My husband and I ride together most days when we go to work. It’s great for mileage and gas costs, not to mention good company. But we do have a small snag. He likes to be at work really, really early. He likes those quiet morning hours when the phone isn’t ringing and no one is stopping by his desk asking for help putting out a fire (figuratively, not literally. I hope.)
So he likes to be in the office by 6:30 or 7 a.m. at the latest. My work day doesn’t start until 8 a.m. So I’ve become creative in finding ways to fill my time. Mostly, I read in my truck until it’s time to go in. I’ve tried to use this time for writing but the truck is not a good place to use a laptop. Plus, then I have to haul it inside because I don’t want it overheating or freezing in the truck.
It’s also a great time to make a Walmart run. I only go to Walmart when it’s absolutely necessary because I’d rather have toothpicks driven under my fingernails than shop there. For some reason, Walmart brings out the rudeness in people to a level unseen anywhere else. Screaming kids, wayward shopping carts and people taking up the whole aisle while picking out the peanut butter.
There are never enough lines open and self-checkout is only a good thing when you have fewer than ten items – items that are small, but not so light that the checkout machine doesn’t recognize it and shuts down the whole process. And you never seem to be able to find anyone when you need help. The store is huge and it never seems like there are enough people working to help you find something when you can’t figure it out on your own from the vague aisle descriptions.
So while the store is pretty empty of employees before 7 a.m., at least you can search without having to listen to the screaming kids. So I’m OK with being on my own. And I get I’m not going to receive full service this early – I know the pharmacy will be closed and I can’t go to the photo center. But I do expect some basic necessities when shopping. Like being able to pay.
My younger son needed his deer and turkey tags for bowhunting so I went this morning to get them for him. Missouri has these handy heritage cards so all I have to do is hand it to the person behind the sporting good counter, tell him or her the type of tag I want and voila, the tags print out. I pay and am on my merry way.
Normally, I go to the Department of Conservation directly for my tags because it’s a cool place and the people are always super nice, but it doesn’t open until 8 a.m. so I decided to go to Walmart instead of going over my lunch hour to the DOC. That was my mistake.
I had to find an associate to page someone to the sporting good counter, but I was cool with that. I mean, it was only a little after 7 a.m. so I didn’t expect someone there.
The guy who came to help me had a tag that said “department manager,” and seemed nice enough. I handed him the card and he printed out the tag. The problem didn’t hit until it was time to pay. I swiped my debit card and the reader wouldn’t take it. I tried three more times. Nada. He took the card and tried it at the register. Nope. He typed in the number and the reader prompted me for my PIN. I entered it but the system denied it. He said he thought the debit system was down.
I swiped my credit card instead and it said I needed to use the chip reader. I tried using the second slot but it wouldn’t work. I told him I had never used a chip reader before and he told me he didn’t know how to use one either. This is the department manager. And he doesn’t know how the readers work. I’m sure everyone who comes in has this all figured out and never needs help — I’m just the idiot here — so it would be a total waste of time to train department managers on how to use these stupid things. (Insert sarcasm font).
With that no longer an option and me ready to blow a gasket, I took out my checkbook and wrote a check. And he couldn’t get that to work either. Had this been just for me, I would have left. But it was for my kid so I bit my lower lip and tried not to lose it. He kept feeding the check through the feeder and it wouldn’t take. He did this three times before it finally worked. I had to give him my phone number, my driver’s license number and right kidney for my $19 check, all of which could have been avoided had I been able to use my debit card or my credit card but whatever. I was really wishing I had a twenty in my wallet but my next stop was supposed to be the ATM.
He handed me the check with the stuff printed on it, my receipt and the hunting tags and told me to have a nice day. But he said it like he had to, not like he meant it. I had the impression that he would rather be anywhere but behind that counter. I left before I said something snarky since I would only feel guilty about it later.
And by the way, my debit card worked just fine at the ATM five minutes later. And my older son stopped at Walmart to get his tag not 15 minutes after I did on his way to class and his debit card worked just fine. But the associate helping him was not the same department manager.
This afternoon, I checked my bank account online and no record of the payment. Normally, when they run the check through the reader, it shows up on my account within an hour as pending. Sooo….I have a feeling the debit system wasn’t working at all and he should have kept my check to send to the bank. I had this happen to me at my other least favorite store, Home Depot. (Generally, I’m not a fan of big box stores).
This means if it doesn’t show up in my account within the next few days, I’m going to have to go back to Walmart (stick more toothpicks under my fingernails) to give them the check so I can be an honest person and pay for my tag. And I’m betting finding the single right person I need to talk to about it is going to be a trick. I can’t really just slap my check down and run away.
That’s the difference between a giant corporate entity and a little mom and pop place. It’s why I’d rather pay a few dollars more to have someone who cares. And I don’t think I’m alone. Walmart posted some pretty dismal profits recently. But I live in a small town and in some cases, it’s either Walmart or driving an hour and a half to a bigger city. Sometimes that drive looks pretty darn attractive.