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I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike…

14/04/2010

Hooray for going green! Last night, after a harrowing adventure that led to one of my best life decisions ever, I became the proud owner of a Diamondback Lustre One — it’s pretty, it’s pink, it’s 21-speed, and thanks to the team at Dick’s Sporting Goods I got a great deal and an even better experience.

And now, for my life lesson: I will never, never, NEVER shop at Wal-Mart again. (Notice that I’m not linking them, either; I won’t be an accessory to your shopping experience.) I’ve heard the hype about what a ghetto-awful place it is, and I know about their tendency to union-bust and commit other questionable hiring practices, but hey — I’m a broke college grad who has to stretch a penny as far as it will go, and for a long time the best way to do that was to shop at the store from hell. Last night, however, was just too far.


I went to the Wal-Mart Web site to check out a bike I was interested in purchasing. Even with the sale price on my beloved new DB, I was in the market to spend at least $75 less. I found the bike, a Next Power Climber, for quite a reasonable price and called the closest store to me to see if they did, in fact, have it in stock.

That phone call should have been my first warning sign.

First, it took them more than five minutes to even get somebody to take my call. This may not seem like a long time, but when you’re waiting on the line that means you aren’t doing other valuable things with your time. In that time I could have been to my car and well on my way to the store myself — calling is supposed to save time. I decided to overlook it, though, when the associate who finally answered my call said that yes, they have one or two assembled floor models available. I planned to go in after dinner.

Fast-forward to 6:30 pm. I’m at the store, in the bike section…and there are no Power Climbers. This in itself is frustrating, but what is more frustrating is that we’ve been standing in the same aisle looking at the other models for nearly ten minutes and we’ve been ignored by the only associate to walk by. Oh well, maybe they have another model in the back. We stroll over to the “Site to Store” area (formerly layaway, of course) and press the button for assistance. While we’re waiting, I see a Power Climber sitting there — oh excitement! Until I look closer, that is, and realize that it’s been tagged for repair.

Three associates walk out of the back room, taking no notice of the two customers standing there waiting. The fourth drags himself over. “You guys waiting for something?” I calmly explain that we’d like some assistance with the bicycles, particularly backstock. “[Name redacted] should be over here…oh [name], where are you…” If you’re hearing a singsongy voice, you’re hearing it right. A few minutes go by, and we walk back over to the bikes. Meanwhile, they’ve paged the associate in question, who walks right past us to see what they want. We hear snippets of the conversation — the snippets in which said associate directs someone else to help us, he’s doing something.

I feel sorry for the kid who came over. He was new (which we didn’t know for sure at the time, but was pretty obvious), and when I told him what I wanted the expression on his face was akin to that of livestock just before the slaughter. Still, he was a trooper. He looked over the defective model and disappeared into the back to see what they had available. A few minutes later he walks back out: “Just a minute, ma’am.” I can tell where this is going.

Yes, yes, I was right! Ten more minutes of waiting, during which time a Customer Service Manager approaches and asks if we’re being helped. I told her what had transpired; satisfied that we weren’t totally ignored, she walked away. Sadly, after that point we were in fact totally ignored and, as you can tell from the beginning of the story, we walked out without buying the bike. We did not walk out, however, before telling the management team about our terrible experience and that no, we will not be shopping at Wal-Mart again.

Good products at reasonable prices are only part of the battle, no matter where you go. What makes a shopping experience worthwhile is the level of service you are provided, especially when you seek out that assistance. I don’t blame the new associate for being thrown into an unfamiliar situation; still, it’s unacceptable to show such blatant disregard for the people who are willing to drop a considerable amount of money in your store.

Will my refusal to patronise Wal-Mart cause their demise? I doubt it. But it will make a difference to those around me, who have seen and heard about my trouble, and it may cause them to think twice about where they choose to spend their money.

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