Our new national pastime: Beating up on Wal-Mart.

At the moment I'm writing this: an article entitled, "Layaway, other changes irk Wal-Mart loyalists," is at the top of the front page of MSNBC.com. Frankly, the article itself is nothing new, but the comments are incredible! Again at the moment, there are 12 pages of them. I don't have time to get through them all, but I haven't found a positive one yet. They include this:
Wal-mart is just about over as a company. Sad but true. Lee Scott was a bad pick as a CEO. Sam was wonderful and had foresight. Lee is scared and has not original thought. I loved the company but it is only a shadow now.
This:
This is a sad, sad store and has a sad, sad manager. Most of us in our little town liked the store just the way it was before the re-model. Walmart you wasted your money. Along with many of the comments on clothes I have stopped buying them as well. I am a grown woman and can not wear that stuff you call clothes and as well the quality has gone down. Prices are skyrocketing at this Walmart. I can go to the next town and buy a new released cd at Walmart and at the Kinston Walmart the price is double. I no longer shop at this Walmart. I go to the next town which is only 20 minutes away and shop at TARGET....much better for me.
And this:
I will not shop at Wal-Mart. Their employee's are among the rudest un-helpful people. Their stores are messy, cluttered and dirty.
Someone better tell Edelman about this so they can go astroturf some positive comments pronto!

11 Responses to “Our new national pastime: Beating up on Wal-Mart.”

  1. UncleBob says:

    For the life of me, I still cannot understand why so many people think that Lay-a-way is their one and only option for buying toys for Christmas (and such).

    If you are responsible with your money, you can sit aside $X every so often (just pretend you’re paying on a Lay-a-way), then, when you have your budgeted amount saved up, go on a Christmas shopping spree.

    One person quoted in that story didn’t even make sense – she said she was putting money in a savings account but was afraid she wouldn’t have enough money saved up for the big ticket items her children wanted for Christmas. Ummm… if you can’t save enough money for them, then you won’t be able to pay them off to get them out of Lay-a-way either! It’s not like anyone *saves* money by putting stuff in Lay-a-way. It was just a nice, convent way to *help* individuals budget their money. Now, those individuals have to budget their own money.

    Now, I won’t argue that it was ‘nice’ for a store to offer such a service, but there were many, many good financial reasons for the company to discontinue the service. While the company may have passed off the “credit card” line, that was pretty much one out of easily five different reasons I can come up with off the top of my head to get rid of Lay-a-way. These reasons don’t really mean too much to the customers who liked lay-a-way, mind you. But they’re still very solid reasons for getting rid of a “service” that required so much to be put into it.

  2. Sam says:

    Bummer MSNBC requires microsoft products so I can’t read their comments. Hence why I won’t have microsoft products.

    UB doesn’t seem to understand what it’s like for some of the people that live in Wal-Mart dominated towns. It’s not pretty and it’s not fun. In fact, depressing is a generous assessment.

    However, I’m pretty sure the main reason for Wal-Mart’s elimination of the lay-away departments was to be able to funnel it’s customers that would use the lay-away to it’s high-fee secured visa cards even when those customers are the ones who can least afford it, yet were Wal-Mart’s most loyal but now discarded base.

    That big sucking sound? That’s Wal-Vamp. Headquarters in Transville, Arkania. CEO Lestat Scott, family consisting of the Counts and Countesses Walton.

  3. UncleBob says:

    Actually, as I’ve mentioned before, Wal*Mart is about all there is in this town. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with Wal*Mart not offering Lay-a-way, does it?

    And to suggest that getting rid of lay-a-way has to do with offering pre-paid credit cards… well, that’s just plain silly. If you’re going to save up the money to buy stuff for, say, Christmas, then save it up on a Gift Card or in a bank account instead of the pre-paid credit card. No fees there. I will say that the actual Wal*Mart credit card (not the Green Dot Visa) probably had something to do with getting rid of lay-a-way…

  4. Sam says:

    It’s been said many times, I believe here too, that Wal-Mart has one of the highest percentages of customers who don’t have bank accounts. We can be sure Wal-Mart is well aware of that even if UB isn’t.

