Walmart Violates Company Policy, Pretends Not To Accept Bike Returns

The Walmart in Norman, Oklahoma refused to accept bike returns until a district manager, acting on a reader tip, reminded the store that they were violating company policy. Reader Keia tried to return the “shoddily constructed,” “dangerous piece of garbage” for a bike that Walmart sold him, but an employee, backed by the store manager, explained that since Walmart could repair the bike, their return policy didn’t apply. That didn’t sound right, so Keia went over their heads…

He writes:

Just thought I would share an experience I had at Wal-Mart purchasing a bike. I bought a bicycle with Wal-Mart in order to save on gas money and try to increase my overall health. Living within 2 miles of my University, and considering I happen to work there as well, riding a bike only made good sense.

I bought a Next brand bike from Wal-Mart for the cost of 110 dollars, and about 100 dollars in accessories (helmet, lights, lock, etc). The first problem I had – none of the accessories fit. Literally, none of them. The lights, the bike pump, everything I purchased did not fit correctly on the unit I purchased. “Well, I’ll just deal with it”, I said to myself. Within a week, the chain kept coming off, the brakes were so tight the wheels could barely turn (because the tires, when completely aired up, were too big for the brakes), and on top of all that the right plastic pedal snapped while I was riding the bike and nearly threw me into traffic. All in all, it was a shodily constructed and dangerous piece of garbage.

Needless to say, I thought it would be best for me to return it to Wal-Mart. I loaded it in my car, took it to my local Supercenter with receipt in hand, and headed to the customer service counter. There I encountered Cheryl, the Customer Service Manager at the Norman – East branch. Upon trying to return it, I was told that they had a strict policy regarding bike retuns. What follows is a rough approximation of my conversation with her:

Me: “I’d like to return this bike.”

Her: “We don’t return bikes.”

Me: “Why not?”

Her: “Because we can repair them for you, so we don’t give refunds on them.”

Me: “What? It isn’t listed as an exception on the wall behind you.”

Her: “We can’t have all of our exceptions listed, that would take up room we use for advertising.”

Me: “No one told me about this policy before I bought the bike though.”

Her: “We don’t have to.”

I stood there in shock for a few minutes, shooting her the most angry stare I could manage. I packed up the bike, and left. Later, I called them, asked for her full name (which she wouldn’t give me) and told her that I would be filing a lawsuit in small claims court against them. To my wife’s first year law school brain the Return Policy on that wall is a contract that allows me to return the bike within 90 days of purchase with valid receipt, and a lawsuit in SCC would almost be a guaranteed win.

Luckily, before filing the suit, I called the district manager. She told me that the “policy” touted by Cheryl did not exist, and urged me to contact the store manager before filing a claim. If the store manager refused to take care of it, she would handle it from the district level. He told me the same thing Cheryl did until I mentioned my chat with his boss, and he amended his stance to say “that the policy was more of a guideline than anything else” to avoid returns for flat tires. This is just as absurd as what Cheryl told me, but regardless, I got my refund – and I purchased a bike from a real bike store.

I just wanted to share my experience with the readers of The Consumerist, so they could be wary of buying an important purchase like a primary mode of transportation from such an unscrupulous company – and to be wary of what lower management tells you. Worst case scenario, contact district staff. Wal-Mart is seems to be often more afraid of pad PR than anything else.

Great work, Keia! Don’t take no for an answer just because it’s delivered by someone wearing a smock and a name tag. If you firmly and politely escalate your complaint, more often than not, you’ll get exactly what you want.

Comments

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  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Bravo for escalating things and getting an answer, and for being civilized. There’s nothing worse than a company that tries to trick its customer – except for many a customer who is belligerent and insulting. Bravo for keeping a cool head about this and using your noggin.

  2. Mr.DuckSauce says:

    Never buy a bike from wal-mart, crappy made and constructed.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce: Yeah that too.

    • Cam Jamieson says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce: I strongly agree. I spent $550CAD on my bike at a local bike shop (which would be a cheap bike to an enthusiast) and I have never regretted my purchase. The disk brakes work much better in the rain and everything just works.

    • Heather Schepers says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce: Definitely. I bought a ladies mountain bike from them in 2007. The bottle holder snapped after a month (super brittle). The paint is peeling terribly and the brake lines constantly rust. I use WD-40 every month and store it under a deck. Oh, and the 10-speed hasn’t worked for a year.
      On top of all that, the ladies bike is a HUGE pain to load on my bike rack due to it’s shape. Cheap Chinese/Indian garbage.

    • I_am_Awesome says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce:

      YES. Go to a bike shop. They’ll make sure you get the proper size bike (there is more to bike size than just the wheel size). You’ll probably pay $200 for something that’s worth riding, but it’ll be something that’s worth riding.

      You won’t get a great bike for $200, but you’ll get something that’s good enough for the casual rider and will last longer than the Walmart bike.

    • NTC-Brendan says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce:

      A bike? Oh yeah, that too.

    • GC says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce: EVERYTHING from walmart is poorly made.

      • dragonfire81 says:

        @GC: Wasn’t there some well known U.S. bike company that got put out of business trying to meet Wal-mart’s insane price demands?

        • gttim says:

          @dragonfire81: Mongoose Bicycle went under after being unable to deliver bikes at a contracted price with Wal-Mart. The exchange rate went up and they went under after Wal-Mart refused to let them out of the contract.

          Almost all bikes and components are made in Taiwan, or China- good and bad. Anybody buying a bike, either for an adult or child, should go to a reputable bike shop and get a quality bike. In the case of child’s bikes, getting a quality used one is good as well.

