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Walmart gave away my paid-for TV to someone else
January 19, 2011 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any advice? A week ago I bought a $450 TV via Walmart and got it sent to a local store in Maryland via its site-to-store service. I was going to pick it up this weekend when I'm renting a truck to move into a new apartment. However when I checked the website yesterday it had stated that it has already been collected by me last Saturday. I did not pick the TV up.

I have an email saying that it arrived at the store on Friday 14th. The website states that I collected it Saturday 16th. I called the store manager as soon as I noticed something was up. His first response was that was impossible - after all, for someone to do that they would need to have the the order number and my name. I told him that it's not outside the bounds of possibility for someone with access to the system to pass these details on to a friend and for them to mock up an email and fake ID. He reluctantly said he'd start an investigation.

I just called now and the same store manager said that they've got the footage of whoever picked up my TV - he's "caucasian, with dark hair, wearing a kind of sweat suit with black and white sleeves" apparently. It's definitely not me anyway. They have the security footage of him getting to the site-to-store desk and showing the guy on the desk some ID, then the employee handing over the TV, which was wheeled out of the store.

The manager has essentially said that's the end of it - there's nothing more they can do. I told him I can rent a car and come down to the store and prove that whoever that guy was, he's not me and according to the order I'm the only one permitted to pick up the TV. He's just not interested. He also will not entertain the idea that one of his workers, particularly the one seen handing the TV over to not-me, could be in any way involved in a crime. According to him this has never happened before, no way, and if someone were to commit this kind of ID fraud surely they'd go for something easier than a TV?

I'm kind of stuck what to do now. What do you suggest? Go to the MD police? Anyone know what department at Walmart's head office might be able to help with this? And anyone have a number for the relevant department? The store manager would only give me the 1-800-WALMART one.
posted by uk_giffo to Shopping (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
What did you use to pay for it? If you used a credit card, a charge dispute will be really easy.
posted by fritley at 2:08 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Credit card purchase? Chargeback. Get your money and find a TV at a store that will deliver the goods you paid for. Even if this is a simple mix-up or a clerical error, do you really want to do business with a store that assumes you are a thief?
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:10 PM on January 19, 2011


Time to escalate, ask to speak to the manager's manager. Keep very detailed notes of when you called and to whom you've spoken. Good luck! (I'd also call your bank/cc and the cops.)
posted by cyndigo at 2:10 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used a Bank of America Visa debit card. I'll call them and ask if I can do a charge dispute.
posted by uk_giffo at 2:11 PM on January 19, 2011


1. Contact your credit card company and dispute this charge.

2. I'd be communicating with everyone at Walmart in writing at this point. With a copy to the useless store manager and his name mentioned in all communications. I'd email and write. Here is the webpage with email and home office addresses.

3. Make a police report as well. This is straight theft, apparently by a Walmart employee, of your property.

4. I'd tweet about this too. The customer service people for businesses keep a close eye on negative tweets.

5. On the long shot front, you may want to contact local media. A lot of TV folks love stories about consumer fraud, particularly if their fearless reporter can help make it right. It is great that there is video.
posted by bearwife at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'd contact your credit card company and report the situation to them. That is, assuming you paid with a credit card.
You may also consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or Attorney General.
posted by nickthetourist at 2:14 PM on January 19, 2011


In addition to all the things mentioned above, you could try writing to The Consumerist. They publish letters like this all the time and they have a huge readership, so a lot of the time the complaints are resolved fairly quickly because the companies are afraid of the bad publicity. Also, they may provide you with a list of high-up corporate email addresses for you to complain to, which often gets the issue looked at.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:22 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd definitely file a police report. Someone stole your TV! It doesn't matter that it was stolen from the store and not from your house.

File a chargeback now.

I'd consider starting an EECB as well, to get results.
posted by specialagentwebb at 2:22 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Def. File a police report, after you call your cc company to dispute.
posted by tristeza at 2:22 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would definitely file a police report -- as bearwife said, this is straight-up theft. And you want to get the police in there before Walmart deletes the video footage they have of someone picking it up.
posted by brainmouse at 2:22 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't particularly find an email address on the site, but if you call Wal Mart HQ (or their district office) ask for "Loss Prevention". They are the ones who deal with shoplifting and theft for the store.

