Walmart woes

Maybe you love Walmart, live by Walmart and would never shop anywhere else. Maybe you dislike it with a passion but end up shopping there because you have no choice. I have choices but feel I need to stop shopping there as much as I can and let me tell you why. Yes this was triggered by my most recent visits, but most of it has been festering for some time.

Let me step back a bit though and explain that I spend about 8 years of my life working for this company, though that was now over 10 years ago. I was successful there, I made a decent career of it. I even spent a year as an Assistant Manager – incidentally the worst year of my career there but I won’t go into that. I just wanted the reader to know I worked there and so my experience as a customer has some basis on knowledge of how the company works.

The number one thing about the experience shopping that bothers me is the main aisles – they are full of displays down the middle and leave barely room for carts on either side. You can’t easily find your way around to see the side aisles because “specials” are in the middle. That may be the point, they may not care that you can’t find what you are looking for since the longer you are in the store, they figure you will see more things and spend more money. It just makes me want to get in and get out even faster. It is frustrating to shop that way.

When I worked there they actually cared about customers, as there used to be benches instead of merchandise in a few places. Gradually those were removed because they just to fit more stuff out.

It makes it far more difficult though to checkout. The aisles used to be empty at least there so you could find a line and checkout. Now even there it is packed full of crap in hopes that you will add one more thing to your cart. Half the time you can’t even see the cashiers because there is so much stuff in front of the registers.

Greeters is another area that used to set Walmart apart. They made you feel welcome, they gave stickers to the kids. Now if there is one there, they ignore you (most of the time) or you can’t even tell it is one because no one wears a vest. I thought the vests were annoying when I was working there, but now you cannot even tell who does work there.

Now to what actually sparked me to write this – the produce section. In general it is pretty good there usually, while still difficult to navigate due to congested aisles, you can find what you want. The problem this time were the plastic bags for produce, the locations for them were all empty except for 3 spots. Those 3 spots were above everyone’s head. I could reach them being 6 feet tall, but the majority of people cannot. Why have them that high though anyway? There was a worker nearby filling more produce, but what about the bags for us? Truthfully I can usually find bags, but I was shocked that they were all empty except for those high ones.

Not that I like the bags since they are the most difficult things to open. Couldn’t they come up with a way that they open themselves when you remove one? They suck – though to be fair it seems most stores have these crappy plastic bags for produce.

Another area the stores near me do not perform well is the sliced meat section. Usually there is just one person there until someone from out back pokes their head out and decides to help. Today there was one person and apparently she was dealing a large order, but she ignored me even so. At the very least she could have acknowledged me and said she’d get with me shortly. She could have taken the extra step to pause a moment and get help perhaps, but nope just ignored me.

Keep in mind that Walmart doesn’t do take a number, so you kind of have to fend for yourself or be kind to strangers (which does happen – good customers look out for each other).

Back to the counter. I could tell there was at least 2 people in the back doing something. In fact one popped out a couple of times on some errand. Then a second person popped out as well. Neither of them bothered to acknowledge that I was there waiting – in total maybe 5 minutes, but it can feel longer when you just need help and no one bothers to acknowledge you exist. Finally one lady came out and asked for what I wanted. She wasn’t very friendly, but got the job done (slices were uneven thickness but I wasn’t about to wait even longer to get it done correctly).

Near the meat is the bread section and I love french bread but they always have huge loaves of it not things smaller for one person, but the section was empty. Apparently they used it to fill a section up in the front of the store. People get used to finding things where they should be so that should be full, who cares about some special display? But Walmart doesn’t get it, they want to make it difficult to find things so you can spend more time there. However, I’m not going to bother, unless it is extremely important, I’ll go without.

One more thing in the produce area that rattled me. They changed the pre-made chicken salad. It was often sold out anyway, but this was really good chicken salad. Good chucks of chicken and reasonably priced. It is still reasonably priced but they ruined a good thing. It is now more like processed chicken, no chucks. It also has fruit in it. I’m not a big fan of that, but could live with it if the chicken was any good, but it is terrible.

More often than not they are out of the Breakfast Chocolate Milk I get. In this case they did have one package, but it was broken. Apparently this product sells better than the other brands there since they are always full, but no one realizes that the that sells out should be given more shelf space. It is out of stock on nearly every visit so clearly they don’t know what sells.

A couple of things that I noticed while I visited the Mansfield, OH area stores though have seen similar around me as well. Mansfield was especially messy in the games area. Tons of games just lying on the bottom shelf or stored improperly. I realize this is other customers causing this but isn’t anyone cleaning the store (this was on a Sunday – understandable that Saturday is a busy shopping day). When I worked there we had to focus on areas like this that were obviously messy. It isn’t the first time that I’ve seen it that way either. Who wants to shop in that mess? Walmart is a discount store, but I didn’t know that meant “let’s look like crap”.

