July 02, 2018

My Love-Hate Relationship with Walmart

Let me preface this post by saying that the effectiveness of my bear spray expired on June 30th according to the label on the can.  Now you and I know that this is simply an arbitrary date chosen by the manufacturer and, chances are, the spray will still be effective for at least a short time thereafter.  I am particularly hopeful that this is true as I carry it when I go for my daily walks down a quiet road in a forested area and I haven’t been able to pick up a new container yet.  I found out that this product can no longer be shipped to the state in which I live and the nearest outfitter doesn’t have any in stock right now.  However, since we have had three bear sightings within the past two weeks or so and one included a mama with two teeny tiny cubs, I thought it best to point out my situation to you in the event that, well, just in case I become as expired as my bear spray.

Let’s face it.  There is probably nothing I can say about Walmart that hasn’t already been said by someone, somewhere.  But that’s not going to stop me from sharing my personal feelings with you.  Please note that I’m not affiliated with Walmart in any way other than as a customer.  I am neither encouraging you to do business with them nor discouraging you from it.  I’m not being compensated in any way for this post; I’m simply sharing my opinion.

I have a long term relationship with Wally World and, as with any serious relationship, it’s a jumbled conglomeration of different feelings – fondness and gratitude, admiration and annoyance and, yes, sometimes even love and anger.  Of course, this is all quite one-sided since I don’t think Wally is even aware of my feelings.  Nor, apparently, does he care.  Since I don’t generally take photos of my shopping activities, please enjoy some random outdoor photos while I try to explain my love-hate relationship with Walmart.

Groceries – I have mentioned in prior posts that I consider myself our family’s CFO (Chief Financial Officer).  That’s because I’m the one who pays the bills, monitors the investments, researches major purchases and does the household shopping.  (It’s not that Alan doesn’t do any financially-related chores, it’s just that I do the majority of them.  So don’t think he’s slacking; I can assure you, he’s not.)  As CFO, I try to wring as much as I can out of every dollar I have to part with, knowing that, if I spend those dollars carefully on what we need, we’ll be better able to afford what we want.  When it comes to grocery shopping, I do the bulk of ours at Walmart, followed closely by Sam’s Club.  I do like the quality of the meat sold at Sam’s and it’s rare that I can beat their milk prices anywhere else.  Walmart offers a large selection of name brands and good quality in most of their store brand items, so I truly appreciate the amount of money I can save there on groceries.  I’m not a big “brand shopper.”  I’ll start with a generic and if we all like it and have no problem with it, then that’s that.  When a generic item doesn’t do the trick for us, I’ll move on to a brand name and Walmart offers very reasonable prices on both store and name brands.  We do have an Aldi’s in the same area, but it’s a small one.  While I have certain items I always buy at Aldi’s, I’m not really able to do the bulk of my grocery shopping there.  So, I’m grateful for Walmart’s low prices and take full advantage of them, even though I know they squeeze their suppliers and have been responsible in some areas for forcing small local shops out of business.  (This relationship stuff – it’s complicated.)  The one issue I do have with groceries is that it often takes weeks for a particular item to be re-stocked.  I recall reading about Walmart’s inventory system and it’s pretty amazing (there’s the admiration I mentioned earlier) but, it seems to me, that the re-stocking delays are sometimes quite unreasonable – and annoying.  Don’t forget that I mentioned annoyance, too.

Clothing – Alan and I don’t buy a lot of clothes.  Even when we had corporate-type jobs, our wardrobes were basic and classic, not trendy or fancy.  The clothes we end up replacing most often now are jeans, t-shirts, underwear and socks simply due to normal wear.  Walmart always carries the Wrangler jeans and single color t-shirts Alan likes, as well as underwear and socks for both of us.  It’s easy to stock up, whether in the store or online, which I appreciate.  Plus, as with groceries, it’s pretty hard to beat the prices.