    Much of what Wal-Mart announced yesterday will be directed at consumers who do not use banks. Wal-Mart says, for example, that 20 percent of its customers — about 27 million people — do not have checking accounts. The so-called Wal-Mart Money Card, to be issued with GE Money, a division of General Electric, would allow customers to transfer their paychecks directly onto their cards and make purchases at any retailer that accepts Visa cards. It will also allow them to check their balances online or on mobile phone, pay certain bills or withdraw cash from A.T.M.’s.

    The prepaid card will initially cost $8.95, and comes with a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee. Cash can be loaded on the card free by cashing a payroll or government check at Wal-Mart or having the money directly deposited; otherwise, cardholders must pay $4.64 to reload it.

    Gift cards aren’t always a great way to go either even if people understand and grasp the concept. For one, it can ONLY be used at Wal-Mart. If one is going to go with a gift card to save money then one might as well go somewhere else. Also, a gift card doesn’t hold the hot toy that likely won’t be there the week before x/mas and they also often charge a monthly fee if not used within a certain time frame (even as they earn interest on the money) so the card can be claimed back and absorbed into the books. It’s also annoying to be stuck with a card for a store one doesn’t like anymore or has only a dollar on left on it, which really adds up for the store.

    By offering the VISA Wal-Mart is betting in part on the idea that people don’t want to carry around a deck of gift cards for various stores. But, oh boy, does it cost to have that card.

  5. UncleBob says:

    Wal*Mart gift cards do not have a monthly fee. In fact, Wal*Mart gift cards are one of the few that financial expert Clark Howard recommends (on those occasions that you feel you absolutely *must* give a gift card, that is. Otherwise, he recommends you give cash).

    If you have a gift card with a dollar left on it, apply it to your next purchase. It’s not too difficult. If you don’t like the store, re-gift the card (you can even go to the store and apply one card toward the purchase of another if you need a different design!) or sell it on eBay. Or, I believe, there are multiple “Gift Card Exchange” websites out there.

    And if you don’t have a bank account to save money in and don’t want to save it on a gift card, then roll it up, put it in a sock and hide it under your mattress.

    As for a Gift Card not holding that “hot toy”… well, tough luck. First come, first serve – just how it should be. Why is it more fair for ParentA to grab the last of HotToyX, throw it in Lay-a-way and make ParentB miss out on getting HotToyX when B is willing to pay for it right there on the spot?

    And, again, the Green Dot VISA doesn’t really have anything to do with the lack of Lay-a-way. You cannot purchase items with the Green Dot and pay for them later – I don’t think even Bentonville is stupid enough to think customers will use the Green Dot card instead of Lay-a-way – so it really does not apply to this conversation and I don’t see why you keep insisting on bringing it up except to make some strange connection between the loss of Lay-a-way and the crazy fees that VISA charges for the Green Dot Card.

    How about, instead of discussing ham when the topic is fruit, let’s talk about fruit. Let’s talk about the many reasons getting rid of lay-a-way is a good or bad thing for Wal*Mart and their customers. Not being able to hold the hot toy until you have the money to pay for it is bad for some customers (good for others). Not being able to use lay-a-way as a bank to save your money is another thing bad for customers (although with all the anti-Wal*Mart crusaders who threw such a fit when Wal*Mart actually tried to become a bank, you think they’d be glad that Wal*Mart is no longer offering this service). Is there any other real reason why no lay-a-way is *bad* for customers? Because there are plenty more reasons as getting rid of lay-a-way was a good choice for Wal*Mart.

  6. I think I see a business opportunity here – a substitute layaway service. The service buys the item desired and collects the layaway payments (plus a fee for advancing the money).

    There would be some sort of penalty for failure to complete the terms of the agreement.

    How about it UncleBob – want to try your hand at being an entrepreneur? All you need is a small amount of cash (or credit) to finance the initial purchases and a place to store the items.

