TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits

Re: What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits

Robert Bonomi (
Sun, 21 Nov 2004 11:07:27 +0000

In article <>, Dave VanHorn
<> wrote:

>>> Other stores can stay in business, but only in little tiny niches. No
>>> one can compete with Walmart. A new move by Walmart will leave
>>> merchandise in the inventory of the supplier until it is sold. $60
>>> billion will disappear from Walmart books. This would really be "just
>>> in time". It would never belong to Walmart. It would be sold
>>> directly from the distributor to the consumer at the Walmart checkout.

>> So they're acting as a consignment vendor. How interesting.

> What a clever way to deal with theft!

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I have an interesting question. Someone
> gets caught shoplifting at Walmart. It happens here several times per
> week here, according to the police activities column in the
> Independence Daily Reporter newspaper. Walmart always prosecutes,
> but in these cases, how can Walmart prosecute for something that was
> not stolen from them since they did not 'own' it at that point in
> time (if they ever do, or do they merely act as collection agents for
> the owner, which is vender who supplied it?). Or do the venders
> authorize Walmart to act as their agent in such cases? I did not
> steal from Walmart, I stole from the vender, is that not correct?
> Advice, anyone? PAT]

First, it is not clear that WalMart is actually doing this (title
remains with distributor), today. If not, Walmart _is_ the owner of
the stolen (shoplifted) merchandise.

Regardless, however, the merchandise is, legally,
_in_their_possession_. They =are= the theft 'victim'. The situation
is no different than if somebody breaks into your house and steals a
rented video-tape. *YOU* are the theft 'victim', not the video-rental
store. *YOU* are liable to the rental store for the full cost of the

Aside, a consignment vendor *is* liable to the 'owner' for losses
incurred during the time that the vendor has 'entrusted' the agent
with the vendor's property. *Unless*, that is, the 'consignment
agreement' _expressly_ provides otherwise. No different than if the
property was destroyed by a fire on the premises.

The situation with someone who sells for a 'drop shipper' _is_
different_. That selling agent never has possession of the property,
so they -never- incur loss liability.

In article <>, TELECOM Digest Editor

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Here is another question for anyone who
> wishes to answer: The merchandise I bought from Walmart (or from a
> vender of Walmart is faulty, or injures me or makes me sick, etc.) I
> am advised to file suit. Do I sue Walmart or do I sue the vender or
> both of them?

*GROSSLY*INSUFFICIENT*DATA* for a meaningful answer. <grin>

Authoritative answer: "It depends."

Just for starters:

Was the item faulty in design or manufacture?

*DID* the seller (WalMart) _know_, or _should_ they have known, it was

Did the seller (WalMart) do anything to the product that caused, or possibly
'contributed to', the fault?

IF the 'fault' was a result of something that the store did, beyond
the control of the manufacturer, then the manufacturer has no
liability for the problem.

IF _nothing_ the store did contributed to the fault, and the store had
no reason to be aware that there _was_ such a fault, then the store
has no liability.

This is what the legal types call a "fact specific" issue. To find
out what the appropriate action is, consult a legal professional.
Discuss _all_ the *details* of your *specific* situation. Then, and
-only- then, can a competent opinion as to the appropriate action --
valid _for_your_ _situation_*ONLY*_ -- be offered.

> I know Walmart does not go out of their way now to
> do any customer service they can avoid. Earlier this year I went to
> Walmart to get something, and used my debit card to pay for it. When
> I got home I checked the computer and there were *three* identical
> charges instead of only one. I called and went back to Walmart, all
> they would say is 'not our problem, we did not swipe you three times,
> we only swiped you once. The problem got corrected in a couple days,
> but Walmart never admitted to any part of it. PAT]

*AT*THE*STORE*LEVEL*, this was completely correct. There was a
record, in the store computer, of _one_ transaction, and one
transaction _only_.

That store transaction is _not_ with your bank directly. It probably
goes to 'corporate hq' first. From there, the corporate computers
talk with a ' clearing house'. Which talks to a bank 'network'
computer. Which talks to the computer of the actual bank involved.

The store _CANNOT_ just go and issue 'credits' for the 'multiple'
charges, after all, _they_ only got the *one* payment they were
entitled to.

"Somewhere" along the line, something 'stuttered'. _One_ side of the
process thought it _sent_ the data successfully only once, the *other*
side _saw_ the incoming data as valid multiple times. There are
fairly extensive 'real-time' checks that are intended to prevent this
kind of error from occurring, but they are *not* 'perfect'. Backing
up those real-time protections are all sorts of 'end-of-day' summary
checks and cross-verifications, internally within a given system,
*and* between the systems that pass data to each other. When the
end-of-day checks are inconsistent, *people* get called in to run down
the disrepencies, and remedy them.

Just what would you have the store do in such a situation? They
looked into your problem report. They found _nothing_ to substantiate
a problem in _their_ system. Until such time as they see something
that implicates *their* system, their hands are pretty much tied;
absent such evidence, the problem _is_ "somewhere else", and _not_
their responsibility.

Now, _if_ it was a communication problem between the clearing house
computer and the bank network computer, just _why_ *should* WalMart
'admit to any part of it'? It *wasn't* anything they did, in that

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Have you ever considered applying for a
job as a Walmart 'customer service' representative? You already have
their list of excuses perfectly memorized. When I first called then
went back to the store, for all I knew, the clerk *had* swiped me
three times, then took the money out of the register for the two
additional swipes and pocketed it. There had been an article in the
Independence Reporter a few days earlier about a cashier at Walmart
who had gotten arrested for stealing several thousand dollars from the
store and some customers. When I talked to Bob Donaldson (local
Walmart store manager here in Independence) and the customer service
manager here, I mentioned to them both about seeing that item in the
newspaper. All they would say is, "we dealt with that problem when we
found out about it, and we deal with other 'similar situations' here
as they arise." They did **not** check any tapes or logs to either
verify or deny what I said, just saying 'it could not have happened
because our procedures call for X followed by Y and Z.' That, to them,
was a satisfactory answer. I told them thank goodness I used my
PayPal debit card, where I only keep a little money, so it it gets
stolen it is not a big deal. I move a little money into PayPal from
my credit card as needed when I plan on going shopping for just that
reason. (As a matter of fact, my PayPal debit card account on the
computer showed a **negative balance** (in theory I owed PayPal money
at that point). I asked PayPal 'customer service' how they would have
authorized a sale on an account with a zero credit limit (debit card)
and they said 'Walmart told the clearing house to force the approval'.
PayPal kept sending me snotty letters all weekend telling me to get
the negative balance on my (debit card) account cleared up or they
would cancel it and place me in collection. I told PayPal to shove it
and get the money back from Walmart who had taken it to start with.
The original sale was on Friday afternoon; on Monday my account was
perfectly balanced once again; Walmart had a case of corporate
amnesia about the weekend, and PayPal had no ideas about anything
either. But an article on Monday evening in the Reporter said that
Walmart had had a mix up with their card balancing over the weekend.

I've also told Bob Donaldson (local Walmart manager) that his store
security officers were pretty obnoxious also and that he should fire
them and get more responsible guys to work at his store, and that he
might start getting people to work there who helped customers out to
their car or taxi with shopping bags, or made home delivery like other
stores in town do. The whole place is really a dreadful store. PAT]

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