          Don’t buy a Schwinn bike from Wal-Mart. It is not the same quality of bike you will get from a bike shop, nor is the assembly. Also, almost all bike shops will give you free lifetime adjustments on a bike you purchase from them. If you are unfamiliar with bicycle maintenance, that is a huge perk

        • breese524 says:

          @dragonfire81:
          That would be Huffy. There were other brands that dissappeared as well but, Huffy made headlines.

    • Rachacha says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce: Except WalMart sells Schwinn Bicycles which are high end mainstream bikes that used to only be sold a bicycle shops until a few years ago. I purchased a Schwinn bike about 10 years ago (from a local bike shop) and have never had any problems with it. A quick look at walmart.com shows that the prices are comperable to what I paid for my bike ($300 range), so I have to assume that Schwinn has not comprimised their quality to meet WalMart’s price demands.

      That said, I would never buy anything from WalMart unless I absolutely needed to, and I still support my local bike shop whenever possible.

      • skeksis says:

        @Rachacha: They may sell Schwinn bikes, but they probably do not know how to assemble a bike as good as anybody at a Local Bike Shop. Not to mention the dedicated service and attention you get at your LBS.

      • Andrew Abrams Marchant-Shapiro says:

        @Rachacha: Schwinn is no longer a real company; it’s just a name that Pacific uses. I too grew up with Schwinns, but I would never buy one today.

        Go to a bike shop and look at the used stuff, that’s where the bargains are. Or something from Surly, Pake, Raleigh. They’re pretty much all made in Taiwan or China until you get to the high-end stuff, but the difference is that bicycles sold through bike shops are generally intended for people who want to ride, not just have garage or yard decorations.

        You can get a very solid bike in the $600 range, you generally get a piece of garbage for $200 and under. What would you expect if you tried to save that much money on a car, hmmmmmmmmmmm?

        • nakedscience says:

          @Andrew Abrams Marchant-Shapiro: “You can get a very solid bike in the $600 range”

          Man, Consumerist is so classist. “You need to pay at least $600 for a bike! Don’t go to Wal*Mart!”

          Not everyone has that kind of money. He likely went to Wal*Mart BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT HE COULD AFFORD, being a COLLEGE STUDENT and all.

          Sure, it’s not a great bike, but it’s a bike, and for a college student, probably all he can afford.

          • snowburnt says:

            @nakedscience: Didn’t sound like a bike to me, sounded like a death trap.

            Seriously, you can spend $1000+ on an excellent bike, $600 is an average bike for a starting enthusiast. Get down to $200-300 for something that works.

            Anything around $100 and less is for kids and isn’t safe for adults.

          • breese524 says:

            @nakedscience:
            I mildly agree. If you plan to buy a bike at Wal-Mart or similar store. Ahem. Target. I do recommend at least shopping at a bike shop. You can find some great deals in the $200 range. Plus as others mentioned, most bike shops include adjustments (sizing and mechanical) in the price.

            There is no need to spend $600 on a bike to commute around town on. $600 is the starting point if you want a long lasting bike for sport (on road or off).

          • kadaj_sama says:

            @nakedscience: @nakedscience:
            well the trick is that you get what you pay for with bikes.
            yes $250 is alot of money but i bet most of those kids spent that much for their ipod and cell phones.
            plus that $250 is cheaper than the hospital visit they’ll have to get when that $80 POS breaks and they crash.
            i’m not saying you have to buy an expensive bike, but you do need one that is actual built to be ridden. hell most of those walmart mountain bikes actually have stickers on them saying they are not meant to be ridden off road.

      • kathyl says:

        @Rachacha: That isn’t the same Schwinn line from the one that is sold in bike shops. It’s a cut-rate version. Plus, as others have pointed out, a WalMart Schwinn is not put together by someone who knows what they’re doing.

      • kadaj_sama says:

        @Rachacha:
        that isn’t the same company anymore. schwinn got bought out and now any bike of theirs is the same POS bike you’d find in a deparment store.
        you really do not want any department store bikes anyways because odds are the employees don’t know who to properly put the bike together.

    • Benguin says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce: If there’s one near the OP, i heartily recommend REI in terms of chain retailers. I bought a bike from them about two years ago and they’ve always been good to me whenever I’ve issues with it, usually done gratis.

      REI definitely has my business in the future and I recommend them whenever I can. Just like this site always says, treat your customer right and they’ll be loyal to you.

  3. RandaPanda says:

    Kudos to the OP. He deserves a safe bike to ride.

    On a side note, I LOVE that pic!

  4. lotussix says:

    glad walmart did the right thing. i really hope the OP wasn’t surprised that walmart isn’t in the business of selling quality, durable items.

    the bike breaking happened to an ex girlfriend of mine, who was using it to commute to school. something on her bike broke the first day and she took it back and exchanged it. the exchange wasn’t as bad as what you experienced.

    i just hate when people threaten lawsuits, but escalate it anyway. this is an example of how empty of a threat it really is.

    • aguacarbonica says:

      @lotussix:

      It’s not an empty threat just because the OP (rightly!) chose to exhaust all appropriate channels before suing. How do you know the OP wasn’t planning to follow through? Especially since the store manager passed it off like it was Wal-Mart corporate policy, which , if true, might well have meant that even going to the district manager wouldn’t have yielded any results.

  5. Esquire99 says:

    The only thing that I don’t understand is the immediate reaction to take them to court. Court, even small claims, is time consuming and may cost more out of pocket than the bike did (depending on the jurisdiction). Court should never be a real option until you’ve worked your way up the entire corporate tree. Usually you’ll get it resolved before having to actually involve the legal system.

    • silver-bolt says:

      @Esquire99: Small claims costs ~16-25 for a filing fee, and your time to go to court. The Filing fee is added to the claimed value if you win. Most big companies would rather just agree to pay you before the court date then bother sending an officer to the court for the day.

      No out of pocket cost unless you a) lose, b) count time off.

