Sep 20, 2007

Attention K-Mart PR Team

Fascinating story in today's Wall Street Journal about what happens when you put customer service last.

Journal editor Laura Landro (pictured above, photo from was shopping for beach gear at Kmart with her family when she found a pair of flip-flops in a bin. The flip-flops were not in a box, the bin was in complete disarray, and Landro couldn't find a sales associate. So she put the shoes in what she assumed was the correct box and proceeded to the register.

Landro and her family spent around $800 that day. But on her way out, she was detained by a KMart security guard, held for several hours, had her credit card and drivers license confiscated and ordered never to set foot in Kmart again.

Her crime? She'd put the flip-flops in a box belonging to a pair that was $8 cheaper. And Kmart, in their quest to cut down on shoplifting and price-swapping (putting the price tag of a lower priced item on a more expensive one) claimed that Landro did this on purpose.

Her article talks to many security experts and lawyers, all of whom agree that Kmart was within their rights legally.

Fine, but let's talk about the incredible damage this does to customer relations. Because I can't think of a clearer way to telegraph that at Kmart, the customer is always WRONG.

Even if Landro wasn't a WSJ editor, she'd just spent $800 in the store. Something she claimed she did fairly often. To lose a customer like Landro over an $8 mistake just seems absurd. To lose hundreds if not thousands of customers as a result of Landro's article takes it to a whole other level.

While I understand that theft is a real problem for Kmart, there are steps the store could take to ensure that these sorts of situations don't happen. Obvious ones like making sure bins aren't chaotic and in disarray. Slightly less obvious ones like putting in signs reminding people that if they can't find a box to just bring the item up to the register without one. Or to let the cashier know they're not sure if it's the right box.

Then there's the damage control that's needed right now. Kmart needs to respond to this article immediately. Apologize to Landro and let her (and all the other upscale shoppers who frequent Kmart and Target and WalMart for low prices on disposable goods) know that they are truly sorry this happened and that they value her business and that they are taking steps to ensure that this doesn't happen again.

Kmart, are you listening?


Anonymous said...

Sorry - I don't know that I agree. Just because she's a reporter she should be exempt from the rules? Yes, i agree it was unintentional. But the law should be equally applied to everyone. She did do exactly what they accused her of.

All stores have horrible shrinkage problems and they need to deal with it. Retail theft drives up prices for ALL of us. And the security guard had no way of knowing how many OTHER items she had switched. Switching is the most common form of shoplifting.

With $800 in merchandise, the security guard could reasonably assume that if she was swapping flip flops to save $8, she might easily be doing that with several items.

Security did their job, detained her, made sure she didn't do it on other items, and held her accountable for her actions.

It was an accident, I am sure. But even when we err, we are responsible for our actions.

Alan Wolk said...

Sorry anonymous.
Kmart made it too easy for Landro- or anyone else- to fall into that trap.

That's their mistake and it's a big one.

They also failed to apologize when approached afterwards.

That's a huge huge huge mistake.

It telegraphs to every Wall Street Journal reader that Kmart does not care about their customers, that they view them all as potential criminals and they we are only allowed to shop there at their sufferance.

Given all the alternatives to Kmart-- e.g. WalMart, Target, Kohls-- that's about as inane a policy as you can have.

Anonymous said...

I find this article to be very interesting and that I have found that Kmart in my small town has left the world of reality. Kmart seems to be systematically finding ways to send the public to other retailers. They have a very unprofessional "don't care" least in our small town. I was treated in a very rude and unprofessional manner today at the Kmart in our town. Almost 2 months ago I purchased several bottles of an additive for evaporative coolers from this Kmart. The claim on this bottle is that it helps keep your evaporative cooler running cleaner and more efficiently. We started using this chemical with belief and trust that it is a good product. Instead, we realized that our almost new Alpine Evaporative Cooler began being less and less efficient and the coating on the inside started to erode. We called the company that manufactures the Alpine Cooler and we were told that we had in fact voided our warranty by putting this additive in our cooler because it has been found to cause problems with the pump and finish. We are very upset that we have lost our investment for our cooler and now have to buy a new one at a cost of over $270.00. Now, we know that Kmart or any other retailer is not responsible for manufactures quality, however it seems only right that a retailer would want to know if they are selling a product that will void the warranty of something and cause damage during its prescribed usage. I explained the situation to the woman at the “courtesy” counter and also explained that I have no idea what I did with the receipt for the products. It made no difference to her that this product is sold only at Kmart in this town and though she did call someone to see if I can return the product I was told no. “No receipt” “No refund”. Very abrupt….very mean. It became very apparent to me that there is also NO RESPECT, NO PROFESSIONALISM, and NO REASON FOR KMART TO FIND EMPLOYEES WHO MAY HAVE A BEGINNING CLUE ABOUT PUBLIC RELATIONS. This woman spoke to me with an indignant, and condescending attitude. She basically had an “I really don’t give a darn attitude”. She kept expounding about the strict “Kmart Policies” and that it is the same at Walmart. I told her that it is most definitely NOT the same at Walmart. Walmart will refund your purchase price after scanning the product and after you show I D. All retailers have room for growth in the public relations department including Walmart, but it is obvious that the Sears Corporation now has it’s hands full of a huge loser. It’s becoming more and more apparent to thousands of people in our small community that “Kmart Policies” are designed to send the public off packing to the Walmart next door. Kmart…..home of higher prices and rude courtesy people. I tried to calmly rationalize with her and explain that Kmart is the only place you can buy this product in this area and there is no chance that I bought it at Walmart because they do not carry the product. I was shocked that she did not even care that the product that Kmart is selling is damaging evaporative coolers. Later in the day I spoke to more than a dozen people who use evaporative coolers here locally and they all told me the same thing…….that they all learned the hard way about this product long ago and stopped using it. I left the product sitting at the courtesy counter because it is of no use to me and I’m sure not going to give it to someone else so that they damage their cooler as well. I’m sure that Kmart is now going to put that bottle back on the shelf and resell it to another unsuspecting customer…..and wow….look at the profit they just made. I did not ask for a refund for all the bottles I bought…..only the one remaining that had not been used yet. Today marks the day that I join thousands of people and join the line up at Walmart and will not even consider returning to this Kmart even if there is a 95% off sale. I did mention to this “courtesy” woman that this episode is just one of many reasons one can notice the Kmart parking lot almost empty most of the time. Often the locals here mention that there appears to be more employee cars at the Kmart then customers.