Support for the RV lifestyle – Almost every Walmart I’ve ever been in has had an “RV aisle” in their automotive section where you can re-stock your toilet tank chemicals, find some appropriate outdoor lights or replace some of your cracked or broken levelers.  When you see the familiar Wally World sign ahead, you pretty much know you’ll find what you need for your fridge, your pantry, your tow vehicle and your RV – and that’s a very comforting feeling when you’re traveling.  Plus, Walmart makes it clear on their official web site that RV travelers are welcome to spend the night in their parking lots unless overnight parking is prohibited by local ordinance (link HERE).  Many of us have taken advantage of Walmart’s hospitality (either by choice or necessity) and have been grateful for the relative safety provided by a lighted parking lot and the presence of fellow RVers, as well as the opportunity to re-stock our provisions at reasonable prices or replace a sewer hose that suddenly came to the end of its useful life.  What does bother me, though, is that Walmart could easily publish a list of their locations that allow overnight parking but they don’t and I’m not sure why.  The good news is that Roundabout Publications has compiled a list of “No Park Walmarts” (link HERE) that I print out and keep with my Trip Notes when we travel.  (I also added the link to "my favorite places" in the column at the right on this blog.)  I don’t know how often the list is updated, so I suggest that you call ahead to your destination Walmart to confirm the availability of parking.  Thank goodness somebody is on the ball here!

Walmart Savings Catcher – In the spring of 2015, Walmart introduced their Savings Catcher program and it’s still active.  By simply logging in to Savings Catcher using your Walmart account information and entering the transaction number on your receipt and the date of purchase, you send the Walmart computers off on a search to see if any competitors in the area are offering a better price on your purchases.  If Walmart finds a cheaper price at a competitor, guess what – you get the difference!  But note that this applies to groceries, only, not everything Walmart sells.  You can redeem the funds you earn in-store with Walmart Pay or when you order online.  I really like Savings Catcher – and I really don’t.  I realize that, by entering the transaction number of my purchase, I’m feeding Walmart information about my buying habits.  That bothers me, particularly because Alan and I tend to be very private people and we work hard at our anonymity in public and online.  (Since I usually pay for groceries with cash, I don’t think they’d have a way to figure out what I’m buying if I didn’t tell them.)  But, I also don’t mind when somebody hands me money for doing something that takes such little time.  Granted, I’ve earned only about $112.00 over the past three years BUT I’ll bet if I walked up to you and handed you a Ben Franklin and a few of his buddies, you’d be happy to tuck that cash in your wallet, wouldn’t you?  (Chances are, that dollar amount would be a bit higher if I bought more brand name groceries.)  That being said, I have to point out that Walmart’s customer support when it comes to the Savings Catcher program is dismal.  Once last October and once this May, I entered receipts that seemed to be stuck in the “validating” segment of the process.  Normally, you’re cautioned to allow 72 hours, I believe, for your receipts to process.  These receipts just never processed.  I used the Customer Service Contact form on the Savings Catcher web site to ask for help – once in October for those receipts and once in May for the more recent ones.  Guess what.  No response – and, therefore NO HELP from Savings Catcher.  That stinks.  And it pisses me off.  Ooops!  Did I say that?!  Poor (or worse, non-existent) customer service really makes me angry.  But wait.  It gets better.  I mean, worse.  After I didn’t receive a response from Savings Catcher after my inquiry in May, I used the Customer Service Contact form on the regular Walmart web site.  And I received an auto-response indicating that my inquiry had been received and would be addressed:

Dear MARY,

Thank you for contacting Walmart where we are happy to help. Your satisfaction is our top priority and your comments have been forwarded to the appropriate area for resolution. You should hear something within a few business days.

Thank you,
Walmart Customer Care

Well, maybe I should hear something, but I didn’t!  And that note came in on June 19th.  Boy, this aggravates me to no end.  Why do businesses promise and then not bother delivering on their promise, adding insult to injury?  The only good thing that happened is that my two receipts from May were finally validated.  (The two from October are still stuck in no man’s land.)  Whether that was due to my inquiry or not, I don’t know.  But, really, don’t you think someone could have had the courtesy to respond?  Normally, I’d take my dollars elsewhere, but I save so much money through Walmart that it would be like biting off my nose to spite my face.  (Gosh, that is one of the dumbest expressions out there.  Seriously, who would do that?!)  So, I continue to visit Walmart stores both locally and when on the road, even though I’m truly annoyed that they say all the right words but, in actuality, don’t care for customers as individuals.  (See?  I told you this relationship stuff was complicated.)  I know I could take this issue up with someone further up the line but, honestly, it’s not worth my time or effort.  I’m one customer out of a gazillion and my $80 a week is a drop in the bucket to them.  Actually, it’s probably more like a quarter of a drop in a bucket and they have plenty of other customers around to feed their bottom line.  My wish is that companies everywhere, large and small, would actually earn the money their customers spend by treating them with respect, courtesy and kindness in addition to providing products of good quality.  All I can say is that they must not be teaching the Golden Rule in Business 101 these days.  If my ranting hasn’t put you off too badly and you would like to investigate the Walmart Savings Catcher program you can link (HERE).  As annoyed as I am about the lack of customer service, it’s still free money and, if I had to choose whether that $112.00 was in my pocket or theirs, well, that’s an easy decision to make!