    • ecwis says:

      @Esquire99: It seems like you haven’t actually filed a suit in small claims court. If so, you probably would know that the filing fees are very low and it may not even necessary to show up for the court date. The company I sued provided me with a settlement so I didn’t even have to show up to court.

      Of course, everyone should contact corporate HQ before filing a suit so they can at least attempt to solve the problem.

      • Esquire99 says:

        @ecwis: @silver-bolt:
        I have indeed filed a small claim, and as I stated, the fee can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some places can be quite expensive, $100+ in filing fees. You’re right that you get to recoup them if you win, but it still generally more time consuming than simply continuing up the chain of command to get it solved.

    • 1stMarDiv says:

      @Esquire99:
      I once took my old apartment complex to small claims court over a $500 deposit they refused to give back. The price wasn’t bad, but it took a bunch of paperwork and evidence which only consumed what little time I had.

    • razremytuxbuddy says:

      @Esquire99: He THREATENED small claims court–probably with the means and intent to carry it out if Walmart didn’t resolve the situation fairly and in accordance with their published policy. I think he handled the situation exactly as he needed to in order to get the refund he was entitled to.

    • Cafezinha says:

      @Esquire99: I agree that knee-jerk court time is probably too strong of a reaction, but it seems like these days, you almost HAVE to threaten with something like that to get a store to work with you on a return or customer dissatisfaction incident. Just telling them that you are not happy or that you’ll take your business somewhere else? They don’t give a shit, ‘cos lots of folks will continue to shop to make up for your absence.

      It’s sad, but I don’t blame him, honestly. Just reminding the manager of the basics of good customer service is not enough to get a positive reaction. :(

    • TEW says:

      @Esquire99:
      This surprised me because I have had nothing but easy returns with Wal-Mart. I also think the this Wal-Mart might have problems with corporate because of the OP’s complaint. Sam Walton always said that you need to treat the costumer right or they won’t bother coming back. That said when you buy something that you want to use for years you should not concern yourself about saving a couple of bucks and get something that will last.

  6. Jason Murdey says:

    Adults buy bikes from Wal-Mart? I thought they just sold Huffys that weighed 90 pounds and three gears

  7. JediJohn82 says:

    @OP I live near Norman…you might want to check out Al’s Bicycles. It might cost more than a wally world bike, but it is worth it.

    [alsbicycles.com]

  8. Oddfool says:

    I’ve purchased bikes at Walmart, but definitely not the NEXT brand. If you look at the recalls near the customer service desk, most of the bike recalls are NEXT brand. I stick with the Schwins. Plus it helped since I had worked in Toy Dept. and knew the assemblers well.

  9. snclfe says:

    “Wal-Mart is seems to be often more afraid of pad PR than anything else.”

    You would think they’d be accustom to it by now.

    Store policies are for luring in customers and making the sale – not honoring. At least, that’s how it seems to me from a lot of recent items here. And it’s not just Wal*Mart that are guilty.

  10. johnva says:

    In my opinion, it’s worth paying a bit more for something that could injure you badly if it’s poorly made. I don’t think I would ever buy a sub-$350 or so bike for that reason alone, much less a no-name bike from Wal-mart.

    • (blue) enchanted duck says:

      @Mr.DuckSauce: Yea. Buying a $100 bike is just asking for trouble. I just built up a bike, and the frame along cost 250. Even that is a pretty low price, but i got lucky on ebay.

    • j-o-h-n says:

      @johnva: My $70 Target bike has served me well for about a decade now. Sure, it’s probably more work to pedal to work than a good bike, but that’s just extra exercise AND nobody is going to steal it.

    • nakedscience says:

      @johnva: Again, the commenters here can bey ver classist and unrealistic. Do you REALLY think a COLLEGE STUDENT can afford an expensive bike? $250 is a lot of freakin’ money. And as you’ve said, you got lucky. And you had to build it yourself–not everyone can.

      So basically: “LOL, if you can’t afford an expensive bike, DO NOT BUY ONE!”

      Makes no sense.

  11. rickinsthelens says:

    If they are such an unscrupulous company, how did you get your refund? I’m sorry, but in retail you often find under-trained clerks and managers who try to bully customers into not returning things so they can have a ou got a refund, so the system worked. I think you will find these types in all businesses, and in this case, Wal-Mart as a company wasn’t the problem. The clerk and manager were.

    • mythago says:

      @rickinsthelens: The store manager is not part of the company?!

      • rickinsthelens says:

        @mythago: The store manager is an employee, who did not follow company policy. If I act like a jerk at work, am I the jerk or is the company. If the the company corrects my actions, and delivers on its policy, is the company the jerk, or me? My point is the company did right in the end, and the manager was over-ridden. Walmart employs over 1.3 million people in the US, some of them are sure to be jerks. In this instance, I am placing the blame on the manager and clerk, not Walmart. I also do not find them to be unscrupulous in this instance. They have a lot of issues, but in this case, the company did the right thing, and over rode the manager.

    • From the cubicle of PGibbons says:

      @rickinsthelens: The “clerks and manage” ARE “the company,” at least the public face of it and doing the company’s bidding. This argument is just as silly as pretending the low-level soldiers at Abu Ghraib were just bored for a few months and “all by themselves” decided to do a bunch of stuff that just happened to be in military intelligence manuals and the shameful history of the western world. You might not like your job, but a group risking jail and courtmartial by torturing people is a pretty clear hint they were doing it under orders and felt their superiors would protect their backs.

      All these stories about Wal-mart aren’t just random “bad apples,” they can’t be. There is the “official policy” and there is what the company rewards workers for doing. The clerk is making what – $8 bucks/hr? And she “risks” his job in a tight economy to violate the return policy clearly posted behind her? She’s already at Walmart – obviously not a lot of options open to her. What payback does she get by “bullying” the customer and risking a termination when the customer complains or sues? An, the Walmart manager was right on board too..

