Our friend BBCAmerican is having a crisis of confidence. A few days ago, he wrote:
Personally, I think my writing is getting stale and predictable. How many evil customers can you read about? Really?
I’m sure a lot of people read BBCAmerican because they too deal with the ugly side of American consumerism every day, and empathize. I like BBCAmerican’s evil customer stories because they remind me to maintain my humility when dealing with customer service personnel and to remember that they have feelings too. These are useful services. However, my favorite BBCAmerican posts, as you might imagine, are the ones where he vents his anger at his employer rather the customers. Ironically, the same day as his crisis of confidence he offered a post along these lines which might actually be the most important thing he’s ever written. The subject is recalled dog food. Here is the important part (with his emphasis left in):
1. Wal-Mart is notified that they’re selling the Gravy Train of Death. Or Ol’Roy’s Six Feet Under Special.
2. Wal-Mart’s Bentonville drones place a “sales restriction” on the item(s) in question. This is done by looking in a computer and seeing which of the products the company is selling, finding the appropriate UPC(s) and blocking those UPC(s) from being scanned at the register. Any register. Anywhere there is a Wal-Mart. Yes. The computer in Bentonville has tentacles all over the planet.
3. The Bentonville drones send an e-mail to the Dept. 8 manager and some other people, including the Service Desk (because customers can of course return their recalled items) telling them to pull the merchandise from the sales floor.
4. Oh wait. There isn’t a #4.
Yes. Wal-Mart’s corporate responsibility pretty much stops after a single e-mail is sent. I know. I have seen the e-mails saying “DEPT. 05 RECALL NOTICE – PULL AND HOLD XXXXX” And then there’s a lot of retailese about the product and why it has been recalled and so forth. And instructions on how to contact the vendor/manufacturer and get credit for the store.
Which really, e-mail is great for an educated, white-collar workplace with Blackberries, computers, WiFi, laptops and all that jazz. This do be the Wal-Mart people. We don’t have a Pets Deptartment Manager. Pets, with the fish and the sacks of dog food, is a place that NO ONE wants to be.
We have one Dept. 8 (that’s Pets) associate — a high-school dropout single mother with a 16-year-old kid struggling to pay her bills and keep her junk-bucket car running. She doesn’t get the e-mails because they only go to the Department Managers. What a system!
The Assistant Manager who is responsible for overseeing Pets is also responsible for the Garden Center, Cosmetics, Health & Beauty Aids, Pharmacy, Hardware & Toys. He probably gets about 20-30 of those e-mails a day. “Dog food?” Whatever. And that’s how that went.
Wal-Mart stores are understaffed. The people who work there are not paid to care. The best people there are undoubtedly daydreaming their escape route from Wally World most of the work day. If someone’s dog dies, it won’t come back to haunt the person who failed to pull Ol’ Roy off the shelf. They will probably never know.
Please understand that I don’t intend this line of argument as an insult to Wal-Mart employees. This common attitude reflects a deep and justified alienation brought about by management’s labor policies. If you want to shop at a store where nearly everyone you see is deeply alienated, then recognize that they might take that alienation out on you in some way whether they know they’re doing it or not. BBCAmerican uses words. Do you really think most Wal-Mart employees restrict themselves to blogs?