Speaking as someone who dated a person who worked in Loss Prevention at a competitor, this is a super duper easy theft to do if an employee was in on it. If all you have to do is show an ID (without the employee scanning or otherwise recording the ID) it's easy for an employee to go through the steps of appearing to "verify" the ID even though it's wrong. (I've heard lots and lots of stories).

Definitely do the chargeback and tell Visa that the store reported to you that they have video evidence of someone picking up the TV that does not (?) fit your description. I'd also tell Loss Prevention that before that video disappears.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease on this one...I'd make tons and tons of noise.
posted by MultiFaceted at 2:24 PM on January 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'd go with making a police report, contacting the state attorney general, and starting the charge dispute process with the credit card company.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:28 PM on January 19, 2011


Just call BofA. They'll reverse the charges immediately.
posted by TLCplz at 2:47 PM on January 19, 2011


Just to be sure, you said debit, not credit, right?
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:55 PM on January 19, 2011


OK I called BoA credit dispute team and opened up a new case. It's a charge card (debit) rather than a credit card. I asked the operator if I would have less consumer protection with a debit rather than credit card and he said it's just different - different rules. But he went ahead and opened a new case and also gave me a "temporary credit" for the $484. The dispute case will apparently last up to 90 days.

In the meantime I called the local police non-emergency number to file a police report. The operator there said that in order to do this I need to actually be present in the state or county, and I'm currently at work in DC. He said that I need to get the metro to Prince George's County, then call the number again, whereupon apparently an officer will come and collect me and take me to the store. I'll feel a little bit guilty if this happens - PGC's had something like 11 murders already this year so I'm sure the police have more important things to do. Still, that's what the operator suggested so I'll do that tomorrow sometime during the day.

Tomorrow I'll work on a few more of the suggestions. Thanks!
posted by uk_giffo at 3:03 PM on January 19, 2011


The Better Business Bureau is useless and will possibly charge you a fee for arbitration.

I would call the Walmart location back and talk to the manager's manager (as was suggested above) and tell them that you are going to do a chargeback. Chargebacks are expensive to stores and they will typically want to avoid them. Tell them you would like proof of your signature being signed for delivery.

And call the cops. And call the bank.
posted by getawaysticks at 3:05 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, because I hate Walmart, I'd go the local news/Consumerist route as suggested above anyway, just to put the heat on them. The next person they rip off may well be older or impaired, not have the resources or savvy that you have, and just go, "OK, I guess my TV was stolen, then."
posted by cyndigo at 3:18 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll feel a little bit guilty if this happens - PGC's had something like 11 murders already this year so I'm sure the police have more important things to do.

Um, just so you know, they're probably not going to send a homicide detective out to pick you up. So if that's really bothering you, I'd relax.

I wouldn't bother calling the WalMart manager on the phone anymore. It's too easy for them to claim that you told them something, or that they told you something. Although I think the chance that you could be left holding the bag on this is really, really low, better not to give someone the opportunity. For all you know, the manager could be involved. And aside from the trip over with the police, I wouldn't go there in person either. Either with the police, or in writing; that's the best way to protect yourself against someone else changing their story down the road.

My guess is that you're going to get the money via the chargeback and there's going to be a police report and that'll be more or less the end of it; WalMart's LP people will have to do take it from there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:30 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


This was his position?

He also will not entertain the idea that one of his workers, particularly the one seen handing the TV over to not-me, could be in any way involved in a crime. According to him this has never happened before, no way, and if someone were to commit this kind of ID fraud surely they'd go for something easier than a TV?


Get him to commit that to writing. Tell the manager that you need it for the police report. I'd be quite surprised if he didn't suddenly change his tune. As a former retail manager with 17 years of AV experience, I can assure you that precisely this kind of thing happens all the time. This will NOT be news to his District Manager, nor Walmart's loss prevention department. This store manager is not doing their job properly, and I would be stunned if you needed to escalate this beyond his immediate supervisor. Had this happened to you where I worked, you'd be getting a free $100 gift certificate, along with your TV delivered and installed for free. The manager would be given a written warning and a poor performance evaluation as well.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:49 PM on January 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Don't accuse anyone of anything. Just say that you ordered and paid for a TV and did not receive one and that they need to do something about it. Don't let your grievance depend on solving the theft.
posted by LarryC at 5:11 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Get the police report done, as much as a pain as it is - that's the legal leverage you need when it comes down to it. The police can force wal-mart to obey the law faster than you can. If they have footage, the police can call it evidence of a crime - you probably can't, or will be ignored.

