Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wal-Mart's "Hamalot"

I've written about price changes and things before. The official position is that when an item rings up wrong, we do a price override, REASON CODE 1, which does several things.

  1. It fixes the price of the item for that particular transaction.

  2. It AUTOMATICALLY gives the customer three dollars off the price of the item, because this is our mistake. If the item, something like a DVD, is priced over three dollars, they get three dollars off the price - i.e. if a DVD priced $15 rings up for $20, they get the DVD for $12. If the item is priced under three dollars, they just get the item for free.

  3. Finally, a REASON CODE 1 sends a message in the computer to the department manager, assistant manager and co-manager over that area of merchandise to go and check the pricing and signage of that item. Obviously, something is wrong.

If you're paying attention and not yakking on your cell phone, talking to your friend Mavis about her new tattoo, leafing through InStyle, slapping your kids around or complaining about the line, you can just tell the girl at the register. She can hit PRICE OVERRIDE and then 1 the same as I can. Otherwise, you got to wait in the Customer Service line and talk to me.

So this man rolls up Saturday. He's got a suitcase of Natural Light, some potato chips and assorted other junk.

HIM: "This ham is priced wrong. There's a big display of it back there."

The ham is ringing up at $6.68. He's claiming it is $3.14. We've got $10 leeway to make these sort of decisions, so I don't really care.

ME: "Let me fix it for you sir."

This actually takes a second, because I have to REFUND the ham at the incorrect price, take the money out of the drawer, and then ring-in the ham at the correct price with the PRICE OVERRIDE code. And of course he can't find the ham, so I have to type the 10-digit UPC code both time.

While I'm doing this, he starts popping off. "I ought to get that ham for free. Everything here is always wrong." (and yet, you still roll up in the truck with the Playboy mud flaps and with a gun-rack in the back glass to shop here, don't you)

And yes, this is all sooooooooooooo convincing coming from a guy in ripped up green shorts, a wife-beater and a pair of flip-flops. I'm sure he knows a lot about retail, finance and Adam Smith's principles of economics.

ME: "Just let me work sir." And I hold up the finger to silence any further outbursts. I hate it when they talk while I'm trying to type stuff in, especially because he's too lazy to actually just look through two bags and find this package of ham.

I finish the second transaction and inform him that he wound up paying about 14 cents for the ham, because the ham was only supposed to be $3.14. And he got three dollars off.

He's like "Ohhh. Wal-Mart is doing something right for a change."

Dude, they make A BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. Do you really think they care about doing something right? They just don't want people to get hacked off and shop somewhere else.

That three dollars for the price correction comes STRAIGHT off the department manager's profit totals. Each department is supposed to aim for certain targets per day, week, month and year. If your stuff is always scanning wrong, you're bleeding money $3 at a time at the register, no matter much merchandise you're moving. So make sure your stuff is scanning right. Too many $3 giveaways, and I bet there's probably a new department manager ...

At the end of the day, it's all about profit.

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