I would guess that, especially compared to most guys in their 20s, I tend to have a more favorable opinion of Wal-Mart than most of the population in general. I consider Sam Walton’s life to be one of the best “stories” in American history—a man that got ripped off by his landlord running a Benjamin Franklin Five & Dime store risked it all to start his own enterprise, to the mockery of Sears and the banks from which he sought his original capital (incidentally, Sam Walton eventually went on to own the bank that denied him a loan).
I love the fact that Wal-Mart’s growing profits over the past forty years have made young men and men rich, and have provided retirees with the kinds of annual boosts in income (thanks to Wal-Mart’s growing dividend) that have allowed them to spend their retirement years eating lobster and crab instead of ramen noodles. Wal-Mart has paid countless billions in taxes over the past forty years that have been used to build our nation’s infrastructure, fund our military, and help provide an education for our kids in schools. Despite its demonization, I get that Wal-Mart has done a lot good.
But I am much less sympathetic when a company with a rich history turns around and engages in corrupt business practices. When I visited the Wal-Mart in St. Louis by the Highway 141 and Manchester Road intersection this past summer, I would regularly find items moderately on sale ($1.24 items going for a $1.00), and that kind of thing. But then, when I’d get to the cash register, I would find that Wal-Mart would try and charge me $1.24. Because I’m a big enough nerd to pay attention to $0.24 differences, I usually correct the cashier, get it fixed, and then go about my way.
My problem though is that this business practice has a particularly scheming nature to it and that Wal-Mart is trying to capitalize on the customer base by generating emotional goodwill by customers thinking they are getting a sale price (a couple nickels or dimes off, whatever it may be) but then, when it comes time to pay, they slip the old price in there and do not do anything about it.
I’ll give you the example that inspired this post. Recently, Wal-Mart had a sale on Sprite—selling it for $1 rather than the usual price of $1.38. I grabbed the two-liter and went to the checkout, where the machine tried to charge me $1.38. I pointed out the problem to the cashier, got it fixed, and then went along my way.
And here’s what bothered me—Wal-Mart doesn’t actually fix the price of the stuff that is mismatched. I went there again tonight, and encountered the same problem all over again. The giant cases of Sprite are advertised as on sale for $1. See picture below.
Yet, when I go to pay, they try to charge me $1.38. I got the guy to fix it to $1, but it’s the practice in general that bothers me; it’s so sneaky to just try and take a couple of nickels and dimes from customers here and there. I only get a few items and I use self-checkout, so I have a realistic chance to catch these things. But if you are standing in line with a couple kids, and buying 30+ items, you’re not going to notice the extra nickels, dimes, and quarters that Wal-Mart squeezes out of you by charging you the original price when you think you are getting it on sale. It’s been happening to me for a while at this location; going forward, I’ll take a picture and make a post of it each time while I’m still in town, so hopefully they’ll get this corrupt business practice fixed.