  7. UncleBob says:

    Hardly… Again, I completely agree with WM getting rid of lay-a-way (although not for the “use credit cards!” reasoning that was officially given).

    If someone did the Lay-a-way program outside of Wal*Mart, perhaps they could limit customers to 89 days to pay off their lay-a-way (depending on the item, of course). Then, if it isn’t paid off on that 89th day, the business could return the item to Wal*Mart with the receipt on the 90th day – they could keep the transaction fee, but agree to return the payments to the customer (or not return the payments, I suppose… that probably wouldn’t go over well).

  8. Sam says:

    I didn’t realize you had been appointed the moderator here UncleBob. I can’t find notice of it anywhere.

    How about, instead of discussing ham when the topic is fruit, let’s talk about fruit. Let’s talk about the many reasons getting rid of lay-a-way is a good or bad thing for Wal*Mart and their customers. Not being able to hold the hot toy until you have the money to pay for it is bad for some customers (good for others). Not being able to use lay-a-way as a bank to save your money is another thing bad for customers (although with all the anti-Wal*Mart crusaders who threw such a fit when Wal*Mart actually tried to become a bank, you think they’d be glad that Wal*Mart is no longer offering this service). Is there any other real reason why no lay-a-way is *bad* for customers? Because there are plenty more reasons as getting rid of lay-a-way was a good choice for Wal*Mart.

    But as long as you wanna talk about ham it’s okay then? Good. Because the article I linked was from from the New York Times and is titled, At Wal-Mart, a Back Door Into Banking and while you get to think whatever you want UB (you do get to do that), I too am able to find you humorous and wrong.

    Nothing you have said changed what I presented. But if you can’t understand why cash might not be a good idea to have hanging around a home in many very low income neighborhoods (those often catered to by Wal-Mart), then you are not just insensitive.

    What’s really funny UncleBob is that the article that started this particular blog post actually mentions the cards:

    “I always believed that they’re always trying to give us the lowest prices and they’re not for the rich man, you know?” said Jennifer Reynolds, a 28-year-old mother of four who used to depend on layaway for her children’s school uniforms and holiday gifts. “I just can’t believe that they would get rid of layaway and say, ‘Here, well, here’s a credit card.’”

    But in case that’s not hitting you upside the head enough we can go to other articles about the closing of the layaway where the connections are even clearer

    The retail giant said consumers who apply for a new Discover or Wal-Mart credit card will get $20 cash back if they purchase at least $100 on their card on the same day.

    The company said customers can also make zero-interest payments on merchandise up to 12 months if they have a Wal-Mart account.

    This article also has a bonus in giving yet another reason for layaway:

    Meanwhile, Wal-Mart competitor Kmart said it has no intention of doing away with its layaway program.

    Kmart senior vice president Don Germano told Reuters that the layaway program is offered as a convenience to customers who have purchased an item as a gift and want to keep it a secret.

    “Layaway service is a way for gift-givers to keep presents away from prying eyes,” Germano said.

    When you don’t have much, you don’t have a lot of room to hide it either.

    Not that, as the original article points out, holiday gifts are the ONLY reason to use layaway.

    You don’t get to see only what you wanna see UB.

  9. […] I just went back to the comments on that MSNBC story I wrote about on Friday [Sam, you can read them with the latest version of Firefox too. I wouldn’t be caught dead using Explorer either.] There are now 105 pages and I still can’t find anything positive. If anything, they’re even more hostile at the bottom than at the top. […]

  10. UncleBob says:

    You are so clever!!!

    Seriously, if you want to talk about Layaway, I’m more than willing to discuss it with you – but I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to ask that we keep the topic on stuff related to layaway. Not the Green Dot VISA – which is very different from the Wal*Mart Credit Card or the Wal*Mart Discover Card. I’m beginning to wonder if you’re even aware that these are totally different objects…

    Yes, I am insensitive. I feel that people are better helped by hearing the truth than being coddled to. I understand that the truth isn’t always nice – but if you have a smell, wouldn’t you rather someone tell you that you stink instead of going around all day smelling and everyone talking about you behind your back? Yes, I’m insensitive – and I’m proud of it simply because it also makes me honest.

