Featured Image Photo Credit: Nancy Owens, Practical Solution Home and Business Services
WalMart Gift Cards
At Christmastime I stuffed my father’s stocking with a $25 dollar gift card. About three weeks ago, he gave it back to me telling me it didn’t work. I immediately called the number on the back of the card, to no avail. The automated system told me to take the card to Walmart and have it activated. I put it in my purse with the intent of doing just that on my next trip to Ephrata.
So yesterday, I was in Walmart to get a new bath mat and some storage items for the
contents of my bathroom while it is getting torn apart and remodeled. At the checkout-stand I remembered my father’s gift card and asked the cashier about getting it fixed so he could use it.
I am sorry that I did not get her name, but she tried in her system and found it could not be activated, but that it should have been automatically activated at the time of purchase. Of course, she asked for a receipt, which I did not have, given that I had bought it as a gift. And of course, the cashier’s hands were tied because I had no receipt. I told her I was very concerned, because I paid $25 for the card and now I felt I was in a situation that would force me to just kiss that $25 away, as if it never happened.
So there I was. One unhappy camper. It wasn’t the cashier’s fault. It was one of those days when I was short on time, and becoming irritated at the situation. In my mind, I wasn’t going to give up and lose my money without digging further. It was then that this steadfast employee called in a manager to see if something more could be done. It was a short wait and Marisee, Customer Service Manager for Ephrata Walmart, was at the check-stand. She basically told me the same thing as the cashier: no receipt, nothing we can do.
It was at that point I realized that they probably have a lot of scammers and thieves who try to pull stuff, like steal a card and then try to get them to put money on it. I figured they were just doing their jobs to protect their store. But, like Tucker, The Abandoned Puppy who is growing up to be one very tenacious puppy, I was not going to let go of the bone.
Trouble Shooting In Customer Service
Marisee invited me to come over to the customer service station for further discussion. At
the counter, she again tried to get the card to activate, but it was not working. I was getting ants in my pants because I needed to leave, but still wanted to figure out where my money went. I know that in today’s world $25 isn’t much, and the aggravation of solving the mystery was probably costing me more than $25 in terms of time and frustration, so I told Marisee that maybe I needed to just write to corporate about the situation or something. She asked why, and I told her, “Because I want my $25!” Then, I had an idea, LOL! I paid for it with a debit card and figured they could search their system that way, but it didn’t seem like my idea was clicking with Marisee, who was quickly running through their system, and I told her I couldn’t hang around much longer. It wasn’t her fault, either, just to be clear. It was just one of those weird things that happen sometimes. Anyway, she said something I couldn’t quite hear and then walked away to another computer and I thought that she had deserted me and so I started to head out and just get on with my day.
However, just before I cleared the customer service area, she called out to me, and I went over to where she was. The part I couldn’t hear was probably her asking me to come with her to the other station, I’m sure. Anyway, it was then that I came to understand Marisee’s dilemma: She could only search using my card number one day at a time, and unless I had the exact day I purchased it, her time constraints would not allow her to search day by day. I could come up with a date range, but again, without the receipt (Lesson Learned, Everybody! :)), or checking my card transaction history, it looked like we were out of luck.
Teaching, Sharing, Training
Enter Lashonda, The Zone Manager for the store. Marisee had to good instincts to call her in for a consult on the situation. And Lashonda really saved the day by sharing her system expertise with Marisee in using the search system, so that helped. Still, I could tell it was going to take a long time. I took down their information and phone number, and gave Lashonda my info and left the store thinking that maybe I could pinpoint the transaction by going through my card transactions. Then next day I could call her with the info.
I went and did my errands, got home, got distracted and didn’t make the transaction search.
Follow Through, Follow Up, and Going the Extra Mile
And then it happened. That Holy Grail of Customer Satisfaction. A few minutes before 5 p.m., Lashonda left me a very nice voice mail message telling me that she had searched every day in the month of December and could not locate the transaction, but that if I come into the store they will make it right with me. Her tone of voice and communication style suggested to me that she truly cared about my situation. She had spent extra time searching the system just for me. Lashonda’s insights, actions, as well as Marisee’s ability to continue being nice to me during the time we spent together in the store worked together to restore my faith in Walmart’s customer service.
I know a lot of people who have been disappointed in general with Walmart in this area, and not just here in Washington State, but Billings and Helena Montana as well. I understand that shoplifting criminals are a lot of what drives many of the issues. I also believe that corporate budgets and the lean and mean business operations that most large corporations have adopted are at the heart of many of the other customer service issues in Walmart stores. When Walmart was new, the prices were so low and you saved so much money by shopping there that not being able to locate a store employee for help out in the department areas was generally overlooked by most shoppers. You just wandered around for a couple hours until you found what you were looking for. Now days, though, Walmart is about the same as Target and other stores price-wise. And people who shop regularly are pressed for time and want to find what they want without spending all that time in the store.
Walmart Working Together With Customers to Improve Satisfaction
Online Surveys and the formal complaint system are well and good, but the real customer relations happen on the floor at the time of service. I spent four years as a customer service supervisor and trouble shooting in a catalog order call center. We had over a hundred accounts and I demonstrated proficiency in all of them. I trained new employees and performed trouble shooting for online orders as this was at a time when Web Commerce was still new to most people.
Yesterday, Marisee and Lashonda did what no Walmart Survey or Customer Complaint System could do. They interacted with me, face-to-face, at the time of service. They shared knowledge and information with each other in order to help me. Both demonstrated great communication skills, and Lashonda was gifted with the ability to clearly explain the obstructions in the situation and also communicate assurance, compassion, and confidence in dealing with the various elements in play. They went the extra mile and came up with a remedy for the situation. Up close and personal even after I had left the store! And Lashonda called me back before her shift ended and let me know how and when I could contact her today!
These three Ephrata, WA Walmart Employees handled a nightmarish customer service situation in a commendable way and I want the unnamed cashier, Marisee, and Lashonda to know how grateful I am for caring about this unusual situation and for not treating me like a criminal.
Bottom line is that this post is not about blaming anyone, but about these dedicated people stepping up for their local customers and store. This has been a lengthy post, folks, but it was a complicated and unusual situation. I learned a very good lesson, which is to save my receipt for those darned cards until I know the gift recipient has been able to successfully use the card!
Thank you for reading this through to the end, everybody.
Blog Administrator, Nancy’s Local Review From Soap Lake, WA
Nancy’s Local Review is an official blog of Practical Solutions Home and Business Services