      I’ve run into this sort of crap at R.E.I. and was surprised. I would NOT be surprised at Walmart, because it’s not unusual for them. It’s obviously UNWRITTEN policy to bully customers whenever they can, otherwise it would not be so consistent.

    • nakedscience says:

      @rickinsthelens: You do realize that they WORK for the COMPANY and were TRAINED by the COMPANY, and so if they aren’t PRPERLY TRAINED, it is the fault of the COMPANY WHO TRAINED THEM, right? LOL

  12. Geekmom says:

    I am very familar with this particular Walmart and am not suprised at all to hear this. There are two Walmarts in Norman, the “good” Walmart and the east side Walmart.

  13. Matt Meadows says:

    Walmart is the devil.

  14. Coles_Law says:

    The problem with Wal-Mart bikes is assembling a bike is not like assembling a grill or furniture. For example, some parts are reverse-threaded (lefty tighty, righty loosey). I had three Wal-mart bikes break in two weeks because their assembly was tapping the reverse-threaded parts on with a hammer when they “wouldn’t tighten”. (Difference is, my returns were painless).

    The brake problem the OP mentioned is another poor assembly job-brakes should contact the rim, NEVER the tire. Some of the accessories probably would fit with the proper adapters, but I would not hesitate to return that bike either.

    • Coles_Law says:

      @Coles_Law: *assembly guy, in the reverse threaded line.

    • Cafezinha says:

      @Coles_Law: I wonder if that would explain the situation I posted in a comment (crank arm totally just shearing off the chain ring).

      I’m not very bike-savvy, just use it for recreation and errands, so I couldn’t confidently tell you what made it fall apart.

  15. booboolee says:

    My last Wal-Mart bike got stolen from my storage locker in the basement of my apartment building. I just laughed when I saw how much trouble they went to… and the fact that I wasn’t using it anymore because the brakes didn’t work. I hope they went down a nice steep hill into a busy intersection during their getaway.

  16. Hoss says:

    I bought a phone on walmart.com a few months ago. I found a better deal before it came so I needed to return it. I didnt get to a store for a few weeks. The customer service desk said that the return was beyond it’s policy (of 30 days, I think). He showed me the policy, didnt seem arguable.

    Outside I realized the date on the receipt was the date I purchased the phone, not the date I received it. Got back to the same customer service guy. He said it doesn’t matter. I asked for a manager — he said he’s the manager. So I said would you please run this through the return scanner so we both can see if you’re right. You know the rest of the story — $$$ for me.

    Ask to run the bar code to see if they are bullshitting or not.

    • wrjohnston19283 says:

      @Hoss:

      Just because the computer will allow it doesn’t mean its right – I worked at a grocery store and customers often would ask us to “try” expired coupons. Problem is, some coupons use the same barcode over and over, and just change the date. The computer doesn’t check the date, just knows that barcode 123 means $1.00 off.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        @wrjohnston19283: ok, now i’m curious – if the store accepts the expired coupon, will the manufacturer reimburse for it anyway? because the date on the coupon can’t possibly be the date the reimbursement request is submitted to the manufacturer. what if i use the coupon on the last day it’s valid but the reimbursement request isn’t submitted for another few weeks or something?

  17. bohemian says:

    I have been planning on buying a bike. I looked at some models at Target but feared they were of the same quality as Walmart. I may just have to bite the bullet and invest in something expensive.

    • kmw2 says:

      @bohemian: A low end GT or Specialized bike will run you about $250-$300, but you won’t be replacing it next year. If you intend to use it more than a few months, it’s well worth the investment in something decent.

    • ColoradoShark says:

      @bohemian: The better bike is only more expensive in the short run. You’ll work harder on the cheap bike and have to buy more of them. A good bike will last you decades.

    • Rachacha says:

      @bohemian: Almost anything in the $250 – 350 range will suit a casual rider very well. About the only decent quality bike you will see at any of the big box stores will be Schwinn or Mongoose, although their selection will be limited to their base models (which have heavier frames and lower quality components). I would also recommend talking to some of the pros at a local bike shop as they will be able to help you decide if you would be best suited with a racing bike, road bike, all Terrain bike a cruising bike or a hybrid combination of the above based on how you anticipate using it.

    • kathyl says:

      @bohemian: Any reputable bike store will offer a good, sturdy commuter bike for the $250-$300 range that other repliers have noted. Many stores also throw in free tune-ups, not to mention that if the store is one you should be buying in, the bike was put together by their mechanic, and therefore done correctly.

      Also, bike store brand bicycles (i.e. any brand you don’t see in WalMart or Target) bought used from owners who even casually maintained them would be a MUCH better investment than a disposable bike purchased from a mass-market retailer.

      I worked in a bike store for a time and I cannot begin to tell you how much good money (after bad) people poured into those Next bikes and other mass market brands trying to keep them going. Those bikes are no bargain. They either waste your money and contribute to the trash problem if you throw it out or waste your money while you pursue repair after repair.

    • jake7294 says:

      @bohemian: Well, yeah, I mean if it’s expensive it’s obviously of better quality ….

  18. Frank Murphy says:

    Doesn’t “shoddily constructed,” “dangerous piece of garbage” describe basically everything at Walmart?

  19. nerdtalker says:

    Agreed, the NEXT bikes are notoriously cheap. I don’t even bother riding mine because I feel like it is purposefully constructed to waste as much of my energy as possible. There are so many waste friction points, and the whole thing feels ready-to-fall-apart all the time.

    I got one used from some used bike store place for about $50, and even then, I feel like I got ripped off.

    It’s a made in Cheapo bike. Clearly they need to spend some more time working on it before they can knock-off a TREK or something.

