Looking for Walmart.com’s phone number? Yep, I’ve spent a lot of time looking for it too, and I’ve found it. Only catch is that even with this “magic phone number,” you’ll still end up listening to endless recordings and, quite possibly, get lost in the Walmart maze which is intended to drive you away from the phone and back to their site. It’s what they launched in the fall of 2007 as their “Customer Contact Reduction” program. Now, I’ve got a lot of alternate names for the same, but let’s just stick with the official name.
So, having warned you of the perils ahead, here’s the number:
- Walmart.com (regarding orders placed on the walmart.com website): 1 (800) 966-6546
- Walmart retail stores (for comments about your local Walmart store): 1 (800) 925-6278
Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, always placed a high priority on his stores having top notch customer service. Overall, I’ve been fairly pleased with the customer service I’ve experienced whenever inside an actual Wal-Mart store. However, my latest experience with purchasing from Walmart.com drove me directly into their Customer Contact Reduction program’s anti-communication nightmare.
Last week, I ordered a mid sized refrigerator online at Walmart.com for my office. I received the simple order acknowledgment email (reminiscent of the very plain, overly simple and annoying checkout process exemplified by their sister company, SamsClub.com, but I’ll save that for another day). The email stated I would receive the fridge within the next week and a half.
Everything was fine until yesterday when I received two odd emails. The first acknowledged receipt of the return (?) of my fridge and the second stated that the amount I paid had been credited back to my credit card. Odd, particularly since I’d never received the refrigerator from Walmart.com and, therefore, wouldn’t have been able to return it. And, they failed to give me a reason why they were returning it for me (i.e. product discontinued, product out of stock, etc.). I popped over to Walmart.com looking for a toll free customer service number to call so I could find out what on earth was taking place. While I was on the site becoming a tad bit frustrated since I couldn’t find a single phone number on any page where you’d expect a phone number to appear (reminds me of YorkPhoto.com’s similarly annoying website), I decided to check the list of refrigerators for sale to see if, perhaps, mine was out of stock. To my chagrin, I found that my fridge was still apparently in stock, but now the price was higher by 22%. Ouch.
My brain began to reel and develop assorted scenarios. Did they realize that the free shipping was crunching into their profits? Did they not want to fulfill yet another profit losing sale and so they (with minimal customer notification) just decided to cancel my purchase and post it as a return? Then, I would be forced into paying the higher rate which would line their pockets with the profit they need and (more reasonably) pay for the imaginably higher shipping costs for sending a heavy fridge to a customer.
I submitted an online form asking for help with my order, but deep down inside, I knew that any reply from that inquiry would probably be several days in coming; and, then, even when it did come, it would probably be a very generic reply and I would give up trying to get anywhere since waiting several days between single emails is just crazy. I’ll gladly send my business somewhere else (i.e. where I can interact with some helpful, warm, friendly human customer service).
In search of a direct human means of contacting Walmart, I Googled “Walmart.com phone number” and stumbled across a news article in a NY Times blog about Walmart’s Customer Contact Reduction program where Amy Colella, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, optimistically shares why Walmart has chosen to remove their phone numbers from their website. Other websites I stumbled onto also expressed the challenges that people are facing when trying to locate a toll free number for Walmart.com. From a website usability perspective, Walmart.com royally flunks.
Giving up trying to find their customer service number, I went back through my emails. One email I received shortly after making the purchase, and it actually said my fridge had shipped! It even included a FedEx tracking code. I plugged it into FedEx and discovered that the fridge had shipped on time and had even been delivered – and signed. But it had been delivered to Walmart’s return headquarters. According to the FedEx notes, the “Barcode label [was] unreadable and replaced.” So, there you have it: the fridge was shipped, but the shipping label was unreadable. FedEx has a policy of automatically then shipping Walmart.com packages with unreadable labels to Walmart’s main returns warehouse in Arkansas. In the meantime, the fridge on Walmart.com’s website that I had ordered either had it’s price jacked up by 22% or else that same model had been replaced by a different (but very similar looking) model which was 22% more expensive than the original model.
Looking through my emails some more, I ran across the magic gem of a customer service phone number for Walmart.com. In the “A Refund for Your Walmart.com Order” I found this sentence which was worth it’s weight in gold to me:
Gift Card: Funds will be credited back to the original Gift Card. If you no longer have this card, please contact us at 1-800-966-6546.
I jumped up from the couch and grabbed my phone before they could destroy that communication option too! But, then began the typical maze of zillions of options to choose from, and, if you press the wrong option, you end up listening to an ear full of recording telling you to, essentially, hang up your phone and go back to their website. Finally, since none of the options were really relevant to my odd (and hopefully abnormal) situation, I decided to press a couple buttons and choose some options which had the highest probability of being options that only a human being would be able to address. After several trial and error choices, I landed on one which routed me to a human voice representing Walmart.com!
It was a guy with a foreign accent (Philippines/India outsourced call center?) and I had to listen very carefully to understand 75% of what he was saying. However, Sam Walton’s dedication to customer service was definitely evident once I finally got through to a human! This guy was awesome. He thoroughly checked into the situation, took his time listening to my side of the story, and is sending me the new model of the fridge (if it’s a new model) for the same price I paid. Maybe this time it will arrive at the White House and Obama will be the one to sign for it!
Now, whether or not I’ll buy from Walmart.com again is a whole different story. You can be sure that there are many other places where I’ll check first. A company that tries to force everyone into minimal interhuman contact through time delayed online contact forms and proudly removes their customer service phone numbers is an odd beast that flies head to head against the most common marketing and customer/public relations wisdom. If Walmart.com decides to realistically address the zillions of customer service phone calls that a company of their size is bound to receive and posts their toll free number on their website, I bet user happiness (and retention) will definitely increase.
1:30 PM EST 07/05/2010 update: Just got a response to my initial email regarding my order from Walmart.com customer service. A canned email as I expected but received much faster than predicted:
We are writing to let you know that the item which you ordered is not available anymore.
Please visit the site often to see if the item is back in stock
Good job on the speed, Walmart.com; however, this email would not in the least satisfy a customer who plugged in the FedEx tracking code and discovered that the item had been shipped and then diverted back to Walmart. You’ve got to include some concrete details in the customer service email as well as an offer to retain the customer. How about something along the lines of this:
We apologize that, due to a shipping error, your package was sent by the shipper back to our returns department. We’ve also recently discontinued stocking that particular item. Please call us at 1-800-966-6546, mention your order number, and we’ll send you a similar item at the original price. Your 100% satisfaction is our goal. Thank you for being a Walmart.com shopper.