An Open Letter to Lee Scott

21 August 2005

Dear Mr. Scott:

Your company has a quality problem.

Before I describe your problem, be assured that the solution is not in your public relations department. It isn’t in your communications efforts. The problem isn’t because your company is large. It isn’t because you are the sales leader in so many categories of products.

Your problems begin when a Walmart employee answers the phone and answers three questions. The first question asked at 5:00p.m. is, “what time does your automotive service department close?” The answer is 8:00p.m. The second question is, “do you have a set of four Michelin tires of a certain size?” The answer, “hold on, I’ll check…followed by a brief wait…and then, yes we do?” Finally, the third question was, “if we arrive in the next twenty minutes, can they be installed this evening?” Again an affirmative answer, “yes, but there might be an hour and half’s wait.” Assuring the associate that wouldn’t be a problem, we left for Walmart and dinner at a nearby restaurant during the wait.

Arriving at Walmart by 5:20p.m., we were told that the automotive service people stopped taking tire orders at 4:30p.m. Furthermore, there were only three of the tires we had inquired about. No, the missing tire had not been sold during our twenty minute drive.

This incident continued over another three days while two other Walmart stores gave us different answers by phone and in person. As a last effort prior to a vacation trip, I returned to the original store and inquired about the tires. I was told there were five in stock that had been there all week. It would take three hours because there were six cars ahead of mine.

Again, willing to have a late lunch at a nearby restaurant, I accepted that condition and put my car in your care. It was about 3:15p.m. Finally, I got my car back at 8:00p.m. and one of the windshield wiper blades had not been replaced, so I waited for that. To his credit the counter person who had been waiting with me was equally frustrated with the indifference of the mechanics doing the work. He offered a $15 discount on each tire. It was obvious that this was the only thing he was empowered to do.

Spend your time on EDI, on logistics on clever just-in-time inventory techniques if you choose. Do so at the very great risk that even less demanding customers will eventually become disillusioned with Walmart. The peril in that weighs far more than most other topics that might get your attention.


Former Walmart Customer

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