14 November 2004
People hate Wal-Mart for lots of reasons: they don't like the crowds, they don't like having to park in the next county, they don't like the idea that somebody else (not them, of course) would drive twenty-five miles to save 99 cents on a box of Tide rather than walking into Ma and Pa Kettle's old gen'l store.
This is, however, the first instance I can recall of someone hating Wal-Mart because they expect to collect their unpaid debts:
She asked for my ID, proceeded with the return procedure and then gazed up at me. "I'm sorry, ma'am, we cannot take this back. You have a bad check with Wal-Mart, you have to call this customer service number."
This was a huge embarrassment. In a day of debit cards, I have not written checks in years for in-store purchases. I did not remember having a bounced check at Wal-Mart. At this point, getting the $10.88 back was not important. I felt like they were making me out to be some scumbag looking to get money. It's not like I was doing something illegal, like stealing a DVD player and then trying to get store credit.
On the way home, I called the customer service line to inquire closed for the weekend. I did call this morning, Monday, and found that I had a bounced check in 1997 when I was a sophomore in college, my first year in my own apartment, and with my own checkbook. Ooops. I was eighteen and made a mistake. The amount? About $20.00. I am sure I was charged a fee from my bank at the time, and almost a decade later, I am sure that $20.00 was written off as a loss for the Waltons. The past came back to haunt me one bounced check at a discount chain eight years ago. I am not a teenager anymore, but a young professional with a career, a house, and the means to buy a real leather coat.
Last I looked, bad checks were illegal.
And I must say, if 42nd and Treadmill were as hard-nosed about collecting from deadbeats as Wal-Mart apparently is, there would be suicide on a Guyanese scale. I can assure you, I would not miss these characters (calling them "customers" is an insult to the people with whom we do actual business) with their lame excuses and their inflated senses of entitlement. Fortunately, The Powers That Be are starting to see things my way.
(Via Always Low Prices.)