Walmart Vision Center – I absolutely LOVE Dr. Matt and the staff at our local Walmart Vision Center.  If I understand the arrangement correctly, the Vision Centers run independently of Walmart itself - maybe there’s some kind of contract arrangement in place.  I do remember one of the local staff members saying that Walmart pretty much leaves them alone and I did notice that the eye exam portion of our daughter’s last visit was billed separately from the purchase of her contacts through Walmart.  We have lucked out with an excellent eye doctor at this facility.  It’s obvious that Dr. Matt knows his stuff, but he’s also kind, caring and happy to carry on a conversation whether it’s in reference to your eyes or your hobby.  In a world where many providers are looking past you to the next appointment on their calendar, his “bedside manner” is refreshing.  Many of his vision associates (top shelf staff members, every single one of them) have been at this location for years – and I’m talking 10, 15 and 20 years.  It is always a pleasure to work with this crew.  Couple that with Walmart’s low cost for eye glasses and contacts, and I’m a happy camper.  (We don’t have vision insurance, so we pay out of pocket for exams for the four of us, plus Kyra’s contacts and glasses for Alan and me.  Ryan is proud to point out that he has perfect vision.  (Just wait, Buddy, just you wait.)  So, two thumbs up, a tip of my hat and a round of applause for our Walmart Vision Center!

So, there you have it – my love-hate relationship with Walmart.  As with any relationship that’s important to you, you make a decision (consciously or not) to accept the annoying habits along with the endearing ones.  I’m in this one for the long haul, so I’ll do my part and act like an adult.  Still, I can’t help but wonder . . . Wally, whatever am I going to do with you?

Thank you for visiting today, and best wishes to all for a happy and fun-filled Independence Day!


  1. Happy Fourth to you and yours, Mary! Another great post! I too struggle with love/hate with Wally World. And a big Amen on the vision center—ours in Bristol, Virginia is fabulous!

    1. Thanks, Peg! And I'm so happy you're enjoying the blog! Last year, Kyra went in for her annual eye exam a couple of months before she took her State Board exams for her Cosmetology license. I remember Dr. Matt encouraging her and reminding her that people will always need professionals like eye doctors and hair stylists. Such a good doctor - and a really nice guy, too!

  2. We do all of our regular grocery shopping at Walmart. There are two Supercenters and one Neighborhood market within 10 minutes of our home. One of the first irritations you mentioned was with stocking issues. I concur. Why a chain that has built itself on strict inventory control and delivery systems sometimes fails so obviously is beyond me.

    Also, it is strange that the two Supercenters are so different in how well they stock basics, like produce and meat, as well as everyday stuff like eggs, chips, even milk. You would probably assume Walmart has a system and every store follows it.

    Not so. After a few years of putting up with poor restocking, narrow aisles, and a non-responsive manager, we started going to the other Supercenter...about the same distance from home. That store has wide, clean aisles, fully stocked shelves, and never seems to be low (or out of) what we need. They restock Sunday evening instead of mid-late morning on Mondays, so we never have to dodge those workers or find what we want is still in a box out back.

    The prices are great, the convenience level is high. Their pay for workers is getting better and the people we interact with seem happy with their jobs. But, why there isn't a consistent restocking policy among all stores is just one of those things that makes you scratch your head.

    1. That's really interesting, Bob. If you said it was the Neighborhood Market that was managed differently, that would make a little more sense, but why two Supercenters - especially that close together - wouldn't be on the same system makes no sense. Walmart is so well established, you'd think that the powers that be would have worked out the economies of scale and perfected the processes years ago. I guess I'll just keep scratching my head, too. Thanks for stopping by!


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