One minor quibble was the signage for the TV’s. One sign was in front of the wrong TV. I realize this can happen if things get changed as I had it happen before as well when I worked there though tried to correct it as quickly as possible. Still lucky if the displays or box stock have correct pricing there. More often than not, you can’t find the price or can’t be sure it is the correct one.

Finally a good thing. Electronics has some displays up for computers, keyboards/mice and a few other things. It doesn’t mean they are in working order, but good for them to finally display some products.

One thing they have in the Mansfield store that many other Walmart’s have done is a clearance section. You may think this is a great thing since all the clearance items are all in one location. It could be a great thing, but it is trashed beyond belief. It is not enjoyable to shop that section. Electronics does have its open separate section in front of that department and while a little better organized it is still crappy.

Heck I used to work there, our clearance sections were often crappy as well. It is very difficult to merchandise it well, when you have ones and twos of some things. Unless you have a lot of one thing, clearance sections always look like crap and most customers like myself don’t want to dig through it all. One thing I did do when I worked there was be sure it was kept as neat as possible. It sells better that way, but guess they don’t teach that any more.

Lastly in this longer than expected rant, is the checkouts. I touched on them briefly already about being too difficult to find open lines with all the merchandise surrounding them. But it doesn’t matter if you can find lines, because they are always several customers deep. Unless you shop really early in the morning or very late at night you will find lines. It doesn’t matter that there are sometimes 20 items or less lines, people can’t count and usually have too many items in the carts and I usually have too much for those lines anyhow.

At least the cashiers are usually friendly enough, but inconsistent baggers. Some cashiers won’t combine the right things together (deodorant does not go with produce), some make the bags too light (just 4 things of yogurt in one bag?) and some cashiers don’t ask courtesy questions like: Do you want your milk in a bag? Who bags milk? It has a handle. But at least most of them ask about it.

As I said, the cashiers is my least problem point at Walmart. While they aren’t always very friendly, they are competent and do a pretty good job. I know it isn’t easy to cashier, I’ve done it.

Here though I will end this rant/article. It really isn’t going to have much effect on who shops at Walmart. You may not mind the lines, you may not mind the aisles stacked with crap, you may not mind having difficulty finding things, you may not mind your groceries packed poorly. You may not miss the greeter (or even the exit greeter some used to use), you may not mind the messy aisles or the messy clearance – it is all about saving money for you.

I like to save money as well but I like to “enjoy” shopping. Ok some enjoy it more than I do, but I want to get what I need easily and pay for it and leave. Walmart is not enjoyable, it is a slog. I’ve gone there because of the convenience of having general merchandise as well as the groceries, occasionally I need those other items that a typical grocery store won’t have.

There are a few items though that Walmart carries for my groceries that the other stores near here (Giant Eagle, Acme) don’t have. It puts me in a quandary. I have decided though that I will just have to make some adjustments, but I cannot continue to have the terrible shopping experiences I keep having at Walmart.

Overall they are cheaper than elsewhere, but it isn’t worth the bit of savings to not find what I want, to have un-courteous help, to have terrible or no produce bags, to shop in a messy store and have to weave my way around stacks of merchandise all the while trying to avoid crashing into other customers.

The other grocery stores near me generally have a little less selection in some areas, but I have decided it will have to do. I am disgusted with shopping at Walmart. They do not care about the customer, they only care about selling more merchandise.

At Acme, they are friendly, they have baggers and everyone is dressed quite well with a tie, dress shirt and pants (not that I really expect that, but you certainly can tell who works there). I’m not a big fan of their store layouts, but otherwise generally always a good experience.

At Giant Eagle, again they are friendly, sometimes have baggers and you can easily tell who works there. The aisles are wide open, a bit better flow than Acme and a pretty good selection. I dislike the floors some of them have in their produce/meat sections. They aren’t smooth floors there, they are tiled and you bump along in the cart. It is horrible if you have something delicate in there, makes a racket (small) and is just uncomfortable. Still, in general, a far better experience than Walmart.

You may disagree with me and that is your right. Your Walmart might be a picture of perfection, but out here I am disappointed no matter which one I go in. I actually like Meijer (its in Mansfield, OH) but unfortunately none around for me so have to make due.

Oh and Target is a FAR FAR better shopping experience than Walmart, but they don’t do groceries. Feel free to share your experiences both good and bad with these stores mentioned here. I’m sure there are some other groceries stores out there that do a great job, but these are the options I have and felt I needed to express my frustration.

Writing this won’t change a thing with how Walmart does business, but perhaps some may be convinced they need to break free from this gargantuan retailer who doesn’t care about shoppers, and only cares about making money.