Hey Doug McMillion: Wanna know why Walmart is having problems?

HINT: It’s not because you’re paying your employees too much.

This is an absolutely true story, dialogue verbatim.

Scene One

Three packages are delivered to my Manhattan apartment. Two from Amazon. One from Walmart. (Now, of course, any one who knows me knows I am no fan of Walmart. I’ve written about their troublesome race-to-the-bottom pricing and manufacturing policies in Shopportunity! and Passion Brands and elsewhere for years. So, let’s just say, I didn’t order anything from it and nobody I know would send me a gift from there.

I open the package, which is correctly addressed to me at my address. There’s a packing slip, which says “Shipped to” and gives Beth Ann Somebody’s name and an address in Terra Alta, West Virginia. Inside: something called a Remington S5500 AntiStatic Digital Ceramic 1 Flat Iron Col, Unit Price 19.45 and Total Price $19.45, plus $1.17 sales tax, plus a real shipment total of $20.62.

I look for the return label. There is none. There is a note at the bottom of the packing slip saying that if I want to return the item, it will be easy. Just go to www.Walmart/returns.

Scene Two

I go to the website. It gives me two choices: Either I’ve ordered something or someone set me something as a gift. If I choose the first option, I’m instructed to log in, but I do not have a Walmart account, so that’s a dead end. If I choose the second option, it tells me to take the package back to my closest Walmart. Hmmm.

Scene Three

I peruse the website, trying to find the “it’s easy” return page. I finally decide to call the 800 line. I call and get the predictable recording. I work my way through the menu, which at some point asks me if I have the 15-digit order number to punch that in. I do. The recording tells me it cannot find that order. I punch the #3 the recording tells me will get me to a person. I’m told by another recording that Walmart is eager to help, the wait will be five minutes and if I want to keep my place in line, they will call me back. I opt to hang on and listen to the Musak.


Scene Four

                        Walmart:        Thank you for calling Walmart. How may I help you?

Me:                 I received a package that is clearly meant for someone else, someone who lives in West Virginia.

Walmart:        I see. Well, you can drop the package off at your closest Walmart.

Me:                 I live in New York City. I have no idea if there’s a Walmart anywhere near me.

Walmart:        I see. Well then, you can actually drop the package off to the person who ordered it.

Me:                 The person lives in West Virginia!

Walmart:        I understand. But those are your two options. You can take it to your nearest Walmart. Or, you can deliver it yourself to the person who ordered it.

Me:                 This is your mistake, but you’re making it my responsibility to make it right.

    Walmart:        No. I’m just saying, you have two options. You can either take it to your nearest Walmart. Or, you can deliver it         yourself.

Me:                 I believe there is a third option. I can throw it away. The woman who ordered it in good faith won’t receive it.

Walmart:        Yes, that’s right. She’ll call us to report it as undelivered and we’ll send her another one.

Me:                 Well, then I think I’ll take that option.

Walmart:        Okay. Thank you for calling Walmart.

Scene Five

I sit down to write this Open Letter to Doug McMillan. This is just wrong. You don’t disappoint your customers. You don’t have strangers deliver your goods and make up for your ineptitude. You don’t figure it’s a cost of doing business to toss away (and add to the landfill) goods honorably ordered and paid for by a real customer. That is: You don’t and succeed. Shame on you.