Who's right about Wal-Mart's customer satisfaction?

The retailer says shoppers are happy, but reactions to stories about its staffing and service tell a different tale.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 2, 2013 12:41PM
Caption: A Wal-Mart store; Credit: Paul Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wal-Mart (WMT), the world's largest retailer, has denied a Bloomberg report saying the discounter lacked enough workers to keep the shelves in its stores properly stocked, run the cash registers and answer questions from customers.

"Bloomberg continues to pursue a story based on a sample size of customer responses that is not representative of what is happening in our stores across the country," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told MSN Money.

Following Bloomberg's initial report on the problem, more than 1,000 readers contacted it to say they were previously loyal Wal-Mart customers who have either cut back or quit shopping there because of the poor customer service they received. This is hardly a shock.

As my colleague Aimee Picchi recently noted, the company has increased its locations by 13% over the past five years but has raised its staffing levels by just 1.4%. Wal-Mart routinely performs poorly in independent measures of customer service such as the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The Bentonville, Ark., company scored 71 in the latest ASCI survey, the lowest of any department and retail store. Rival Target (TGT) earned an 81 rating.

Wal-Mart, which earlier this year promised to hire 100,000 veterans within five years, is in Wall Street's doghouse because of its lackluster growth. Earnings have disappointed investors for the past two quarters.

Management has blamed the company's woes on the financial stresses affecting low-income shoppers even as the broader economy continues to rebound. But as the reactions to MSN Money's last article on the subject show, there's more to the story.

"Their prices may be good, but if it's not on the shelf it doesn't matter," wrote one MSN reader. "The lines are long, and many of the employees are apathetic or have attitude problems. ... Bottom line is it's not worth the aggravation to shop there."

Officials with Wal-Mart couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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1154Comments
Apr 2, 2013 2:24PM
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Go to any Walmart in the US, at any time and you will find 50 cash registers but only 5 cashiers on duty.  Absolutely ridiculous! 
Apr 2, 2013 1:37PM
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I  do not feel like Wal-Mart treats it's employees like human beings and well I should know because I worked there for 13 years. They give you impossible work deadlines, they cut or add hours to your work schedule, but no overtime is allowed and is rarely ever given without permission if have overtime you will be written up or fired.  Not much to smile my fellow Americans.  Wal-Mart is only hiring veterans in order to repair there bad guy image, but they are still the same bad guys! No not even the vets are going to put up with the B*** S*** that Wal-Mart dishes out !  The veterans deserve to be treated with respect  dignity. Every time I or anyone has pointed out the high turnover that Wal-Mart has they say that the turn over is normal,  we should compare the turn over rates when Mr. Sam was alive there was a world of difference-a much happier workforce! 
Apr 2, 2013 1:17PM
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There is nothing happy about Walmart. They bring down the neighborhood.
Apr 2, 2013 2:09PM
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I haven't been inside a wal-mart for 17 years. I divorced them because of poor quality merchandise, crappy service - if there was any service at all, and I learned first hand how they treat their employees (my daughter) and how they treat their US vendors. They prefer to deal with Chinese vendors, so I prefer to shop elsewhere where I can get good service and higher quality merchandise.
Apr 2, 2013 2:21PM
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I hate having 1 or 2 registers open with long lines, I use to shop there regularly, but now I shop where I don't have to wait 10 to 15 minutes to check out. The store by my house has 28 registers with 2 open most of the time. 
Apr 2, 2013 1:33PM
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I changed to Target.  When the WalMart close to me got messy during a recent redesign and I couldn't find something, I couldn't find an employee to help either.  Even when I did manage to hunt down a person, they were always 'not from this department' and couldn't help anyway.

 

I've known one too many workers who just gave up working there because they were not treated humanely.  They would get few hours, very irregular schedules, bosses who didn't really care, or who were micromanagers, little to no hope to ever improve their work situation while there...etc.

 

When will employers realize that keeping employee and giving them a career path, no matter what the industry, is valuable?  Oh, wait, its cheaper to just hire the next kid and start over...

 

 

Apr 2, 2013 1:38PM
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Wal mart will fall like Kmart did ... Don't matter how big they are that's the problem ! They are too big with not enough customer support for all the stores ... Their parking lots are empty , customer service is crap and their quality of food and goods are junk ! A perfect prescription for failure. And giving Vets jobs? LOL They need good paying jobs to bring up a family , not a job for a teenager. Vets need good paying auto worker, steel worker truck driving union jobs , with healthcare .. That's what Vets and America needs . Anything thing less is a joke ..
Apr 2, 2013 2:16PM
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The stuff sold in Walmart is cheap Chinese junk.  It falls apart isn't worth buying and 9 out 10 stores I have been in are filthy with stuff usually laying on the floors.  I've gone in late at night after work to buy some food item and you can see the mold and rotting food sitting on the shelves. 

 

Support your local community grocers and retail stores over this giants cesspool of a store that has no interest in your community other then sucking the life out of it.

