Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ordering from Walmart.com and using Store Pickup? Choose a Store with the Pickup Area in the Front

Ordering from Walmart.com and using Store Pickup?  Choose your store carefully if you don't want to wait in the back for an hour just to pick up a package!

Walmart is competing with Amazon for your online shopping business.  Walmart offers great prices sometimes, with significant discounts for store pickup.  What this means is that you can order an item online, and when you get the notice that your order is ready for pickup, you go to your chosen store and pick up the item. 

Sounds easy, right?  Wouldn't Walmart want to make this a painless experience for the customer?  Of course it would not.  It turns out that different Walmart stores have their online order pickup counters in different parts of the store. 

I ordered a set of IRIS 4" x 6" Photo and Craft Storage Boxes, that hold bare 3.5 inch hard drives perfectly (thanks, Jack and Sue Drafahl for this recommendation!).  Walmart sent me an email that the order was ready for pickup at the store I had chosen, which was close to my summer home in Olympia.  To be specific, this was the store on Martin Road in Lacey, WA. 

This particular store has its online pickup counter all the way in the back of the store.  I had picked up orders from this store, and the one in Marina, CA before.  Both stores had the online pickup counter in the back of the store, and without exception, every time I had gone there to pick something up, it had taken lots of waiting, asking passing Walmart employees passing by for help, pressing the "service" button at the counter numerous times, and wandering around the back of the store seeking help -- before I could get someone to help. 

This time, I set the stopwatch on my phone.  There was no one there.  I repeatedly pressed the "press this button for service" button over 15 minutes, to no avail.  I asked four employees passing by if they could call for help so that I could get my order.  No one came.  I noticed that Walmart had hidden the phone behind a wall, whereas it was previously on the counter, within reach of customers.  Obviously this was a known issue and the management had decided to move the phone out of reach of waiting, irate customers rather than to address the problem -- which had a very simple solution that I won't even bother to describe.  Nope.  Both Walmarts close to my homes have chosen to make the online pickup experience an excruciating exercise in waiting, isolation, and frustration by simply never having anyone in the area to help you. 

Did I mention that I set the stopwatch on my phone to see how long the process took to get my order?  It took 40 minutes before I was able to get my order and start my exit from the store.  In that time, I tried everything, even shouting in the store for service.  Three employees came in the back area and told me that I could not get the order myself (when I tried to point out the box with my name clearly printed on it); that I could not use the phone to call the manager or for help; etc.  Only the third employee could finally figure out how to work the cash register so that I could get a receipt and be on my way. 

Well, here's the surprise and the reason I tried Walmart.com and online store pickup again.  I happened to be in the Tumwater, WA Walmart, about six miles from my Olympia house (the Lacey Walmart is 4 miles in the other direction).  I noticed that the Tumwater store had online pickup in the FRONT OF THE STORE, right in the customer service area! 

I placed an online order soon after noticing this, and when I got the notice that my order was ready, I went to the Tumwater store to pick up my page.  WOW!  I had to ask someone to help me -- the folks at the customer service desk were so seemingly intent on repacking their items or something that they seemingly did not see me -- but once they got to me, I was able to get my order very quickly.  No frustration.  Almost no waiting. 

Have you noticed that every time you buy something or do something these days, the company ask you to fill out a survey asking how they did?  I never fill these out, because good customer service is so dead simple and easy to figure out most of the time.  In this case, it's pretty easy to figure out that you should order and use Walmart's store pickup ONLY if there's a store near you that has the online pickup area at the front of the store, near the customer service counters, where there are always employees ready to help you.  Avoid any store where the online pickup area is in the back, unless you like waiting in dead zones for 30 and 45 minutes at a time. 

PS If you order something from Walmart.com online, and you decide you don't want to go through the agony of waiting in the back to pick up from the store, you can just not follow through on your order.  From what I can find, you won't be charged if you don't show up.

Here's what Walmart's website says:

"Once your order arrives and is scanned in at the store, you will have 14 days to pick it up before it is returned to the distributor. If it is returned to the distributor, we will issue a full refund."

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