    If you don’t feel safe hiding money in your home, then put it in the bank! Don’t have a bank account? Then get one! Most banks offer various accounts that require no minimums and have no fees (short of overdrawing fees and the like). Heck, get one of those Christmas savings accounts. I’m sorry, but just because ‘you’ don’t have a place to store your cash, it doesn’t mean Wal*Mart has *any* obligation to provide you with such a place. Even though they do, with Gift Cards and the Green Dot VISA – are those methods perfect? Hardly. Again, that’s what banks are for – not retail stores.

    The article that started this post did not mention the Green Dot VISA – it was talking about the Wal*Mart/Discover cards. Again, are you even aware that the two are completely different programs?

    Wow… K-Mart still has Lay-a-way, eh?

    …and how’s Sears Holdings Corporation been doing lately? I know my two closest K-Mart stores closed within the last two years. But as long as they still offer Lay-a-way, it’s all good, eh?

  11. UncleBob says:

    Part 2:
    And let’s talk about Lay-a-way storage. Oddly enough, that’s one of the many good reasons for Wal*Mart getting rid of lay-a-way. For example, in our store (which is a smaller one), we had six bins dedicated to lay-a-way each year. At Christmas time, we’d have to rent at least three outside storage trailers. Aside from the costs of having to rent these trailers (and one store I worked at had to rent about 30+ each year at Christmas time), you have to deal with people breaking in to the trailer and stealing stuff (so much for lay-a-way holding HotToyX, eh?), getting Management to open the back doors whenever you needed to get into the trailers. Sending associates out in the dark/cold/snow/rain, etc to get packages. Customers getting upset because their packages were stored outside. Auditing the trailers (and the bins) to make sure what’s in them is supposed to be in them (and you want an accurate audit listing, because if one of the trailers *does* get broken into, you need to be able to do your best to replace the stolen items). All this so customers could come in, put everything on lay-a-way and pay it all off but $1 (the day they put it in) just so they have a place to store their stuff until December 15th.

    Meanwhile, you’ve got the bins in the store that can now actually be put to use (which is a good thing, especially during the Christmas shopping season). In our store, the six lay-a-way bins are all in use. One bin has become storage for Site-to-store orders – a neat program that actually *does* save customers money (unlike lay-a-way) since it keeps them from paying for shipping costs. I can’t tell you how many large items we’ve had delivered that have actually saved our customers a nice amount of money.

    Two other bins have been converted to storage for Televisions. Not only does this allow us to keep more TVs onhand (which helps keep us from going out of stock – which, as we know, is something customers *hate*), but it allows us to keep more televisions in a handy place. Before, most televisions were kept on pallets on top of the bins. This would require finding an associate who is trained to work the electric pallet jack and having them get down the pallet needed. Getting a TV from the back for a customer could take 20 mins or more – now that process is as simple as grabbing the TV off a shelf and loading it on a 2-wheeler.

    The other three bins (one of which we plan to convert to site-to-store for Christmas) allow us to store other merchandise in the same way as the televisions. We can store *more* of it (helping to keep us in-stock on fast moving items) and we can get to it easier.

    Does it suck that some customers don’t get free storage for their Christmas presents? Yeah. Is it good for customers that we’ve not got more storage room in the back to carry more quantity of merchandise leading to less out-of-stock merchandise? Is it good for customers that we can offer free shipping on many items from the online store – offering a way for them to purchase a larger selection of merchandise at no additional costs? Is it good that we don’t have to spend so much money at the holiday season for trailers to store lay-a-way merchandise in (and that money, ideally, helps cut costs which, ideally, helps keep prices low)? Well, it sure sounds good to me, but I’ll let you make your own, personal decision on that one.

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