    • Rachacha says:

      @nerdtalker: I bought a Next bike for my daughter from Toys-R-Us ($19). I wasn’t expecting much for the price, but I din’t case as I only needed it to last about 3 years before she would outgrow it. I brought it home and assembled it and my daughter kept complaining that the chain wass getting stuck. Upon closer examination the front gear attached to the pedals was bent which caused the chain to come off. After trying to make a few adjustments, I brought it back to the store where we were verbally abused by the bicycle assembly rep who said that the problem was with the way the bike was installed. He said he would make the adjustments to fix it but he would have to charge me. I told him it was defective, but he was welcome to try to adjust it. He took the bike in the back room and came out with a big smile on his face. I picked up the bike, turned the crank a couple of times and the chain disengaged as he was gloating how most parents don’t know how to properly adjust bicycles. Apparently, neither did he! I received a replacement bike and went on my way. For a 4 year old still in training wheels it is fine, but for an adult, go with something a bit higher quality.

    • From the cubicle of PGibbons says:

      @nerdtalker: Maybe Walmart needs to work on increasing morale in their Chinese prison bike manufacturing plants.

  20. HogwartsAlum says:

    I bought a Huffy once and had no trouble. It only got messed I wonder, though, if going to an actual bike shop and being “sized” for a bike might help me ride one. I have trouble with it because it kills my knees. Maybe it’s because I was on the wrong bike, not because biking hurts me.

    Funny, skating doesn’t bother them unless I fall on them.

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      @HogwartsAlum:

      It only got messed up when I had a wreck on it, I meant to say. My post ate my sentence.

    • Charles Duffy says:

      @HogwartsAlum:

      Maybe it’s because I was on the wrong bike, not because biking hurts me.

      There’s a good chance you’re right. My mother is a cycling instructor in Washington; I recently ordered a bike (from a company in Colorado — still a few months before it ships), and although they’re building it to the measurements I sent them (inseam, height, weight, arm length and such), she specifically advised that at the first sign of any trouble with my knees I should take it to a local shop to get the fitting adjusted.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @Charles Duffy:

        Aha. I bet that’s it. Well, where I live now is definitely not bike-friendly (bad weather, no bike lanes, killer traffic) but if the Universe smiles on me and allows me to afford a good bike, I might just try again. This time I won’t go to Wally World.

    • skeksis says:

      @HogwartsAlum: I have pretty bad knees myself, but I’ve been riding my professionally-sized bike for the last 10 years without any difficulty.

  21. laserjobs says:

    There are normally lots of good used commuter bikes on craigslist. Buy a 10 year old name brand bike and never worry about it breaking. Buying a cheap new bike is asking for trouble.

    • nybiker says:

      @laserjobs: My concern with any used bike is similar to a used car. You don’t know where it’s been. And just like buying a used car, take the bike to a shop to have it checked out as well. One concern I’d have is the frame. Check all the joint areas to ensure there aren’t any bubbles or crinkling there. If so, it means the bike hit something and the frame was stressed. On my cross-country bike ride in 1980, I hit the bottom step of a concrete stairway and the front tire went flat. Mind you, I had just gotten onto the sidewalk and was slowing down as I approached the diner. I put my bike down and went to breakfast, thinking I’d fix the flat after I ate. I returned and upon examination I saw that the two downtube joints and the top tube/seat tube joint all had crinkled paint. So much for just repairing the flat tire. I was lucky to find a bike shop in town and spent the entire day swapping my equipment onto a newly-purchased bike frame.

  22. Fuzz says:

    I used to assembly Wal-mart bikes, so I’m getting a real kick out of these replies. . .

    Seriously though, If you buy one $500 bike, it will outlast 5 $100 Wal-Mart bikes, and you will enjoy it a lot more. Those bikes are so hazardous I don’t even understand how they are legal. I would do my best to put them together as well as possible, but the metal on ever part of them is so soft it just bends. Tightening bolts was a balancing act between snapping bolts, or not having it tight enough to hold the part on.

  23. comic0guy says:

    Yea seriously, like other people’s comments, if you want some to last, don’t go to Wal-Mart. I really can’t stand people thinking Wal-Mart is the place to go. You want something you might depend on, go to a specialized store, they take care of you…..If i buy from Wal-mart it is a 5 gal jug of Mobile 1 (high mileage), can’t get anywhere else…..or something that is bought for a one-time use…

  24. Adhominem says:

    @laserjobs:

    Completely agree. A name brand bicycle, even used, will last forever.

  25. I_have_something_to_say says:

    This just in: You get what you pay for – in this case, a piece of Chinese shit disguised as a bike.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know why anyone would buy any sporting goods at Walmart or any Mart store. My 10 year old son skateboards and even he knows that the Walmart Skateboards are junk. My 12 year old rides BMX and won’t let me shop anywhere except a real bike store. They say WalMart only sells junk, and since I won’t let them buy junk food, why should they have to ride on junk bikes and skateboards.

  27. ngth says:

    I don’t get why people continue to purchase bikes from the TOY stores and expect them to last for adults. If you want to ride a bike, even for short commutes, place your safety first and get a real bike from your local bike shop. Sure, you’ll spend a little more for the basic bike, but your life will surely thank you for it.

  28. SacraBos says:

    I second JediJohn82, find a good bike shop and buy from there. They will have much superior products to choose from that will provide you many more miles of enjoyment. Also, they will make sure it’s properly adjusted, correctly fit your helmet, and more. They want you to enjoy cycling as an activity, sport, and/or transporation, not just sell a box on a shelf.

    Often, many of these shops lead weekend group rides, sponsor cycling events, and support people wanting to get into competitive bicycle racing – future Lance Armstrongs.

    Also, if your budget is really tight, see if they have any used bikes for sale. Sometimes they have some really good values, and you can be sure it’s been checked out and in good condition.

