Sunday, November 2, 2008

Socks and an anti-Wal-Mart rant

Here are my Austermann Step Socks. Well, one of them. I have to say, I really do like this yarn. Don't love the price, but the yarn is delightful. I have recently acquired a couple balls of Red Heart's Heart & Sole (mmm, wit abounds in the Yarn Naming Department at Red Heart), which also has aloe, as Step yarn does. Given that I have three pairs of socks currently OTN (that's On The Needles for you non-knitters), it'll be while before I can compare the two yarns. Heart & Sole is certainly cheaper, and comes in a brighter array of colors.

Here is Stormy (I think - it's hard to tell who's who from the back) checking out a couple of Halloween indulgences. For those of you unaware of my Halloween passion, it is my favorite holiday of the year. Yes, I like it much better than Christmas. (Truth told, I like dental work better than I like Christmas.) There is no actual legislation that I know of dictating that all delightfully gaudy/tacky Halloween fabric come to my house to live, but one look at my Halloween fabric collection would tell you that I function as though I were required by law to buy at least 1/2 yard of any fabric bearing witches, spiders or cats, monsters, mummies, vampires, etc. I liked the silly cat fabric on the right so much that I bought this additional yard (I bought some back in Sept.), with which I will make a sock-knitting bag. The fabrics shown above were purchased at the Mayodan, NC, Wal-Mart, where apparently the management has given up caring whether or not customers are helped, happy, etc. Here's what happened:

It was a Sunday evening, and the store had a small number of customers. I think I saw maybe 15 people shopping. I went to the craft dept, where the ragged sign taped to the pillar advises you to "Ring Bell For Service" and has a handy arrow pointing down to the counter, where there is no bell. I waited around for about five minutes, wandering through the craft aisles in search of an associate. Then I walked the entire length of the store, looking for a body in one of those oh-so-attractive blue smocks.

No associates. None in shoes, the baby dept, electronics, or auto supplies.

So I went back to the craft dept and picked up the desk phone, which has a bunch of numbers thoughtfully pre-programmed and labled. I pressed the Service Desk button. When the ubiquitous Wal-Mart zombie answered, sounding as if she'd had to crawl out of a grave to do so, I said, "Hello, I'm standing in your craft department, using your official Wal-Mart phone, and I would like to have someone cut some fabric for me."

Wal-Mart Zombie (after a considerable pause): "I'll see if I can find someone."

Me: "Thank you. I have looked--"

Wal-mart Zombie hangs up.

So I wait about eight minutes (yes, I time these things), and nobody shows. At no point did I hear the intercom call for someone to report to the craft dept. I'm getting bored, so I start playing with the price scanner gun chained to the counter. (Really, they think these things are selling big at pawn shops?) It takes me roughly 30 seconds to figure out how to turn the thing on, scan the UPC code on the end of the fabric bolt, and scan the 1-yard UPC code that has been taped to the counter. I cut a yard of the first fabric and print out a label from the printer (also chained to the counter), and apply it to my fabric. I repeat the process for the second fabric and proceed to the checkout, where something truly amazing happened:

Although I was only the third person in line, a cashier opened another check-out line.

Now, I have been in this same Wal-Mart at the height of a Saturday afternoon rush, when they have had just 3 check-out lines open (and, of course, every self-serve check-outs that is not displaying the blinky "Need assistance" light is closed), each with up to 10 people waiting.

On this particular evening, there were only two lines open with a total of maybe five people waiting, and yet this girl opened another. I suspect she may have been channeling Sam Walton, who did actually care about Wal-Mart being a decent place to shop (American-made goods, helpful customer service, a place to work that does not suck the life out of you, etc.) as opposed to the soul-sucking, country-destroying cancer it has become. Before Sam died, there used to be signs hanging over every check-out that advised you to see the manager to have another line opened if there were more than three people in line. I suspect that Sam had not yet been embalmed before every Wal-Mart in America snatched down those signs. Just as I suspect that his heirs and managers were signing contracts to bring in tons of crap made in other countries even before they signed the guest book at his funeral.

But I digress.

This dear girl greeted me in a friendly fashion and asked me if I'd found everything I was looking for. I said, "Yes, except for an associate to cut fabric." What I was thinking: "Wow - you must be new here. You're acting like a human being. How refreshing."

She looked down at the fabric, noted the official Wal-Mart barcode labels, and said, "Then how did you get this?"

Me: "I figured out the scanner and did it myself."

Cashier: "Do you work here?"

Me: "No. That thing's not complicated, you know." I then explained that I'd used the official Wal-Mart phone to call the official Wal-Mart Service Desk, waited, then decided I had a life and I really should get on with it.

Cashier: "Wow. I'm sorry about that. Let me get the Customer Service Manager."

So she calls over a woman whose tag said "Customer Service Manager." At no point did this woman offer an apology for the self-serve or the obvious failure of the Service Desk. She, in fact, seemed to think it was all quite amusing. So amusing that she went to share the hilarity with the assistant manager. Upon reurning, chortling merrily, she said, "The assistant manager wants to know if you want a job."

Wrong answer.

Smartass answer.

Upon seeing the expression on my face, she quickly added: "We need somebody back there. Really."

Me: "Obviously."

I got the assistant manager's name, and have drafted a letter to him explaining that he not only needs someone capable of cutting fabric, but he desperately needs a customer service training series for his customer service manager as well as the Service Desk staff. I have worked in customer service positions for over 20 years, been repeatedly recognized for excellent performance, so if he wants to hire me at a salary reflective of my experience in this field, great. I won't even charge him for the 30 years of experience I have in sewing and crafting.

Had I been the customer service manager, and especially if I had been the assistant manager, my first words to an unhappy/annoyed customer would have been, "I'm sorry," or at least "I regret that you had problems." The only person who seemed to realize that there was a problem was the cashier, who likely makes minimum wage and will have every bit of common sense and compassion sucked out of her by the epidemic of disregard that grips Wal-Mart. If I had been the assistant manager, I would have got off my ass and actually come out to face said customer, if for no other reason to cite problems with staffing or scheduling or whatever problem there is that prevented my store from providing the service it claims to provide. Given that every receipt you get from a Wal-Mart these days asks you to take an online survey about your shopping experience, it seems to me that SOMEONE in the Wal-Mart cabal gives a rip about customer service.

It's painfully clear to me that neither the customer service manager nor the assistant manager in Mayodan is that person.


  1. The socks turned out lovely. It is a great colourway, isnt it?

    Your Walmart sounds like pretty much every store (and restaurant) around here. I think our region is the only one in North America that is actually going through an ecomonic growth spurt. Too many jobs, not enough people to fill them. It has actually made me much more tolerant of the line ups in Walmart.

  2. You're right about the Step yarn - I love that colorway. Anything with red in it always makes me happy. :-)

    As for WalMart, I know they all suck, but this one seems to setting all new records for sucking - at least as far as management goes. During a later visit, I actually found two associates who were polite and helpful. I was so surprised that I shook their hands and thanked them!