Not Good Enough

by Randy Murray on August 29, 2011

Do you every ask yourself, “Why do I put up with this crap?” Bad food, bad treatment from businesses, bad products?

I find it delightful when I discover an inexpensive purchase to have surprisingly good value, but when the opposite happens, I find it unleashes in me an unpleasant level of anger and frustration. I’m sick and tired of feeling like I’m being intentionally mistreated by the cable company, the business that sold me the hot tub and promised to provide fast and inexpensive service for it (but is neither local nor inexpensive), and the surprisingly bad local restaurant. I’ve come to believe that business owners think that we’re all suckers.

Case in point:

I have only myself to blame, but I went to Walmart the other day. I wanted to buy an external hard drive they had listed on their web site. Their website even helpfully told me that the local store had it in stock. I went there, found it on the shelf, but the price was ten dollars more than their online price. Clearly that was a mistake. I pulled out my iPhone, verified that I was correct, and took it up to the electronics counter.

The man there shook his head. “No. That’s the online price.”

“OK, then sell it to me for that.”

“I can’t. You have to order it online. That’s a completely different thing.”

“But if I order it online, you’ll walk over to the shelf, pick this up, then carry it over to the in-store pickup counter, and sell it to me for ten dollars less, right.”

“That’s right.”

“And Walmart is running commercials about how you’ll match anybody’s price,” I told him. “Have you seen those?”

He nodded. “Sure. We’re supposed to do that.”

“But you won’t match your own company’s online price?”

“We can’t.”

I tried reasoning with him for a few minutes, then I gave up and used my iPhone to order the hard drive online from their site. Then I waited fifteen minutes for the transaction to reach him through Walmart’s molasses-slow systems.

Eventually, I asked him to check and he said, “Oh, you must have ordered it to be shipped to the store. It’ll be here next Thursday.”

I sighed and canceled the order.

At that point another employee helped me order the hard drive online using one of their incredibly antiquated kiosks. He cheerfully showed me how to order it, then sold me a gift card for the exact amount, for some inexplicable reason, which he then used to pay for order. We waited another ten minutes or so, he finally got the notification and I walked with him as he carried the original box I’d taken off the shelf over to the pickup counter and there he was able to give it to me.

Business owners, managers, and staff, please, please step back and think for a moment. When you find yourself playing the role of the soulless official in a Kafkaesque drama, shake it off and reclaim your humanity. I’m at fault for not walking right out when confronted by the absurdity, but you, you should know better.

The correct answer would have been, “Sure, let me give you that price. I’ll deal with the paperwork after you’ve gone.”

But I don’t expect that out of businesses like Walmart. I knew better than to expect it from them. Their employees are merely cogs in some great engine of commerce. They can’t step out of their assigned roles. And Walmart’s no different than most businesses. They haven’t set out to be evil (and yes, Google, we know that your motto, “Don’t be evil” is a cruel joke).

But it’s not good enough. I don’t have to shop there. It’s not worth the pennies I save for the frustrations that they cause.

I beg you. Please do the same. When you receive poor service, bad products, bizarre sales and service processes, break out of your assigned role as “the sucker” and be a human. Ask the other person to be human, too. And if they can’t, then walk away. It’s the only way that this will ge any better.

Not Good Enough by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Eurobubba August 29, 2011 at 8:24 am

Actually, operating a large organization without being “evil” is a non-trivial problem….


Randy Murray August 29, 2011 at 8:32 am

Well said. It’s exceptionally difficult.

Be fair and considerate with customers. Keep your promises. Compete, but don’t set out to injure your trading partners and vendors. Treat your employees with respect.

I guess it’s not that difficult after all.


Nic Lake August 29, 2011 at 9:17 am

I worked at a Very Big & Important farm equipment company for a year as an IT guy, and ran into issues like this every single day. Eventually, I stopped harassing the users and as you said, did all the paperwork myself later.

Until I was told by Big Daddy that I couldn’t do that anymore. That it was against policy, and that changing those policies was “not going to happen”.

I promptly re-enrolled in school for Management Info Systems, with the end goal of going back there at some point and completely fixing their system.


Randy Murray August 29, 2011 at 9:19 am

Good for you.

There are those that tell us that “Corporations = person”, but it’s a legal fiction, a mistake that our court system has made and needs to fix. Corporations are owned by people. People work for corporations. But corporations often value policy over service.

That ain’t how people should treat each other.


Jordan Moore August 29, 2011 at 10:04 am

During my university years I worked for Sainsbury’s - kind of like a Walmart equivalent in the UK although they like to think of themselves as more “upmarket”. I was a customer service rep and I quickly realised that whenever I was approached with a problem by a customer, the little scripts or roleplays the company believed in were terrific at annoying people.

And no wonder. Robotic answers and systems have a similar effect to those awful voice-recognition call services. The same tone, attitude, invisible barriers that exist for no logical reason, the same feelings of anger.

I didn’t last long in the role of customer service rep as my reasoning human side didn’t wash well with staff that played things by the book - “That’s not what it says here in your training manual”. When I was told I wasn’t going to be helping people any more in that role and that they had a different role in mind, I walked immediately as the whole thing was becoming ridiculous. I totally hear you about breaking out of your assigned role - if anything it helps you live a little when working for the machine.


Randy Murray August 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

It’s getting to the point that when I actually get great, personal, human service, I’m surprised. It’s sad.

I think it’s time for a million personal revolts. “Sorry, I’m not going to treat people that way,” needs to be every employee’s refrain. Customers don’t want something for nothing. We just want human interactions.


R Sinclair August 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

The same thing happened to me at the Salem Wal-Mart. At least you had the option to pick up the product that they had. At our Wally World, even though they had the exact product I was ordering, I still had to wait for a week to receive My Special item. Totally confounding.


Randy Murray August 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Hey Rich!

I remember when they opened the first Wal-Mart in Salem - it was a big deal. Now a visit is more like being in a refuge processing station. I always feel a little stunned and uncertain where I am when I leave.


Missy | The Literal Mom August 31, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Here, here! And I’m with you - shopping at Walmart is sooooo painful. Only in an emergency.


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