Holds $550 Hostage For PS3 Bundle It Won't Ship

Consumerist reader The Unicorn has $550 tied up in some strange Wal-Mart purgatory for a PlayStation 3 bundle that they won’t ship to her, even though it clearly states in their online terms that they won’t charge you for your order until it’s shipped. Her customer service queries are being met with content-free scripted CSR-bot responses. She writes, “Here’s the thing: don’t ever buy anything from Walmart, ever. I knew this, and ignored it, and now I’m paying the price.”

Update – 06/27/08: The Unicorn says Wal-Mart called her today and offered to cancel the order!

Update – 06/26/08: The Unicorn posted a slight correction after we published this story: “hey, just to clarify — after Chris (I think) responded to my email re: the Terms of Service issue, I doublechecked my bank account & the funds haven’t actually been withdrawn yet.” However, she notes that since she can’t cancel the order, those funds remain unavailable.

Here’s her full story:

So, the Monday before last (6/16), my husband & I came to the unfortunate realization that the 80GB Playstation 3 we’d been saving up to buy was only available through a limited-edition bundle, & that the Metal Gear Solid 4 bundles were basically unavailable in any store near us. After contacting every Game Stop, Circuit City, Best Buy, Target, etc. in the Chicagoland region, we reluctantly expanded our search to the Walmart website, & after checking back several times, all of a sudden an “add to cart” option appeared next to the listing for the MGS4 PS3 bundle. And rationalizing that patronizing Walmart was worth it in order to get a rare piece of game equipment, we placed an order for the system, which the site said would arrive between Friday 6/20 & Tuesday 6/24. After the order was placed, it showed up as “processing” in Walmart’s order tracking system, & I was told I’d receive a second email whenever the system shipped. I figured that was good news, but I was a little worried, because the MGS4 bundle showed up as “out of stock” immediately after the order was placed, & it seemed like a crazy coincidence that I would’ve gotten the last one.

Here’s the thing: don’t ever buy anything from Walmart, ever. I knew this, & ignored it, & now I’m paying the price.

Coincidentally, that same Monday night, my husband & I rented a movie from Blockbuster, & in the course of some chitchat the clerk randomly told us that they were the only Chicago store to have the MGS4 bundle in stock. (This was the one in Uptown, for any fellow Chicagoans, although I don’t know if they’d have any more.) Since the order from Walmart hadn’t shipped yet, we decided a PS3 in-hand was better than the promise of one from a retailer we hated, we took the Blockbuster clerk up on his offer & went home with our new toy.

Our plan was to cancel the order, but as it turns out, it’s not possible to cancel online orders once they’re placed. Fair enough; we figured we’d just sell the second system at cost on eBay or Craigslist whenever it arrived, or else return it to the store & eat the shipping charges.

…Except, the order is still listed as “processing” in Walmart’s order tracking system. It hasn’t shipped, & it certainly hasn’t arrived by this past Tuesday like it was supposed to. But Walmart was certainly happy to take $550.00 out of my debit account as soon as the order was put through back on the 16th! I’ve emailed them through their website three times now, explaining that I need the funds freed from my account so that I can patronize a brick-&-mortar store that has the systems in stock. (I figured it would needlessly complicate things to say I already bought another system; the only reason that was even an option is that we’re currently flush with wedding-present money, & usually having $550.00 missing from my checking account would automatically preclude any other purchases of similar magnitude.) My last response from Walmart came on June 21st, & it was just a scripted message explaining that they can’t cancel online orders in progress because their distributors usually ship things so quickly that it’s impossible blah blah blah — clearly not the case here, when the order in question has been languishing unshipped for over a week & Walmart still doesn’t have the item in stock. All of this makes me really glad that I actually bought a real-live PS3 when I had the chance, but given that I don’t know if Walmart’s even going to be getting any additional MGS4 bundles, I’m starting to get worried this order will be stuck in “processing” for the rest of time.

Do you guys have any ideas as to how I can get them to refund the money they’re holding hostage? I saw your list of executive numbers, but I don’t know that any of those would necessarily be appropriate for an online purchase, & as much as I dislike Walmart, I’m hesitant to call up random people in their corporate office who probably have no recourse to help me with this issue.

We say it’s time to go corporate. Don’t worry about bothering them—it’s why they get paid, to make things happen. In particular, they need to be made aware that they’re not honoring their terms of service as listed on their website.

Update!: A former Wal-Mart call center employee has shared some tips on how to resolve outstanding orders like this one.

Terms and Conditions [Wal-Mart]
(Photo: Clean Wal-mart)