Walmart Price Scam
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Business as Usual
I would like to be clear about one thing. The situation that I describe here is not the rare exception. I run into incorrect or missing price labels about 20% of the time. While the specifics vary from one case to the next, there is a clear pattern of unacceptably high error rate along with reluctance and resistance to do anything about it. The situation described below is very much business as usual.
How Much is That?
I shop at the Walmart at 9400 E Hampden Ave, in Denver, CO. I normally go every 3 or 4 days. In early March of 2014 I was trying to compare the price of Carving Board Turkey to the price of Sun Dried Turkey. My focus was to compare the unit price, i.e., cost per ounce. I noticed a discrepancy on the unit price shelf label for the Hormel Sun Dried Turkey. The shelf label is for an 8 ounce package, but the item is a 7 ounce package.
The unit price on the shelf label is understated (i.e., incorrect) which might tend to mislead a shopper into thinking the price per ounce of the Sun Dried Turkey is a bargain when in fact it is not. It might tend to mislead a shopper (such as myself) to select the Sun Dried Turkey over Carving Board.
I took the Sun Dried Turkey with me to the check out. At the start of the check out process – I told the cashier I would please like to speak to a manager. The cashier called a manager, and then proceeded to ring up my order – about 15 items. At the very end of the check out process, someone showed up and asked me if I was the one who asked for a manager. I gave this person the box of Sun Dried Turkey, and explained the problem with the unit price on the shelf label. The “manager” headed off in the direction of the Sun Dried Turkey, and I headed for my car with my groceries.
Three or four days later, on my next trip to Walmart, I checked the price label to see if the error had been fixed. It had not.
On my next trip to Walmart, I again checked the price label to see if the error had been fixed. It had not. So I took a box of the Sun Dried Turkey with me to the check out, and repeated the process of speaking to a manager. I explained that this was the 2nd time I had pointed out the problem. I don’t remember what the 2nd manager said, but I do remember thinking it was unlikely that this problem would be fixed.
The next 3 or 4 times I came to the store, I kept checking. There was no change. The misleading label continued to show the wrong unit price.
Kelly Doe, Shift Manager
On March 26th ,2014, I spotted a “Manager” (I use the term loosely) in the general area of the Sun Dried Turkey, and I pointed out the incorrect pricing info. I explained that this was the 3rd time I had raised the issue.
It was clear to me that this “Manager” was not the solution. He was bound and determined that he would not under any circumstances fix the incorrect info on the shelf unit price label. He blamed the home office. To be clear, Doug, he blamed you. When I asked the “Manager” for his name – he showed me his name tag which said “Kelly”. He refused to tell me his last name. He blamed that on the home office too. But he did say his title is “Shift Manager”.
On April 18th, 2014, I saw a person who was working with the price labels for these products. I asked him if he was going to fix the price label for the Sun Dried Turkey. He stated that there was nothing to fix, the label was correct. When I pointed out the unit price problem, I could see that what he really wanted was for me to go away. His name is Austin. I didn’t ask him for a last name. I went away.
On my next trip to the store (about 3 or 4 days later), I checked to see if anything had changed. Lo and behold, the Sun Dried Turkey (and the price label) was nowhere to be found. I thought to myself Walmart must have decided to solve this label problem by eliminating the product.
Nope - It's Worse Than That
It turns out I was giving Walmart more credit than they deserve. On my trip to the store today, I see the product is back on the shelf, and the unit price label is still showing 8 ounces for a 7 ounce product.
What Does Doug McMillon Think?
Doug – what do you think about this?
I understand that Walmart carries about 25,000 different products, which means 25,000 price labels, which means they are never going to be 100% correct.
It’s one thing for Walmart to say they try hard but there are always going to be errors. But that is not the problem here.
In any large database, there has to be a way to correct an error. This problem has been brought to your (Walmart's) attention at least 4 times – and you have consistently (stubbornly?) refused to correct the error.
The best case scenario is that the Walmart price label procedure is badly broken.
Doug, your undated ethics letter makes reference to
ethical behavior and willingness to speak up for the highest standards
I don't think Kelly Doe got the memo.
Doug, this makes you look bad. It calls into question your honesty and your integrity. Are you willing (eager?) to trick customers with wrong price labels? Or not?
35-14-111 - Misrepresentation of price.
My source for the above is a document dated 2009. Doug I'm pretty sure you have nothing to worry about from the "authorities" here in Colorado. Having said that, by copy of this letter I am asking the Colorado Governor, Attorney General, and the legislators from my district to treat this as a formal complaint.
-- End of Letter --
Philip G Rice
G Rice and MKG Appraisal