  29. PLATTWORX says:

    I only shop Walmart once or twice a year when I need something urgently and I am passing by one.
    I can’t stand the long line to get out with only one or two registers open.

    That said, I cringe at the packed parking lot and shoppers with carts overflowing even before this recession. Do they not understand the negative impact Walmart has on the community and country? How many stores who paid better wages and benefits have gone of business because of them?

    SHOP SOMEWHERE ELSE!

    • aguacarbonica says:

      @PLATTWORX:

      For how many towns with stagnant economies and dead job markets, where no one else wanted to build and no entrepreneurs could find capital, has Wal-Mart provided jobs and grocery stores?

      I think Wal-Mart’s low-price marketing is a total crock of shit, and it has some reprehensible practices. I don’t like the store. But I get irritated when people go all rage against the machine about small-businesses when I know most people haven’t seen the desolate southern towns that had ENORMOUS unemployment rates before Wal-Mart came.

      Sure, it’s like making a deal with the devil. But people need to come off the illusion that WHEREVER Wal-Mart goes it is leaving in its wake coffee shops and book stores and whatnot with supposedly better wages.

  30. Anonymous says:

    i also build this crap for a living; having to ‘re-true’ a wheel after truing to adjust the brakes & then inflating the tire, is ridiculous, yet I have to do it. The company has an expectation (which I don’t hear about anymore, since I’ve been fighting it for about five years)of a production quota for any given day — was 20, heard once it had been upped to 25. On a ‘good day’, when adjustments stay adjusted, I can do 17-18. Most days are less. I REFUSE to compromise on my builds; they are taken to the rack in as good a condition as they can be made to be.

    There is a reason these stores sell bikes (legally defined in about 40 states as ‘vehicles’)in the TOY department — they’re not real bikes, they ARE toys! My fellow assemblers at other stores join me in referring to them as BSO’s — bike-shaped objects.

    OTOH, customers that return a bike for a flat tire are prima donna wastes of skin who are taking up MY oxygen!

  31. Corporate-Shill says:

    A real, functional, durable, adult sized bike for only $100?

    Yea, right. In your dreams.

    How much did that “real” replacement bike cost the OP?

  32. Cyfun says:

    Umm hello? Why go to Walmart in the first place when you know it’s going to be a horrible experience?

  33. RedSonSuperDave says:

    Nthing the “don’t buy a bike at Wal-Mart” posts. Much like the OP, I bought a bike at Wal-Mart thinking that I’d save money on gas and make my cardio better at the same time.

    After adjusting the seat, I hand-tightened the lever that was supposed to lock the seat in place. However, seeing as how it was made out of some cheesy pot metal crap, it snapped off in my hand and cut me.

    Still bleeding, I brought the bike back to Wal-Mart and demanded my money back. Unlike the OP’s situation, whether because of the implied threat of a lawsuit or just because the Returns associate didn’t consider herself authorized to make up company policy, I got my money back instantly.

    Don’t buy bikes from Wal-Mart. If you’re LUCKY, they will ONLY utterly fail to work properly.

  34. Major-General says:

    Presumably as a Norman resident, she should have known not to shop at Eastside.

    Disclosure: I worked at Norman Westside. Also, most of Norman south of Robinson and east of Berry Rd. is within about two miles of the university. Of course that depends on which part you need to go to.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @Major-General: you’re aware that what you just said makes absolutely no sense to me, and at least 90% of the consumerist audience?

  35. Anonymous says:

    Walmart managers are notorious for this. The Walmart near me in Deland Florida for example will not cash out of state checks. It is the only Walmart I have ever heard of like this and they used to do it for almost a year but one day ity seemede some manager changed policies. I keep meaning to call corporate over it but instead I just go to another nearby Walmart which does accept out of state checks. It seems to me that the manager of the store made up her own policy.

  36. JollyJumjuck says:

    It’s sad that $110 can’t even get you a decent bike to go 2 miles riding on the street/sidewalk.

  37. chartreuse says:

    since they hired, trained and kept them on, they ARE Wal-Mart.

    A company is it’s employees.

  38. jdubyas says:

    I’ve come to my own realization with China-mart… this story just hammers it home.

    I’m a contractor. Early on in my contracting career, I was working as a subcontractor to a much older, experienced general contractor. We had to cut a piece of angle-iron, and I went to cut it with my band saw. I had purchased the cheapest band saw I could find (about 80 bucks, in the Northern Tool catalog). The bandsaw, promptly broke while I was cutting. The foreman called the ‘old man’ at the office and informed him that my tool failure was holding up the whole project.

    While I tried to finish the job with a hack saw, the old man showed up on site, with his high-end Milwaukee Band Saw and handed it to me to finish the job. The then took me aside to give me some sage advice. He said, “I’ve been a contractor for over 30 years. I learned the hard way, now I’m going to pass some advice along to you. You always pay more for cheap tools, than you do good ones – because they’ll break and you go out and buy the better one anyway. Save yourself the trouble – buy the good, expensive one first. It’ll last. Plus those companies generally stand behind their tools.”

    Moral of the story.. I went out that afternoon and bought a top of the line Milwaukee band saw. It still works, and its still with me.

    How does this story relate to China Mart. Around the same time I discovered that the mistake I’d been making buying tools for my business – I was making that exact same mistake in my personal life. Every piece of junk that I bought at Wal Mart was just that… junk. Think to yourself for a moment. Over the last couple of years… how many things outside of food products and commodities have you bought at WalMart that failed on you?

    Me…

    Sprinklers for my yard (4 of them when I reseeded my lawn…) All 4 long since broken, replaced by expensive, made in USA replacements bought at Ace Hardware.

    Cheap radio, to listen to while I work in my garage… gone… Replaced with a Sony.

