Walmart's Ailing Recall System

Walmart watcher “Behind the Counter” has identified the weakness in the retailer’s notoriously ineffective recall system.

1. Wal-Mart is notified that they’re selling the Gravy Train of Death. Or Ol’Roy’s Six Feet Under Special.
2. Wal-Mart’s Bentonville drones place a “sales restriction” on the item(s) in question. This is done by looking in a computer and seeing which of the products the company is selling, finding the appropriate UPC(s) and blocking those UPC(s) from being scanned at the register. Any register. Anywhere there is a Wal-Mart. Yes. The computer in Bentonville has tentacles all over the planet.
3. The Bentonville drones send an e-mail to the Dept. 8 [pets] manager and some other people, including the Service Desk (because customers can of course return their recalled items) telling them to pull the merchandise from the sales floor.
4. Oh wait. There isn’t a #4.

Number four is important. Emails can go unread. Sales restrictions can be Land sakes a mercy! It’s been RECALLED! [Behind The Counter]
PREVIOUSLY: Woman Buys $1,000 In Tainted Pet Food At Walmart
Recalled Pet Food Still On Walmart Shelves


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sudonum says:

    Damn, I just linked to this blog on the other post!

  2. Karl says:

    I think their sales restrictions would be a lot more effective if they mentioned why an item shouldn’t be sold (e.g. “Sale Not Allowed: Will kill your pet!”) instead of a generic message.

  3. KevinQ says:

    One place I worked (I think it was KB Toys, though it may have been Blockbuster. This was a while ago) when we had product that we had to ship back, we had to scan it in the computer. Each week, a report would come up detailing items that the computer thought we still had in the store that we were supposed to send back. It was a way to double-check, and a way for the store manager to bust our balls if we missed something.

    Apparently, that double-check is what’s missing here. I’m sure they keep track of their products by SKU or similar. If an item’s not been zero’d out in the computer, the manager should know, and do something about it.


  4. raybury says:

    I’m not convinced there isn’t a step 4. After posting on the last thread about this, I printed out a list of Old Roy recalls and checked my local WM, where the recalled stuff was missing from shelf space labeled with handwritten “recall” tags. This did most of what we could have asked for.

    What it did not do was ease my mind about the WM practice of “jerry-rig locally.” A register at a nearby store had a semi-literate pencil-written sign about no credit cards for weeks. The obvious solution is to fix the thing, but didn’t anyone in charge have a frakin’ printer in their office to make a readable sign in standard written English?

    It also didn’t assuage concerns about step 2, especially with regard to pet food, baby food, and other quantity-key-susceptible items. This would be one good argument in favor of item-level RFID tags. Also better human vigilance.

  5. Bourque77 says:

    Eventually one of these delayed recalls for wal-mart will come back to cost them millions in a lawsuit. Then maybe they’ll fix it, maybe.

  6. mopar_man says:

    Why is it so difficult for the largest retailer in America to deploy an effective recall system?

    Because that would mean there’s stuff taken off the shelf that wouldn’t be sold for profit. That place will do anything to make a buck (or a penny for that matter).

  7. Michael Bauser says:

    KevinQ’s right: A smarter inventory system would help a lot here. I’ve worked at places that had weekly “ship back” reports, too.

    Another thing that would help is a policy that puts regular employees and customers in the loop. The system described at Behind The Counter ends with notifying department managers. When I worked retail, a manufacturer’s recall would result in an notice next to the timeclock (where all employess would see it), and next to the registers (and/or the regular shelves) where customers would see it.

    Walmart’s setting itself up for disaster by treating its employees and customers like children. Employeese can’t help if they’re not taught how to help.

  8. bloodr says:

    This is clearly a symptom of why Wal-mart is is bad for American. Clearly there is no effective recall system and no incentive for Corporate(we CYA’ed by telling the managers and putting it in the computer, Managers(we CYA’ed by putting it in the computer) or Employees(we don’t get paid enough to care) to handle a recall properly.

    Can’t wait till there’s a recall like this for human food.

  9. Jason-Ryan-Isaksen says:

    Yes, like has been said, recalls don’t produce money for the company, it’s just a hassle sending all the stuff back to their supplier. Also the fact that they aren’t liable, it’s the place that makes the product, so they aren’t in a panic worried they will get sued for not pulling the item right away, their mammoth legal team would prove it was in a “reasonable” time no matter how long they took.

    The point is, Walmart has ruthless efficiency when it comes to saving money and things that make it for them. There is no motivation for them to get recalled items off the shelf the second they are made aware of it. I’m not sure why, because if they did have some “instant response system” they could include how much safer it is to shop at Walmart than other places. Instead of those huggy feel good commercials where they say how great it is to work there and so on, put in mention of a 4 hour response to any recalled products or whatever they can work out to make shoppers feel better. Especially with the latest round how they handled the poison pet food, doing that now might be good PR.

    Like bloodr mentioned also, I don’t think the staffers at a typical store are thinking about it, they don’t pay enough and there’s so much emphasis on bottom line activities it’s just not going to be a priority for them unless someone at the top sets up such a program.

    Jason Ryan Isaksen

  10. pollygamy says:

    Guys, you know this did happen with human food-remember the spinach? And the peanut butter?
    Besides that, it isn’t left up to just the department managers to make sure recalls are done but the claims people do it. As with this dog food, it wasn’t even all canned goods but pouch goods and some cans, plus it isn’t all just in walmart, there are many other stores that carry the affected brands. Do the research, go to and read the list.

  11. Red_Eye says:

    @bloodr: Remember the peanut butter? They apparently moved quickly on this especially since it was ‘their brand’ and another affected. Altho I wonder if anyone could find more on the shelves now?

    Remember wrongful death of a pet costs no where near as much as a human.