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…
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.