rest of my life.

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