I believe it is important for anyone who is considering using Wal-Mart’s new Site to Store service to read the letter I sent Wal-Mart Corporate early this morning regarding my family’s significant problems with their service over the past week.  Please read below.

 “Wal-Mart Corporation:

My name is Tyler Thompson, a resident of Derby Kansas and a frequent customer of your stores.  As a profession, I am a web developer in Wichita and also the Editor-in-Chief of a popular technology website PCMech.com.  I am writing in utter disbelief of the events relating to your store, its customer service, and your new Site to Store service.  Over the past week, my family’s patience has been pushed beyond the limit by the sheer lack of competence shown by the Wal-Mart employees at your Derby location.

Please let me begin by describing the situation over the last week.  My mother and I had been looking for a game, Guitar Hero III for PlayStation 2 with a Guitar, for several days when I came across an available version at your online store.  Immediately, I sent the link to my mother who proceeded to place an order on Tuesday December 4, 2007 with shipping options set for your new Site to Store service.  The problems began here, as the credit card used for the transaction was declined three times by your online processing service and then was locked out by the same service for exceeding your overflow limit.  My mother tried again with a different credit card, which worked perfectly the first time.  It was not until later she realized that although your online processor had declined her first credit card, it had charged this card all three times for the amount of the order.  After calling customer service, this issue was resolved quickly.  Unfortunately, the problems did not end there, and they were relatively minor in comparison to what was to come.

On Saturday December 8, 2007, my mother received an email notification (the first sent by your service since the order) with the subject “Pickup Confirmation” – we believed this to be the notification promised as per your invoice’s instructions on how your Site to Store service worked, step one: “Wait for an email telling you your order is ready for pickup (7-10 days)” – however, the email did not mention anything about the order being ready for pickup.  In fact, it was worded as if the order had already been picked up.  Confused by the situation, I called the store to clarify whether this was the email notifying us the order was ready for pickup.

When I called, I immediately asked for a customer service representative, who I was readily transferred to.  I inquired about the email we received and was then put on hold for “someone who knew something about how it worked.”  After a few minutes, another person picks up the phone, and after again describing the situation to her, I was again told “I don’t know how that works, let me find someone who can help you.”  Finally, on the third try, I was handed off to someone from the back of the store who “knew what they were doing”.

This person was very responsive and positive to deal with, as she promptly looked up our order, first by last name.  She sounded frustrated when no results came back for an available pickup.  She then asked for a street address to check for.  Again, within seconds, she came back with a negative response about a pickup being ready.  The representative then asked for an order number to search.  I found the order number and read it to her over the phone, to a quick response of “Oh no.  It shows the order has already been picked up.  Are you sure you have not had anyone pick it up for you?”  My response was that no one had picked up the order and the situation was not good.  The representative looked up the order status further to find that there was a signature on file for the package.  As soon as this was discovered, I was transferred to a manager, where I let my mother take over the phone conversation because she had been the one to place the order.

After a few minutes on the phone, my mother was asked to come into the store to discuss the matter further.

She left at around 10 PM and went to management in your Derby location.  Obviously the signature was not a valid one for the package, and the situation began to escalate.  After an employee from the stocking area confronted my mother and told her, several times, that “She was not perfect,” my mother asked for her to get out of her face, to deal strictly with management, and to be issued a refund.  Three different managers refused to process the refund request, and at one point an employee told my mother “It would be extremely easy for anyone to just print off an order confirmation page and bring it in to the store for items such as that.”  This has two meanings, first of which alleging that my mother was defrauding the company, or that Wal-Mart’s security is not tight enough regarding its online order process.  After being refused the refund by the management, she requested to speak with corporate headquarters, which was originally denied, but upon further attempts was allowed in the store.

The lady who my mother dealt with at corporate was very accommodating and immediately told the manager in the store to process the refund and to apologize for the employee’s rudeness.  The refund was eventually processed and corporate issued a new order to be shipped to our house for free.

First of all, the most important implication of this event is security.  On the order confirmation page, step three, it says “Go to the Site to Store area at your store and present your printed email and a valid photo ID.”  And under that, in at least two different areas, it lists the “Pickup Person” as “Kim Thompson”.  If a photo ID is required, how did the box get signed for without an ID verifying the identity of the pickup person as “Kim Thompson”?  The answer to this question is probably pretty simple – an employee had to have falsified the signature (a state felony as defined by KS 21-3710) and then stolen the package my mother had paid for (a state misdemeanor or felony as defined by KS 21-3701).  Since the package could have crossed state lines, this action could also violate various Federal Interstate Commerce regulations.

Also, the implication that anyone could forge an email by your online store and come in to pick up the package is troubling.  Being a web developer, I deal with internet security and e-commerce on a daily basis.  As such, your website should have adequate protections built in to prevent such happenings.  Also, in order to forge the order confirmation, one must know the order number, time of order, pickup person name, and credit card information.  As this information was passed from your servers via Secured Sockets Layer communication, it would be impossible for an outside source to intercept the encrypted content and decrypt it for personal use.  Internet security is not a joke, especially for someone who works in the industry.

Secondly, the way your store handled the situation was dysfunctional at best.  From the very beginning, no one at the store seemed to know or understand how the Site to Store worked, and the way the management and employees communicated with my mother was offensive.  Customer service should be a priority, especially in situations where it is possible that an employee stole merchandise belonging to a customer.  My mother being told she was “not perfect” is extremely unprofessional and borderline on childish behavior.  This kind of behavior is sickening from a company of your size.

Thirdly, if this can happen in Derby Kansas without anyone catching on, in how many of your other stores is this lack of oversight causing problems?  How many other customers are going to be affected by similar incidents?  This needs to be taken care of immediately.

As I mentioned earlier, I am the Editor-in-Chief of a website called PCMech.com.  I am publishing this letter as an Open Letter on the website to warn our audience of the dysfunctional status of Site to Store, and also to hopefully make your company accountable for the actions of your employees.  This letter will be featured in a newsletter which is received in the inbox of over 25,000 people, and visible on the internet to our audience of over 15,000 per day.  As an open letter, your company is free to respond openly on the website as a comment.

In order to make sure this letter is acted on, I will be mailing this to your corporate headquarters and to the Manager of the Derby Wal-Mart.  To rectify this situation, we would like to receive a written apology from both the corporate office and the Derby Wal-Mart, as well as have action taken as necessary against the employees involved in this situation.  I am saddened that it has to be taken this far, but in light of the treatment we received; I feel the situation can not be ignored.

Thank you for your time.

Tyler Thompson”