Your first call probably should have been to the police as soon as wal-mart said someone else pretending to be you picked up your TV.
posted by TravellingDen at 5:19 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I picked up a ship-to-store order at Walmart last month or the month before, and all they wanted from me was the email with the bar code. No signature, no ID. They just scanned the printed email then scanned the barcode of the item I was collecting. (They also got my order wrong and didn't have any kind of official paperwork etc to record what had happened with the erroneous bit. Very sloppy. Not doing that again.)

My point is, it's possible no one signed for your TV, even if he picked it up using "ID" instead of a copy of the email.
posted by galadriel at 5:29 PM on January 19, 2011


Stock shrinkage and loss prevention is a dynamic situation. It's a function of the environment and culture within which it occurs. Assuming a corporate environment, as with a Big Box chain, there will be a series of rules and procedures in place that might vary depending on store location, size, volume and nature of stock. Without dwelling on the reasons for these differences, trust me when I explain that different stores will have different procedures in place to ameliorate stock shrinkage.

Beyond the bare minimums which are mandated for all locations, corporate will often implement policies which automatically kick in when some metric is reached. Remember that the general public are extremely sensitive to any perceived slight or inconvenience. Therefore a careful weighing of security needs is always accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis of any potential impact on profitability. In a small town, where everyone knows each other, even the largest of operations might have relatively lax security procedures compared to a high-crime area in a big city.

Beyond this, store and department managers might implement their own policies with respect to security, as their bonuses are often tied to inventory control. It's entirely possible that this manager is acting so unprofessionally because some policy has been violated or it might impact their next inventory audit. Not saying that this is the case, but the possibility is there.

Finally, in retail, the biggest threat to inventory integrity is always internal. Any manager who ever insists that this is impossible within their own operation isn't qualified to run a department, let alone a store.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:42 PM on January 19, 2011


It's Wal-Mart's problem. I've done ship-to-store, and they take down all kinds of info that should allow positive ID of the picker-upper. Something that large, they should have demanded that the person picking up produce the order #. They are supposed to see ID, and their failure to do so means they are screwed, not you. If it was stolen, it was stolen from Wal-Mart, not you, as you had not taken ownership of the TV at the time. Keep taking it up the chain. The dispute with the bank/card company is also a good angle; they'll back you up on that unless/until Wal-Mart gives you a TV. Consumer protection with a charge card is almost absolute on an internet transaction, which this amounts to.

I would pound on Wal-Mart, and threaten to take it to the media. Local TV would eat this up with a spoon.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:55 PM on January 19, 2011


If it was stolen, it was stolen from Wal-Mart, not you, as you had not taken ownership of the TV at the time.

Yes.
posted by LarryC at 8:17 PM on January 19, 2011


I am seconding randomkeystrike.

If I were you, I would already be three links up the chain of command asking how the store could be so irresponsible with such a large-ticket item. Ask for the phone number of a district manager. Having worked in a retail job for many years, I can tell you that they are very concerned with making angry customers happy. If they are not willing to help you, get a copy of the site-to-store delivery policy in writing, and calmly suggest that since the policy clearly wasn't followed and you did NOT show ID for the pickup, you will be calling your local police and you lawyer. (Even if you don't have a lawyer, threat of litigation is usually enough to get results.) Good luck!

Anecdote: I live in Alaska, and my extended family is in PA. I purchased a massage chair for my Dad from WalMart and had it shipped to a store in PA for convenience. I asked my Mom to pick it up upon arrival. Mom took her ID (which had the same last name as mine) and also a copy of my confirmation e-mail. The store refused to release the chair to her because according to them, it was "store policy" that only the purchaser may pick up the item. I even called and spoke to the person at customer service, and they still refused to let the chair leave that store until I arrived (Christmas Eve) and showed my ID. The chair cost $75. This manager is yanking your chain. Fight back.
posted by keribear at 9:09 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't fret about bothering the police, bothering Walmart or bothering the bank/credit card or the media. No one is going to advocate and defend your interests on your behalf, unless you really really make some noise.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:30 AM on January 20, 2011


My grandmother had her purse stolen from her cart at a Walmart and she contacted the store. Teh store had video footage of the people who took the purse, but they told her that they can't share surveillance footage with customers. What she had to do was file a police report, then the police can request the footage, and go forth with an investigation.

