Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The claim game

Someone in a comment asked about what happens to our claims. So here goes.

Any defective items that are returned to a store must be taken out of inventory by a Claims Associate and returned to the appropriate Vendor. Then, the vendor will credit Wal-Mart for the appropriate amount for having sold the company a defective product.

Inventory control is drilled into every associate all the time. Scan items correctly at the register. Department supervisors should keep counts on their items once a week. Well, this is how it works at a well-run store. Not at our Wal-Mart.

Every day, the two self-important women that work in our Claims department roll a overflowing buggy of junk up to the Service Desk and order us to "Sort this stuff right this time."

What has happened is that most of the Department managers and the overnight associates are really lazy.

Don't know what it is? Send it to Claims. Doesn't have a UPC? Send it to Claims. Looks like it might be merchandise? Send it to Claims. In those buggies, I've found people's personal clothing, an old man's cane, a woman's purse with ID and wallet inside and all sorts of trash.

There is also PARTS of the defective items that we take back as returns. I've had a VCR with no cables and no remote, assorted pieces of car seats, lawn sprayers, baby carriages, curtain rods, toys, etc.

Stuff is known for bouncing around for months because the department managers simply won't take responsibility, put a defect slip with a proper UPC on the item and ship it to claims. We send it out to the department, they send it to claims and the cycle starts over.

One infamous case was this mysterious box that came and went and came and went and came and went for two months last fall. It looked like a hatbox and was round with pink and white stripes. We sent it to Cosmetics, Stationery, Jewelry, Fabrics, Softlines, Housewares, Domestics, Toys - anywhere it might belong - and back to all of them again and again. No one would claim this thing. It had a big bare spot on the bottom where it looked like a UPC had been. Every time we sent it out there was a note attached. "Do not send back to Service Desk or Claims without UPC."

Of course, where did it end back up, sans note, of course. Finally, just before Thanksgiving last year, I was in the UPC office when I noticed that there were some samples from the cosmetics vendor - WITH A GIFT BOX CASE JUST LIKE THAT STUPID PINK AND WHITE BOX. It wasn't merchandise and had never been. But the idiot Cosmetics department manager didn't even know her own merchandise. The next time I saw it, I threw it away.

So now, whenever I see anything that either looks like it might be part of something, or looks like its better days are behind it, or looks like it is just junk, I toss it straight into the trash can. Wal-Mart can hire more intelligent people and train them better. Once it does that, I will once again waste my time writing polite notes and storting out huge buggies filled with junk where other people shirk their responsibilities. Until then, the junk is going in the trash!

To my knowledge, Wal-Mart does not donated defective but still usable items to charity. The only time Wal-Mart has EVER, to my knowledge, ever done so was this Easter. Remember all those humongous Easter basket that had all sorts of stuff in them? Well, by two weeks after Easter, the price on those was marked down to zero.

A markdown to zero means that the item is then thrown in the trash. Yes. THROWN IN THE TRASH. I have seen all sorts of merchandise thrown in the trash compactor after it has been marked down to zero. Anything with a UPC number is trashed rather than donated to charity - for the simple reason that it may be marked down at one store but not another. Thus, if donated to a thrift store, it could be purchased and returned for store credit somewhere.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this post has been popping up on anti-Wal-mart blogs and sites everywhere, I need to clarify a few things. SOME merchandise is thrown away. Probably 80 percent of the defective and markdown merchandise is sent back to the vendors who sent us the stuff for credit. Materials that the vendor does not want back gets trashed. Books go in the trash. DVDs go back to the vendor. I left this out of the original post. And I do regret the confusion.

And yes, I have seen someone try to return an item which rang up for $0.02 cents which he swore he paid full price for. The assistant manager told us that he knew that product had been discontinued and that the man probably got it at a place like Big Lots or somewhere similar.

On a side note, there is apparently a nice side racket in buying Wal-Mart clothes at upmarket thrift shops and rummage sales, sometimes with the tags still on, then returning the items for store credit. Or putting shoes in your old Wal-Mart shoe box and claiming "Well, this is the box they gave me" because individual pairs of shoes don't come with a UPC, just an item number, which doesn't tell the Service Desk Associate anything without a few minutes in front of the computer.

But back to the Easter baskets. The individual items in those baskets DID NOT have UPCs. Our store manager decided that the correct thing to do would be to donate that merchandise to charity - and the associates at our store got the candy. And some people loaded up four or five shopping bags full and took them home. It was just astonishing to see how greedy people were.


furyouhin said...

Thanks for the answer, it was nice of you to write all that. The new/used Target stuff at the thrift shops always has black permanent marker slashed across the UPC, so I suppose that helps keep it from getting back into their store as a return.

Long ago, I received some Easter candy in my Halloween bag, heh. That was pretty gross.

L said...

There are so many things that WalMart could do to make stuff non-returnable. Cut the tags through the barcode or if it's a cloting item, cut the label.
Better yet - don't take back anything and everything! Ahhh....but then we wouldn't have your great blog to read! LOL! :-)

Kat said...

When I was a Wal-Mart cashier, I made friends with one of the girls from Claims (not for this purpose) and anything that was destined for the trash, that was otherwise fine, she could hold for me. Of course, that kind of merch didn't come up often.

Anonymous said...

I'm a claims associate and we do not throw out books. They are claimed against their respective companies just as the DVDs are. The sweeping majority of things that get 'marked down to zero' are things that are either unfit for resale due to sanitary reasons, or things that have been deemed 'unsellable;' while it may work perfectly, sometimes it boils down to how the customer would prefer one in a 'nice box.'

Anonymous said...

As a former claims associate for walmart i just wanna say that walmart is one of the most wasteful company's i have ever seen yes walmart does get a lot of credit back from there vendors but the majority of the merchandise is still thrown out the vendor will give walmart back there money only if walmart destroys the merchandise about 70% of all walmart products end up in the garbage even if the only thing wrong with it is the packaging is nolonger pristine

arena gratis said...

Nice information.