Anonymous said...

nice pic

Anonymous said...

No, KMart is NOT listening and never will. They screwed their shareholders when they sold out to Sears, and they screw their regular everyday customers all the time. They're all about nickels and dimes and never about the big picture, and that is why they suck.

I haven't shopped at KMart since I read this article last month, and I don't plan on it ever again.

Anonymous said...

Sold out to Sears? I find it interesting you have that belief, as the news articles, the company documentation, and the hiring process all clearly state that Kmart acquired Sears, formed a single company, and then called it Sears Holdings, Inc. Kmart Holdings, Inc. doesn't sound as good.
You really could stand to be less snap-judgemental and have a bit more of an open mind. Yes, the security involved with Kmart is really freaking overbearing. As an employee, I have to deal with a plain clothes leather jacket wearing jerk that gets paid five times as much as I do and does less work than your average golf caddy or CEO. While I'm having him get up my butt about not escorting TVs to layaway for families with children, I'm also having to cover three departments and deal with jackass customers that stop me in places that I've never had the time to get trained on the operations of. All the while, I also have to perform security and loss prevention duties in a store where we have managers for both those functions that could be doing the job and thus earning some of that 48k a year salary.
Meanwhile, I make minimum wage, have to wear a uniform, and only get to work part time. I get my hours cut, I don't get health benefits of any kind, and I'm on a constant "You could be fired next" alert. If we didn't have this completely redundant resource eating our wages, maybe I'd get paid what I'm worth.

So take my advice. Come in, rip us off, argue with us about how much something costs so we'll take $5 of everything you want, and watch us have to kowtow to everything you do or say. Or we'll get fired after having our balls busted by management for not upselling credit cards and replacement plans to you after putting up with all the crap. Afterwards, our security manager will come by and give us crap about how we let you essentially steal from the company. You think you're so mistreated as a customer? Try working behind the register or in the aisles. You don't know what mistreatement is until you've worked for minimum wage in a job that should be paying $15+ an hour to put up with the abuse we have to endure day in and day out just to have you think you've got it bad because you can't find your q-tips.

Anonymous said...

I’m a Loss control associate for Kmart and have been doing this job for 7 years. I myself have made quite a few stops like this story. Although I do not agree with all Kmart’s policy in loss control training it never said well if they spend more then they steel let them go. Use your head if you rob a bank an only get only $20.00 you still robed the bank if you do 35mph in a 45zone and 65 in a 55 you’re still speeding. So why if you spend $800.00 should you be aloud to take $8.00 Also Kmart cuts staffing to make up for losses like the one you create and as for the dept in disarray well Guess what its caused by good folks just like you. Normally flip lops are not in shoe boxes so that means you took the box for a pair of shoes. And also your asked for a d l to prove who you are no loss control officer asks for credit cards and your d l is giving back after all paper work is finished. It is not confiscated in most states a d l is the property of the state that issued it and we do not keep them the only thing I can tell from you store is that you are a reporter because your story is so not true all I have left to tell you is way to show your kids how to ask.

Sherry said...

Hey i have a similar story. I went into Kmart with my son and baby grand daughter. We were looking for a fishing pole for him for his birthday we went straight to sporting goods.My son found a catfish pole and he was excited he said mom its 19.99 will you buy for me i said yes even though his birthday was a couple weeks off.We got to the check out and it rung up 37.00, i said thats not right the price tag say 19.99 she called sporty good and lady came up. She went back to sporty goods knowing how long it takes i went back to show her where it was at.The lady had already found it and was on phone telling other lady someone had switch price. Iwas upset i told i did not switch price and there was nothing in the store or else where i would switch price.I told her that price was on it check cameras she see the price was on it already.She said well children no adults do switch prices. Iwas upset so i talk to the manger up front she said the lady comes a cross gruff sometimes. Iwas nearly in tears ,i told her i could care less about fishing pole I was upset that they acted like i was a theif the tag was on the pole it wasnt torn or like some had switch and besides why one some switch tags and leave the pole. I very dissapointed in Kmart. Sherry