You need to file a police report and though they may never really figure out who took the TV, as long as they can confirm it wasnt you by the footage, then you should be fine.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:11 AM on January 20, 2011


Thank you all for your comments so far. I really appreciate them. In case anyone wants to know what happened, here's my notes:

12.30pm Thursday 20th January
At the store, asked Customer Services to speak to [store manager] and after explaining why, was directed to the security camera operator. He told me he was aware of the footage in question but couldn’t do anything unless the police were present. I called the police and they arrived 20 mins later. Officers G and P arrived and had a conversation with the camera operator. They came out and Officer G said that the camera operator told him that this happened because the man on the site-to-store desk had failed to properly check the ID of the person who collected the TV. This contradicts what [store manager] told me yesterday. The police asked to speak to [store manager] but one of his colleagues, who I assumed to be the deputy store manager was sent to speak to us instead. She said she was unaware of the matter and then after the story was explained again said the store would have to carry out an investigation. She said the store would need to check who was working on the site-to-store desk at the time of the incident, would need to look at what signature was received for the item, and so on. I informed her that [store manager] had already carried out this process yesterday and had concluded that there could be nothing wrong with the situation. Through all of this Officers G and L were very sympathetic and supportive of my situation and admitted this situation was “ridiculous” but that it may be a civil matter. They gave me the police report number, their phone number and wished me luck. Kept the receipts for the taxis from the metro to the store and back, $22 total.

3.20pm
Called the office of Mr Nelson Stammer, the “Market Manager” of the region which covers the store and left a voicemail message stating my name and telephone number and a brief 20-second synopsis of the situation: that somebody else had collected my site-to-store item and when I informed the store manager of this he checked the security camera footage, saw that an ID was shown by whoever took the item and therefore there was nothing he could do. I invited the regional manager to call me with an explanation.


I'm still very angered about the whole situation. And no-one's apologised yet! Anyway, next steps: try to continue getting in touch with some higher-ups at Walmart (particularly keen on the executive email carpet bomb idea!); consider contacting the MD attorney general; write a letter of commendation regarding the two police officers.
posted by uk_giffo at 1:10 PM on January 20, 2011


Could you take them to small claims court? They were legally responsible for your TV when they had it and failed in that duty. They also failed to deliver any sort of compensation. I would do this only once other options are exhausted as it may make the store an active antagonist, hampering any investigation.
posted by chairface at 1:18 PM on January 20, 2011


Oh yeah, document, document, document. Try to get a copy of the security tape since you can't assume they'll keep it forever.
posted by chairface at 1:19 PM on January 20, 2011


You need to be calling the store manager, the market manager, and his manager. When you get these people on the phone, do not let them go until you get a TV. You bought a TV, you have the card you bought it with. You say that you're still very angered. You should be! Use your anger to get the results you deserve.
posted by joecacti at 1:46 PM on January 20, 2011


Have you demanded that they make you whole? You paid them, they gave your stuff to somebody else. Are they hemming and hawing because you are just leaving the ball in their court and they are not eager to volunteer? Tell them, flat out, that you either want a TV delivered and you want it yesterday, or you want them to charge back the purchase.

You should have told them to call the police as it was their problem, not yours. They're making you do the running around, and that ain't right.
posted by dhartung at 5:11 PM on January 20, 2011


(Another tack: You or a friend could post a link to this thread at Wal-Mart's Facebook page, under Feedback.)
posted by dhartung at 5:15 PM on January 20, 2011


You are doing wonderfully. Have patience, this is going to work out. I do also recommend a hard copy letter in addition to email, tweeting this and (if that video appears to still be around) contacting local media with the story.

At a minimum I think you can expect to be refunded the cost of the TV on your debit card, but I wouldn't be surprised if the higher-ups at Walmart figure out some other ways to make up to you for this.
posted by bearwife at 7:41 PM on January 20, 2011


Hmm.. Maybe you could try to contact the CEO. His information can be found on consumerist.com. This information dates back to 2009.

I have had success emailing the CEO of Acer when I had an issue. You also might want to try to contact a marketing manager from the company. I would suspect that upper management would be concerned about stories like yours getting out to the general public. (Just reading your story has made me decide never to use Walmart store pick-up.)

Keep us updated. Good luck!
posted by parakeetdog at 9:06 PM on January 20, 2011


Been thinking about this over the last day or so.

Just keep this in mind: your TV did not get stolen. WalMart's TV got stolen, or given away, or whatever. Sucks to be them.

