WalMart: Save A Few Pennies, Waste A Lot Of Time

The night before a recent camping trip, there were a couple of last minute things I wanted to get.  You’ll find out in an upcoming post, but one of the things that jumped out that I really wanted was an awning stabilizer kit.

I knew that Wal Mart had these, so I set off to the store right after the kids went to bed.

I figured it’d be a quick trip.

Man, I forgot all about what Wal Mart stands for.

Yes, you might pay less.  But, it WILL take you twice as long.

For some reason, the WalMart by our house prides itself on long lines.  I’m not sure why, but you can never get to a register without waiting at least 15 minutes.  No matter what time of day, that’s the story.

That’s precisely why we rarely shop there.  We could probably save money on groceries and household goods, but especially if we were to have kids in tow, there’s no way I would subject them to ridiculously long lines of 30 minutes or more (which is probably more common during grocery shopping times).  I mean, if I’m getting impatient by myself, I can’t imagine it would be very good for a 3 year old and a 1 year old, neither of whom have exactly exhibited skills relating to patience thus far.

They have a ‘Speedy’ checkout area with six registers.

Two problems:

  1. They are limited to 20 items or less.  Twenty items in a shopping cart, for those who even bother respecting the rules, isn’t exactly a quick ring.  Most stores have 10 or 15 item limits.
  2. Out of the six lanes they have dedicated to this purpose, exactly one was open.  Still, it was slower waiting in the ten person line here versus one of the six or seven people lines that were open in the no-limit registers.

After waiting and waiting and finally getting to the front of the line, it became apparent that WalMart just doesn’t get it.  Someone (maybe a manager, but presumably just a runner) sauntered over and asked the poor cashier (who in his credit was actually working very quickly) if he needed change.

The cashier looked at him incredulously and said something along the lines of ‘No, but I could use some help here.’

The other guy looked around like he was seeing it for the first time.  And I’m pretty sure, given his ‘go-getter’ attitude, his message back was probably ‘No, didn’t need any change’ never even mentioning that reinforcements had been asked for.

How does WalMart stay in business when their customer service is awful and most of their stores look dirty two days after they’re brand new? 

25 thoughts on “WalMart: Save A Few Pennies, Waste A Lot Of Time”

  1. It amazes me what people will put up with to save a dollar. I rarely shop at WalMart, but when I do I have to mentally prepare myself to be patient/aggravated. And evidently I hold my breath the entire time I’m in the store because when I leave, I exhale and the feeling of relief is incredible.

    • Trust me, if there had been another store that would have had what I wanted, I would not have set foot anywhere near WalMart.

  2. I try to go very early to do my grocery shopping. It means getting up early on a Saturday but I’m okay with that–I also like going to the Farmer’s Market. I’d like to go somewhere else but the other grocery stores around here are much more expensive and when I’m on a budget, it means grind my teeth and bear it.

    • There used to be a local store that would simply cut the number of checkers to match the number of shoppers. Thus, even if you went first thing you’d still have a line to wait in. Luckily I don’t live by that store any more!

  3. WalMarts stay open because in dozens of towns–probably more like hundreds–they drive out competition. It’s a shame, but it’s how they operate. Wally’s prices are so low, few to none can go head-to-head with them.

    As for buying food there, it never crosses my mind. I’ll make a trip there if a friend sways me, but I won’t buy anything. I like to keep my visits to WalMart as infrequent as run-ins with ex-girlfriends.

    -Christian L.

    • Luckily we live in an area where we have many options, and thus we aren’t saddled by WalMart vs. nothing.

    • “Wally’s prices are so low, few to none can go head-to-head with them.” Yes, you’ve just gotten the POINT of Walmart. It’s a store which provides merchandise like groceries, eyeglasses, drugs, furniture, clothing, home improvement supplies, and toys for those who are financially struggling. The trouble with blogs like this is that the more well to do have the leisure to read and comment negatively about Walmart, while the poor don’t comment as they are at Walmart buying things they can afford, which they might not be able to buy at higher priced stores. For those either thrifty, or up against the wall financially, Walmart is a blessing, allowing the poor to be able to buy goods and services at reasonable prices, and the thrifty to spend a little more time to get lower prices in order to save money for more important things like investing in stocks or enlarging an emergency fund. if you don’t want to save money, don’t shop Walmart.

  4. The WalMart closes to us was a dream to shop in when it first opened because very few people realized it was open. A few years later it became a nightmare just as you described above, and I stopped going. But in the last year we have dropped in occassionally and things are much better customer service wise and that speedy checkout area has worked well because they ususally have 4 cashiers or more working at once. Some of them are pretty friendly and some are cranky.

  5. Walmart is significantly cheaper than the other stores in our area probably because I live at the touristy beach. Regardless I don’t mind waiting a few minutes in line playing on my smartphone to save some money. Other times we just breeze right through. It sounds like your location is poorly managed, that or there are some awesome wal-marts in my area.

  6. If there were any alternatives in our area that could even remotely compete on price, we’d shop less at Walmart. As it is, there just aren’t and so we do shop there. Just requires a bit of patience usually.

    • That’s the funny thing, we actually have a lot of competition so you’d think they would care a little *more* about customer service but it’s opposite. How odd.

  7. I totally agree about Wal-Mart and all the ridiculousness it stands for. It took us an hour in the store last time for them to tell us they wouldn’t give us store credit for the broken grill they sold us without a receipt (they wouldn’t even exchange!), and that they didn’t have the bike rack we needed. An hour. To tell us they couldn’t help us. Ridiculous!

  8. The Walmart near us is, like yours, a zoo. The parking lot is full of low-grade morons who apparently think they live in an old Frogger game. Inside, it’s crowded, grody, and customer service is a joke.

    In the same shopping center, a huge Target is rarely crowded (customers are all in the Walmart and the Costco). When you go in there, you find the same stuff, often for the same price. Target’s not renowned for its customer service, either, but it’s sure better than Walmart’s. I’ve never run into a rude or openly unhappy clerk at Target, but have done so several times at WM. Folks who shop at Walmart all the time must be a lot more patient and tolerant than I am!

    • You’re right about Walmart. I absolutely hate going there! It’s the people that shop there not the workers that bother me. I can’t go the beginning of the month because everyone gets their welfare checks and the place is packed-can’t go on Wednesday because of senior citizen discount day and they block the aisles with their scooters and could care less about anyone else,people who have nothing else to do and show up shopping in their pajamas. Really?!! I rather go to Target too.

    • We definitely prefer Target. There’s one pretty close to us (not as close to the WM as yours) that we are at quite frequently.

  9. A great lesson in opportunity cost with time as one of the variables! I’m always amazed at the people who camp out for a $100 DVD player or something. I’m new to your site, but looking forward to reading! Thanks.

    • A reminder that Black Friday is just a few short months away 🙂 And as usual, I’ll be right where I usually am…at home!

  10. I actually think the long line thing is a marketing strategy. While you are in line you are subjected to two full on rows of impulse merchandise plus their TVs.

    • I remember years back some local town was looking at how to reduce traffic through the central business district. One councilman actually suggested that they reduce the number of traffic lanes, figuring that you probably couldn’t really decrease the time, but if you increased it, people would be forced to see the local businesses and might even stop. He thought it was a way to increase revenue in the town. The other council reps, likely surpressing laughs, pointed out that a bunch of enraged motorists probably wasn’t going to make the best demographic. I would hope that WM would not follow the same strategic misstep. I think it’s honestly just a function of keeping the minimal amount of people necessary on payroll while still keeping the doors open. Customers be d*mned.

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