Friday, November 24, 2006

Two Retail Chains, Two Philosophies

It’s a long story, but I did not own a Christmas tree before today. Oh, I’ve had one every now and then over the years, but something always seemed to happen to them – maybe aliens with bad eyesight abducted the tree instead of me, but I always seemed to lose the things. So for a number of years I have made do without one. It never seemed important to respecting the birth of my Lord Jesus Christ to put a tree up in my living room anyway. But, tradition being what it is, and my daughter loving all aspects of holidays, especially the shiny kind like Christmas, I was thinking of getting a tree this year.

So it was, that when Lowe’s advertised on the television last night a six and a half foot tall artificial tree with lights for $25, I took notice, and so I took my daughter to Lowe’s today to try to get a tree. The short version is they ran out fast of the advertised trees. That, in itself, was not a big deal, although I noticed that there was no obvious empty space where the bargain trees had been, which told me they did not have many to start with – while Lowe’s gets out of legal trouble with a “while supplies last” disclaimer in the printed ad, they clearly had no intention of meeting the moral obligation to provide the product they advertised, and I noticed that the next cheapest trees available were nearly a hundred dollars. What we have here is a company lying to people in a dishonest trick to lure them into the store for a promotion they have no intention of honoring.

Frankly, this stunt by Lowe’s is a disappointment. Compared to Home Depot, I have generally found Lowe’s to be a better and more responsible chain, but every now and then they do pull something like this, and why they think that counts as good business seems to me to indicate a mild mental aberrance in their board room. I would also note that, unusual for Lowe’s, the employees were abrupt and hostile. I put that down to the employee’s natural dislike of being told to lie to the public.

But that is only half the story. After getting lied to by Lowe’s, I went to my next stop on today’s errands, which happened to be Wal-Mart. Going into a Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving was not something I looked forward to doing, but I had to get more cough medicine for Jagan, and the most effective and cheapest stuff was Wal-Tussin at Wal-Mart, so in we went.

Wal-Mart was crowded all right, but orderly, clean, and with a relatively happy atmosphere. The employees were polite and cheerful, and wonder of wonders, I saw a display by the door advertising artificial trees for $19.84. I did not want to trust too much that such trees would still be in stock, but when I asked, they had them in plenty, and it was easy to get the tree in addition to my other purchases. In fact, Wal-Mart had plenty of extra employees ready for the rush, they were well-positioned to assist customers and answer questions, and generally the place was very well run, front to back.

I could put that down to a happy coincidence, except that now I think about it, this is always the case at Wal-Mart, enough that Wal-Mart is often my first stop when I need to buy something. Whatever “it” is, Wal-Mart is likely to have it, and at a good price, and if I should need to return it, there has never been a problem so long as I have the receipt. I mean really, in the past three years I cannot remember Wal-Mart ever being badly stocked, overpriced, or rude. Individual stores are better-run than others sure, but in the main I would have to say that if you need to go buy something, start at Wal-Mart. And no, neither I nor anyone in my family, nor any of my personal friends works at Wal-Mart, just in case you were wondering.

PS – I apologize for the light blogging, but it appears that Blogger is also taking vacation. The write/edit pages take forever to load and process, and fail repeatedly. I can’t decide whether they have decided to follow the Ford motorcar or Lowe’s marketing method for their template.


Eric said...

I agree that Walmart is well-stocked and cheap. But the checkout, OMG, the checkout. I can't go there during my lunch hour because the checkout takes 45 minutes.

Plus, why is the "express" line "20 items or less." Where does 20 items fall on the Walmart bell curve of items. I need an 8-or-less line.

Big V said...

I had not been in a Walmart prior to early 2005 and I haven't been back to the chain I use to visit since early 2005. Items stay in the same place vs my old haunt moving them every couple weeks to make me see new things and as previously noted, most of the employees are actually nice. Add the 'Merry Christmas' to the mix this year and all is good by me.

Harold C. Hutchison said...

I like Wal-Mart, too, although it is often just a supplement to BJ's.

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