    Child gate for the top of my stairs… broken… Replaced by one I built myself…

    Shoes…. I just don’t buy cheap shoes at Walmart… they only last a month at most.

    The list goes on….

    This poster learned the hard way… Crap is always crap… Don’t get sucked into their marketing mantra to “Save money, live better”. If you have to buy everything twice, are you really saving money?

    • runswithscissors says:

      @jdubyas:
      In a lot of cases, such as the ones you mention (power tools, shoes, electronics) this is very sound advice. The no-name cheap crap will just cost you more in the long run.

      *BUT*

      I do shop at WalMart for national brands, or for things where quality actually doesn’t matter.
      Examples:
      – The latest video game is the same game whether bought from WalMart for $49.99 or from the game store for their $54.99 pricing. Might as well save me the $5.
      – A Sharpie marker is the same whether from Wally or Staples.
      – etc for most name brands… (exceptions where Wally gets a unique and questionable quality product from a name company in some unique cost-driven contract).

      And sometimes I just need something cheap. Example: I joined a friendly indoor soccer league at work. Non-contact, people know each other, and cleats are not allowed. Still, I didn’t want any accidental kicks to the shins, so I wanted some cheap shin pads – basically I just needed a piece of plastic with a little foam and a strap. All the sports places had shinpads starting at $30. Wally had a cheap pair of chinese-made ones for $5. I went with those, since that’s all I needed. Most people in this league don’t even wear shin-pads.

      So for name-brand stuff, or for stuff where cheap isn’t a problem, then Wally is fine. For anything you need to last and be of solid quality (and isn’t a national brand) then buy the good one first… you’re going to anyway in the end.

    • skeksis says:

      @jdubyas: Please tell me that child gate didn’t fail catastrophically!

  39. ZoeSchizzel says:

    Alternately, almost every town has a “bike guy” — someone whose passion in life is fixing up old or unwanted bikes. Ours is an old man in his 80s. His yard and his house are filled with bikes. People bring him their unwanted bikes, or simply dump them off. He keeps the best ones in the house, fixes them, babies them and sells them for a very low price. Going to the bike guy’s house is always a trip!

  40. semajarab says:

    never buy ANYTHING from Walmart.

  41. surfer88 says:

    The first red flag, and not surpisingly, being flown up here is by the consumer himself. Choosing to buy a bike, let alone anythin,g from Wal-Mart was the first mistake. Second red flag is that the consumer chose not to research bicycles prior to making a purchase. It seems in this situation that rather than making an informed purchase of a bicycle based on things like safety features and customer reviews, the purchase was made because the price was (cautioningly) right. And honestly, what person in their right mind pays $100 dollars for a bicycle anyway, especially when said cycle is going to be a main mode of transportation?

    Bottom line here is, this entire situation could have been avoided had the consumer taken 10 minutes to do some research prior to grabbing the car keys and heading to the store. Congrats on a small victory against the large corporation, but in the end you got yourself into that mess in the first place.

  42. alpacalypse says:

    I know this article isn’t really about the bikes, but let it be heard:

    Buying bikes from department stores is a bad idea. Yeah, every once in a while a customer ends up with one that fits decently and doesn’t fall apart, but that’s the exception and not the rule. The people who assemble them don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve seen bikes come out of walmart with handlebars on backwards, brakes disengaged, pedals and wheels improperly installed– if you can imagine it, it’s been done improperly.

    Someone mentioned that Walmart is now selling Schwinn bikes. Don’t be fooled. The Schwinn brand name has been expanded to include some department store bikes, and they’re marginally nicer than huffy and the like, but these are not comparable to the bikes you find at local bike shops. And more importantly, the major fault with bikes from big-box stores is not the bikes themselves, but the assembly, fitting, and quality control. If you Schwinn wasn’t assembled correctly and can’t be safely stopped, it doesn’t matter how nice the parts are.

    If you actually plan to ride a bike for more than a week, do yourself a favor and go to a local bike shop. It will save you money in the end.

  43. MBEmom says:

    I just bought 5 bikes from Wal-Mart, although not that crappy Next brand. I was unhappy with the one I purchased for myself and took it back the next day. No problem. What’s funny is that someone else also brought in a bike to return while I was returning mine. There was some sort of problem with his but they took it back, no problem.

    Clearly, the people at that particular Wal-Mart are idiots. That doesn’t necessarily reflect on the whole company.

  44. Sara Koehnke says:

    Kudos to you for getting this done in a civil way and for being able to get what you needed!

    It’s so sad to see everyone trying to rip everybody off…

  45. Cafezinha says:

    I had a fabulous experience with a Wal-Mart bike once, where I was pedaling my happy ass to work the day after I bought the bike and the entire crank arm sheared right off the chain ring.

    (Naturally, I wasn’t expecting this development so I quickly went from perpendicular to the ground, to laying on it. Unpleasant.)

    I didn’t have too much trouble returning the bike, but it was a pain in the ass to walk it back (I didn’t have a car) and of course, the road rash on my cheek was pretty embarrassing.

    The bike I got in exchange served me just fine, though. It’s truly a crapshoot–gambling that you’ll spend 100 or so and get a gem, instead of paying the higher prices of a LBS and knowing for sure you’ll have a solid ride.

  46. Paul Franz says:

    Target has the same policy here, it’s not surprising. I don’t see what the problem is with it. If we can’t fix it then we’d return it but most of the time the issues are rather small and consumers would rather have a company swallow the cost then wait a day or two. Settle down people.

  47. kabuk1 says:

    Cool! Finally a Consumerist article about my hometown. I’m not surprised the guy had the experience he did- I used to work at that Wal-Mart wen it first opened up & I quit because of the sheer ineptitude of the management there. Unsurprisingly, 10 years later it’s still just as bad if not worse. I think I know the lady he mentioned, and she’s a real Capital B if ya know what I mean. They just didn’t FEEL like processing the return. Kudos for getting them to do it.

