Saying What I Mean About Wal-Mart



I promise you that this will be the last time I mention Wal-Mart in this column, at least as far as I can see. But this time I have no choice.

It just so happens that I have to correct a false impression that some folks seem to have gotten when I made the comment that it "would be a shame" if Wal-Mart went out of business.

I meant it. I sincerely meant it, but I've had a few folks repeat my words back to me, accompanied by a wink, or a sly smile, or a little comment that hinted that they thought I hadn't said what I really meant.

Not true.

I meant what I said. So, let me tell you another Wal-Mart story, one that shows an entirely different facet of what is, by the way, the largest retail business in the nation.

I bought a nice little set of tools from Wal-Mart back in 1999 -- an electric screwdriver, flashlight, and Dremel-like tool -- all of which ran on the same inexpensive rechargeable batteries. It was a great set of tools -- small, compact, unpretentious and very useful.

I particularly liked the flashlight, which was just the right size to fit comfortably in my hand, threw a bright white beam, lasted a long time on one battery, and had a very easy to use rotary switch.

About a year after I bought that little flashlight that I liked so much, I hired a workman to come to the house to do some work.

He had to work in a dark space under the eaves, so I dug out the flashlight and let him use it.

To make a long story short, he apparently liked the flashlight as much as I did, or maybe even better, because he made off with it.

For reasons that I won't go into which have to do with my closest-held principles, I did not go after the workman for what he had done.

On the other hand, it genuinely troubled me to lose a tool that I liked so much.

So, I went to Wal-Mart and tried to buy another one. No soap. They had never had the flashlight for sale separately, and they didn't even sell the set anymore. I was out of luck.

What to do? I thought it over and decided to e-mail Wal-Mart corporate headquarters (, tell them what had happened, and ask them if they knew any way I could buy another one of the flashlights.

About two weeks later, I got a call from someone in the Payson Wal-Mart who said he was the customer service representative.

He said to come in and pick up my flashlight. No charge.

Now, is that a great-hearted response or isn't it? Would you have done that? Would you have cared enough about a person you had never met, and probably never would meet, to correct an obvious wrong, at company expense? Someone, somewhere, in Wal-Mart did.

The last line of the e-mail I sent in response to that very generous and caring act said, "Wishing you the very best in the future."

I meant it then, and I mean it now.

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