Published on: September 12, 2019
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Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
My daughter was shopping online the other day, and couldn’t find what she wanted at the kind of discount she was looking for on Amazon, and so we decided to check out walmart.com.
Go figure, she found the items she wanted, at a cheaper price than on Amazon, and so she placed the order. But because I wanted to check out what is supposed to be one of Walmart’s differential advantages, I asked her to request in-store pickup, and I said I’d go get them for her at the nearest store, in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Now, the good news for Walmart was that when I got there, it was almost impossible to find a parking space, so I went next door and parked at Home Depot and walked over. No problem, is wasn’t that far. But when I walked inside Walmart, there was a big “pickup” sign … telling me that the pickup location was at the back of the store. There was a map, showing me that the pickup counter was about as far from the front door as possible.
So I walked into the store and, no surprise, the aisles were even more crowded than the parking lot. Again, good for Walmart … but I had to dodge shopping carts and people and more people and staffers stocking the shelves and little kids running around (apparently without supervision) to get to the pickup counter.
When I finally got there, the package was ready. I signed for it … and then I had to run the gantlet again to get back to the parking lot so I could walk to Home Depot to get to my car and then drive home. (And there was traffic on I-95, which didn’t improve my mood.)
Now, I have two questions:
Were the savings worth all the trouble? For my daughter, sure, especially because I made the trip to Walmart.
In all fairness, is this a typical Walmart pickup experience? I’m guessing not … I know I’ve been to other Walmarts around the country where the pickup counter is near the front door.
But … I also would observe that like a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a chain of stores is only really as strong as its least impressive store.
I’ve had this conversation in different contexts a lot over the years. It is a pretty good bet that in many cases, a company’s most impressive and innovative stores tend to be within driving distance - sometimes spitting distance - of headquarters. Now, part of that is because proximity allows senior executives to keep an eye on their investments, which does make sense. But an unintended consequence, I think, is that because that’s where senior executives and their spouses - and, sometimes, their household help - do their shopping, the impression creeps in that this is what all the stores are like.
Which they’re not. The Norwalk Walmart is kind of a crappy store at best, despite the fact that it also can be pretty busy. But Walmart does nothing to improve the situation by making pickup of online orders about as inconvenient as possible.
These are the kinds of unforced errors that retailers have to avoid. I’m sure that Walmart could give me all sorts of reasons for why that counter is so far away from the front door, and many of them might even be legitimate. But here’s what I do know - when it made that decision, Walmart wasn’t thinking about the customer.
Like I said, an unforced error.
That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: