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Bloomberg has a story saying that Walmart has received more than 1,000 emails from shoppers across the country complaining about out-of-stocks, suggesting that the problem is more pervasive than previously reported.

A previous story from Bloomberg, taken note of here on MNB, pointed to Walmart's problems with empty shelves, was disputed by Walmart spokeswomanBrooke Buchanan, who said that it was "based on the comments of a handful of people, is inaccurate and not representative of what is happening in our stores across the country."

But since the story ran, Bloomberg says, it has received more than 1,000 emails: "The e-mails began arriving shortly after the article was published and were still coming a week later. Most were from previously loyal Wal-Mart customers befuddled by what had happened to service at a company they’d once admired for its low prices and wide assortment. Many said they were paying more and driving farther to avoid the local Wal-Mart."

The problem seems to be that Walmart has reduced the number of people working in its stores as a way of saving money, which means that there are fewer employees to stock shelves. Empty shelves lead to reduced sales. Lower volume leads to additional labor cutbacks. And the vicious cycle continues...

But Walmart continues to dispute the story:

"Those items are missing at a crucial time for Wal-Mart, when the U.S. economy already is restraining its shoppers’ spending. Same-store sales for Wal-Mart’s U.S. locations in the 13 weeks ending April 26 will be little changed, Bill Simon, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart U.S., said on a Feb. 21 earnings call.

"Wal-Mart said the customers complaining to Bloomberg aren’t a sufficient sample size and don’t represent shoppers’ impressions of its stores nationwide. The company surveys more than 500,000 customers a month, asking them about checkout lines, store cleanliness and the helpfulness of workers, Buchanan said yesterday in e-mailed statement. 'These customers continue to tell us they have had a positive shopping experience and those numbers have trended upward over the past two years,' she said. 'Our in-stock shelf availability is at historically high levels and averages between 90 and 95 percent. We will continue to work hard for our customers and meet their expectations by offering them everyday low prices on the broadest assortment of merchandise'."

To read the entire story, and the litany of complaints about Walmart's in-stock position, click here.
KC's View:
I cannot help but think that Walmart is either kidding itself on this issue, or just thinking that if it says something enough times, it will convince the world that it is true.

One thousand emails is a lot of emails. One has to assume that it just scratches the surface of discontent ... and that the irritation of 1,000 people can have a lot more impact than the relative happiness of the 500,000 people answering questions phrased by Walmart.

Keep in mind the lyrics from the song used in Mel Brooks' The Twelve Chairs:

Hope for the best, expect the worst
Some drink champagne, some die of thirst
No way of knowing
Which way it’s going
Hope for the best, expect the worst!


Words to live by.