Apr 2, 2013 2:16PM
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These reviewers have obviously not ever been to the Wal-Mart, Sardis Road North, Charlotte, NC.  It is without a doubt the filthiest, poorest stocked, and filled with incompetent associates of all the Wal-Marts in the world.  They've got a man behind their deli counter that NEVER helps a customer or a fellow employee, just stands and watches - call his manager over to complain?  So what?  Associates that don't speak American, that will walk away from a customer as help is being requested.  Seriously Wal-Mart - what in the world is wrong with you?  Don't you realize there's very little difference between associates and customers?  Each of us only wanted to be treated DECENTLY, with a little respect, and be paid for our work.  You get what you pay for Wal-Mart.
Apr 2, 2013 2:22PM
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1. When it takes me longer to check out because there are 4 registers open out of how many they have thatn it does for me to buy 125.00 worth of groceries, Im done....

2. I do not eat scrap meat and neither should anyone else. Worst meat department I have EVER seen. I mean come on! People shop there because they like to or have to. Either way, it doesnt mean we cant or wont afford decent meat...

3. Stop stacking crap in the aisles!! you cant get down them as it is.   

 

Apr 2, 2013 2:23PM
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Our Wal_mart never has anything on the shelf.  When you do find something it takes an hour to check out.
Apr 2, 2013 2:24PM
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O - but it is true. Just ask any Wal-Mart employee - NO HELP. Nothing to put on shelves. The hours they work their people, it is amazing they get anybody to work there. 7a-4p one day, 7p-10p the next, then 7a-4p again (which is a double back. And never more than 32 hours a week. One person I know says they have to work their regular location, then go to another dept to fix things because they have NO HELP.
Apr 2, 2013 2:31PM
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I find the same story applies to every large store you go to anymore. All these store care about is money, not people.
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I agree with never enough checkers. If you need to find someone to help you well good luck and for our Wal-mart don't go on Sunday because apparently they don't have stockers on the week-end.  I really dislike having to go there but it is the only game in town as the saying goes. I do save money if I watch what I buy over our super market chain we have here.
Apr 2, 2013 2:18PM
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I have to agree with the Bloomberg' report. My wife went to Walmart three  days ago and the shelves were empty in relation to several types of men's underware in Hampton, Virginia.
Apr 2, 2013 2:30PM
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Shopping and the frustration of shopping at Walmart is huge!!! So big walk from one end to the next looking for

stuff.  No help stand in lines for 30 to 40min trying to check out.  Merchandise cheap breaks when you get it home.

I have changed to Target, Walgreen, CVS to shop for things I need.  Having lower prices and cheaper stuff at walmart not worth the frustration of being treated with no respect or courtesy.  I have waited 3 hrs to get a prescription after I have called it in to Walmart 2 days ahead.  When i get there they still don't have the order right.  Scary and they are working with meds

that could kill you if filled wrong.  Walmart workers and their managers need customer service classes.  I have only noticed

the last year how bad staffing was at walmart.  You can't find anyone and then they don't know what you are talking about

or where anything is..  Never liked walmart anyway but really don't like it now. 

Apr 2, 2013 2:16PM
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When you shop at Wally World you can be quarantted that it is just crap, Chinese junk that won't last. You might as well throw your money into the air in the parking lot. Walmart is for the ignorant, uneducated, and just plain stupid. Nothing in the store is worth having, not even the food. Take a frozen pizza out of the refrigerated case, notice that the bottom is a little odd looking, it was thawed and refrozen causing it contents to sag and run to the bottom. This is an excellent opprotunity to get sick with bacterial stomach infestion, so much of the food their isn't fit for eating. The folks on the government EBT cards don't care, by the way those EBT cards are the reason why food prices are so high. The companies are raising prices because the are fleecing your tax money that pays for these free handouts.
Apr 2, 2013 1:03PM
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The checkout lines don't seem be any worse than they have been in the past at our Walmart. Since I pretty much know where everything in the store is, lack of customer assistance is a non-issue for me.

I've pretty much given up on customer service anywhere unless you hit the store early in the morning.

Just got back from Home Depot and they were falling over each other to assist me. Go there on a Saturday or Sunday and you are on your own. Seems to be that way everywhere.

Apr 2, 2013 2:27PM
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It annoys me that no matter what time of day you go to Walmart, they always seem to have pallets of merchandise running down the center of  the main aisles or pushed up against the shelves in the side aisles. They're trying to fit so much into the store that customers can't even move around.
Apr 2, 2013 2:24PM
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Again, but they did not address the premise that the shelves were empty enough to house hobos and the lines folks had to wait in were 5-6 deep in stores with 30 registers but running only a half-dozen! And by looking at all these comments, these aren't just a few folks who like to bellyache. I don't hate Wal-Mart...to the contrary, I own lots of Wal-Mart stock and have an immeidate family member whose living relies on Wal-Mart shoppers. Wal-Mart - keep your shelves stocked! Keep an eye on your hottest sellers to make sure they don't go empty - don't wait till the middle of night to get them stocked and lose sales all day long!....keep the top shelves and bottom shelves pulled out and faced - if you are an older person and they can't reach them without climbing or getting on their knees, you are as good as sold out - and those folks have lots of time to get on their phones and complain to all their friends. And if folks with busy schedules find themselves waiting in long checkout lanes too long will stop that habit and go elsewhere.
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