  48. Anonymous says:

    This happened to me! I bought a bike, rode it once, and the brakes so did not work. When I tried to take it back, they said they couldn’t because they were just going to fix it. I didn’t trust them to fix it. Turns out that if you have what they call a manager instead of what they call a customer service manager you can get what you want. The people were so rude to me about it though! Ugh.

  49. Anonymous says:

    I spent just over $200 on a Schwinn road bike. First issue was that the steering yoke was not adjustable (in spite of the instructionsw – which I checked before buying) – I should have returned it that day but I wanted to go riding! Three flats later, I replaced the tubes and tires. Then it started to skip while cranking. Took it back with the receipt and was told the exact same BS – Bikes are not returnable. I took it to REI and had their bike shop evaluate what was wrong – bad chain bad rear sprocket – folks, this was after 30 miles. Went back to Wal Mart and asked for a manager, they said take it to Schwinn and have it fixed. Yeah, I no longer shop there. $200 is a lot of money for me. I would have been better buying used (better quality, supporting locals, etc.)

  50. RandomZero says:

    I once worked for a small subcon that built bikes for Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, et al in numerous locations. Perhaps it’s international differences, but in our experience, Wal-Mart was the best on both ends – not only was it not hard to find quality bikes under store badges (ones that would’ve gone for double if they’d had their real brands displayed), their return policy is god damned insane. Run over by a car? Left in a fire? Used for stunts despite the large warnings all over all the paperwork telling you not to, until the fork broke? No problem!

    (The worst we saw, BTW, were Canadian Tire’s CCM brand. Shoddy fits, soft metals, fragile accessories…)

  51. whatifhesgotapointedstick says:

    Alright, as someone who assembled bikes, worked the courtesy desk at Wal-Mart and was trained quite well on how to do both I might add, let me set the record straight.

    I’ll be the first to admit that Wal-Mart bikes are not the most well made bikes in the world, but I’ve run into situations like this before. Although this policy does not officially exist, it can be something that the bikes assemblers and customer service staff initiate in order to cut down on the amount of bike returns as a result of dumbass customers who try to return a bike saying it won’t shift anymore or that the brakes are rubbing. The reality of buying a bike (almost ANY bike) is that with repeated use, the cables stretch out and the derailleur (gear shifters) don’t work as well as they should. All this requires is 5 min to tighten up the cables and voila, it works like a new bike. Same thing with the brakes. Customers (especially those who buy bikes at Wal-Mart) don’t understand this and get so return-happy that they immediately assume its the store’s fault. (I once had a customer return a bike because they ran it over with their car. Or the customer who claim the wheel was making a clicking sound when she still had the cardboard display packaging in her spokes. And we took them both back, too. You don’t hear customers complaining about that…) We would have always rather repaired a bike for a simple fix like that rather than return it and throw it away (because that’s what happens to bikes that get returned to Wal-Mart that customers CLAIM are defective, another store policy).

    That being said, this store either doesn’t have a qualified assembler or in a rush to meet a quota of bikes built for the day had someone untrained do it (which granted, shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but is the main thing that drives the assemblers nuts). I’ll the be the first to admit that this bike definitely wasn’t put together right, but it doesn’t mean the customer should have threatened a lawsuit. I could have had that bike fixed in probably 15 minutes. Like I said, I’ve run into this situation plenty of times before and dealt with plenty of unruly customers before. I had a customer make my wife cry because she told him that I could fix it (free of charge as an employee of the store) for him and he still refused, yelling and screaming that he wanted to see a manager about it, when all it would have taken is 5 minutes of adjustments.

    The fact of the matter is that if you spend $100 on a bike at Wal-Mart (especially a NEXT), you can’t expect too much. Obviously it was badly assembled, but I’m sure the store was just trying to repair something that was easily fixable rather than take it back and have to throw it away. Just because its Wal-Mart doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little common sense and cut them some slack.

    Sorry for the gigantic post, but like I said, it was something I had to deal with a LOT.

  52. Adriesty says:

    As a Walmart Associate (I know, but I’m a poor college student, and I need the money) I can tell you that there is NO return policy that states bikes can only be repaired, not returned. It is a store manager decision to overrule any company policy (which is technically against the rules).
    I’ve been fighting this policy at my store because the bike I bought has had to be repaired 4 times in less than 2 weeks. I’ve also been told that as an associate my “knowledge of specific return policies allows me an advantage over the other customers” and that if the manger returned the bike “he would be discriminating against all the other customers whose bike he couldn’t return.” As an associate, I do know company policy better than the average customer, but I felt I that I wasn’t being treated well as a customer either. I will be calling district managment as well.
    Now, as a company, Walmart does not have to tell you of the any return policy or display all of the policies. However, if you go up to the customer service desk and ask about any specific item’s return policy, be sure to specifically ask to see the actual written policy. Many stores will say they have a certain return policy, but it might be the store manger’s decision to change the policy. Whereas the Walmart company policy is the only policy they are allowed to follow, and the one you are allowed to use as a customer. If you have problems, always ask to speak to the store manager, and don’t take no for an answer. If you still have problems, ask to call disctrict management. The name number should be displayed with the store manager’s name and number. If it’s not, check the bathrooms. The district manager’s name and number is usually listed on the “if this bathroom is not satisfactory…” sign.

  53. kirby84 says:

    Thanks to this article, I was able to receive a refund for my bike at Walmart. The associate told me the exact same thing. While I was waiting in line, I googled “walmart bike returns” this article showed up in the results. I immediately went to my car and called the store manager. I stated that their return policy for bikes violates policy. She immediately told me to come back into the store and gave me a refund. Thank u!