Wacky Wal-Mart Idea

On the weekend, I returned a faulty pressure washer to the Wal-Mart where I purchased it in May.  It had only been used twice (successfully) before it broke on Saturday.  In a highly uncharacteristic move, I had actully saved the receipt, so I figgered I was good to go.

Well, I got to the store and stood in line and everyone was very pleasant, but no joy.  Wal-Mart’s policy, clearly stated, is a 90 day return period, which I was clearly past.  I wasn’t upset or anything – I would have been pleasantly surprised to actually receive a refund, but I thought maybe a store credit or something.  Whatever.

It got me thinking, though.  What if Wal-Mart had a no-questions-asked 1-year return policy?  And what if that really was how it worked?  What if you simply handed in your item and receipt, and you were handed cash money by a smiling person?  (And they would  be smiling cause they would’t have to argue!)  And what if EVERYONE knew that’s how it works?  You could even have closed-circuit TVs thoughout the store showing people happily getting their money back! 

Would it be good PR?  Yes.  Would some people think it was gimmicky?  Yes.  But would it help sales?  I think maybe, because people would be less afraid of buyers’ remorse – they’d be secure in the knowledge that they could always take it back.

I have a tiny bit of data to back this idea up.  We used to offer a 3 month money-back guarantee for our software application Maximizer.  When we raised the allowed-return period to a year, the total number of returns fell.  We’re not sure why – we’d like to think that users had more time to learn to love the software, but it was probably because they just forgot.  Regardless, the knowledge that they had the ability to get a full refund for a whole year did help sales.

Aside #1: Notice the new logo?  It’s kinda Twitterish, no?  Is this the softer, gentler, hipper Wal-Mart?

Aside #2.  How long will I be able to consecutively title my blog posts with words that begin with “W”?

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4 Responses to “Wacky Wal-Mart Idea”

  1. netdud Says:

    Wal-Mart makes their money because they sell large amounts of stuff at a low margin. They make NO money on service, and only dole out enough of it to increase the volume of sales.

    There was very little cost to Macktimider for a return. The product didn’t have to be re-stocked, re-packaged, or documented as a write-off. The only real risk was losing a sale AFTER the money had been sitting in the bank for a while.

    A longer return period at Wal-Mart means more service costs, no matter what. Even if the percentage of returns went down, the increase in volume would probably keep the staffing requirements higher than they are now. So the risk is actually three-fold:
    – People start bringing back stuff that they would have kept (which you are saying might not be the case, which still means it’s a risk)
    – People start bringing back things they bought somewhere else, because there are still a couple of retailers left who sell the same things Wal-Mart does. PEOPLE TRY THIS ALL THE TIME! Man! People, eh?
    – Wal-Mart has to pay to have people who can handle the returns hanging around, or else get even more flak in the press for their stores being understaffed/over-worked

    It would be a noodle. A NOODLE! I’ll go on record saying “noodle.”

    Aside 1 – Look at your cat/dog as it walks away. Now look at the Wal-Mart logo. You will never see that logo the same way again.

    Aside 2 – My money is on “Three or more times.” Put me down for five bucks!

  2. Stephen Brooks Says:

    Aside #2 – The over/under is currently at 30.

  3. Who’s Counting? « About Bars & Marketing - by Stephen Brooks Says:

    […] October 14, 2008 — Stephen Brooks Back on September 16, in this post about Wal-mart, I noticed that my last three pieces in a row had titles that began with […]


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