But they still owe you a TV.

Just keep pressing on that. You bought a TV. You want them to deliver on the TV that you bought. The fact that they gave a TV away to some other dude by mistake, or through negligence, or because there's an inside job going on by their staff, is not your problem.

That TV that went walking away on the security camera footage? WalMart's. Just keep reinforcing this to everyone, and to yourself, lest it somehow get turned into your problem rather than theirs.

I think you've gone beyond the call of duty in trying to get the theft resolved or at least investigated, but I think you're now at the point where it's time to look for an exit strategy. You do not want to wait around, out a TV, while whatever investigation is going to (or not going to) happen gets performed or neglected.

I'd be aggressively pursuing the chargeback with the bank, to make sure it sticks (was there any sort of affidavit or statement to the police in which you stated for the record that you never received the TV? that really ought to do it), while also pushing WalMart (at the highest level you can reach, not the store level) to deliver the TV that you bought. Whichever one comes through first, I'd declare victory and leave.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:00 PM on January 20, 2011


Kadin2048 is right. Except for one thing. The TV actually was Walmart property before, which it had already sold to OP. OP does not have to have physical possession of his property to own it. Things in one's home, storage locker, parent's keeping, or store's keeping still belong to the owner, even when the owner isn't sitting there atop them.

Ergo, this is actually theft from OP and that is why the police were willing to take a report. This is also why Walmart has a risk of serious embarrassment if OP makes this public -- they let someone walk off with a customer's bought and paid for property. Their employees may have been in on the theft.

Having said that, if OP is reimbursed for the TV by a chargeback, and/or if Walmart provides replacement TV for the one that was stolen via Walmart's negligence or it's employees' complicity, I agree that ends the matter. (Which doesn't mean, morally and as a matter of busines etiquette, that Walmart shouldn't do more than that to make up for the aggravation, inconvenience, and stonewalling OP has experienced.)
posted by bearwife at 10:49 AM on January 21, 2011


OK another update, and hopefully one of the last as this seems to have gone more positively in the last 24 hours.

Yesterday evening I got through to the office of the manager for the region after a few attempts. The store manager's manager, essentially. The lady who eventually answered the phone in that office turned out to be the director of one of the in-store departments for that same region. I told her what happened, at some length and in a lot of detail since I was essentially reading from my detailed notes. She was interested to hear what I had to say: apologetic and very shocked at the whole thing. She asked if I could fax through to her all the notes I made and all the other relevant documentation such as the site-to-store email confirmation. I've had a couple of follow-up calls from her and I get the sense that things are moving. She relayed that the guy who's responsible for the stock theft situation for the region had already launched an investigation but had not been made aware of the "additional customer service issues". Anyway I certainly don't think I'll be without my TV for too much longer. Where I am now is where I should have been two days ago when I called the store manager to inform them of the fraud: someone at the company saying "OK, we're so sorry about the inconvenience, we're on it, we're investigating it and we'll get you your TV asap."

I'm still keeping notes and documenting everything too because who knows if this situation is going to take another turn. Thanks again for the comments and particularly the assurances that the people in more senior positions are the people who will care most about fixing these issues. It really is the best way to go: immediately up the chain, as noisily as possible, until someone responds in the correct and decent way.
posted by uk_giffo at 11:08 AM on January 21, 2011


Where I am now is where I should have been two days ago when I called the store manager to inform them of the fraud: someone at the company saying "OK, we're so sorry about the inconvenience, we're on it, we're investigating it and we'll get you your TV asap."

Precisely. Excellent news. Sounds as though this sub-par manager might be in for some re-training.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:07 PM on January 21, 2011


In case anyone comes across this thread, what happened next is that the store manager called me and asked me to come into the store so they could "make things right". He implied that I would be able to get a replacement TV from the store so I did my research on Walmart's website and ascertained that the store only had 3 other 42"/120Hz LCD TVs in stock. They were priced at $550, $700 and $850 but only the more expensive two had the same number of HDMI inputs as the original TV I ordered. At the store the manager met me and within 30 seconds had asked if I had found a replacement I liked. He didn't bat an eyelid when I said that the $700 TV would be a suitable alternative to the one I ordered, and so I walked out of there with a TV worth $250 more than the one I ordered. It's not quite worth the hassle I went through but I'm happy to have it finally sorted out.

Thanks everyone for the encouragement and advice!
posted by uk_giffo at 9:11 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


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