Based on various online reviews, I excluded most of the commonly available small bounce-houses from my "willing-to-purchase" list, thus sending my intended price point creeping slowly upward. I had settled on a handful I was willing to purchase, almost all available only through small online retailers. I started using various price comparison sites to look at them, and then, froogle informed me that my top choice was sold by all these little toy retailers I'd never heard of . . . and walmart.com.
Not only was walmart.com selling it, but they were selling it at a "get these things THE HECK OUT OF OUR WAREHOUSES" price--$50 less than their nearest competitor, $100 less than the more trustworthy-looking sites. And, they offered site-to-store shipment: wait a few days longer and they will ship it to a store for you to pick up, for free. Since these things weigh 50lbs+, that also was a considerable savings.
I kind of blinked at the too-good-to-be-true deal for a a little while, and ordered it.
On walmart.com's side, everything seemed to function as detailed. It took about the time they predicted for me to finally receive the e-mail telling me that my order was available for pickup. So, yesterday, on the way home from work, we headed over to the Walmart location I had selected for them to ship it to.
We walked in the door, and I asked the greeter if he could direct me over to the site-to-store pickup. He kind of laughed, told us that it was at the back of the store, and to go back there and press the button for assistance. He then made an oddish remark/joke about waiting for assistance and the store closing at midnight (it was 6:30pm).
So, we get over to the site-to-store pickup location, and find a desk with a register on it, and one of the debit/credit card machines that tells us to press the screen to request assistance. We press the screen, it says something along the lines of "waiting for acknowledgment" for a few moments, then says it was acknowledged and that assistance is on the way.
Multiple employees walk past us, kind of skating their eyes over us in the "we see you and don't want to help you" manner. It appeared that the desk was on the route to the back room/employee coat storage, because many of those employees then walked back past us, obviously now off-duty. We managed to get one of the employees headed back to talk to us, she informed us that she couldn't help, and someone should be on the way to help.
After about 5 minutes, we press the screen for assistance again. It goes through its waiting-acknowledged cycle again. More employees walk past us and kind of shrug at us. One employee on her way out looked slightly upset, and told us that she was going to stop at the customer service desk on her way out and make sure that someone was coming back to help us.
Five more minutes, and we press the screen for assistance again. This time, as far as we can tell, the request for assistance is never acknowledged. It stays on the "waiting" screen until it switches back to "press for assistance".
We press the screen a couple of more times (5 in total) with no result. (Something about rats and levers comes to mind.) About 20 minutes after we arrive, we're debating walking across the store to customer service (and with our luck, missing the person who had finally decided to come help us), or throwing up our hands, walking out, and telling walmart.com to issue us a refund.
That's when the csm who apparently can help us finally shows up. It was fairly obvious that she was already "primed" to deal with dis-satisfied customers. Basically, she told us hastily and rather grumpily that she had been helping another customer for the past 20-odd minutes, that she had been the one that kept acknowledging the page, that she had paged shoes and furniture to come help us (the departments on either side of site-to-store), and that nobody had responded.
She took my id, looked up my order, unlocked the door to the storage area, and retrieved the two boxes that made up the order. We loaded the boxes into the cart, and my husband asked her to page the store manager, or whomever was on duty that night.
She paged him, and then took back off for the front. The on-duty manager showed up about five minutes later, and gave us a completely different story from what the csm had given us. According to him, the door to the site-to-store storage area is locked with the same key that locks the management and cash office, therefore there were only two people in the store at that time--himself and the customer service manager who had helped us--who can handle site-to-store pickups. That none of the other employees could have assisted us, and that both he and she had been busy for the previous (now) about forty-five minutes.
At that point, I walked away from the conversation between my husband and the manager (because I was trying to keep a three-year-old under control who had been "waiting" by a empty desk, in an empty room, for a very long time). But from what my husband told me afterwards, the manager told him that: the setup they had was corporate standard (with only the on-duty manager and cs manager being unable to unlock the door and handle site-to-store pickup), it wasn't going to change, and too bad, so sad, they really didn't care that it inconvenienced customers who order from the website. He also said that it was "unusual" that it take quite as long for one of them to be able to respond. Although, based on the comments from the greeter who had directed us to the site-to-store pickup location, I've got to question exactly how "unusual" this situation actually is.
After he realized that my husband wasn't going to end the conversation simply on the strength of his excuses, he did give us a $20 gift card, which we used to pick up a few party supplies before exiting the store.
I'm going to guess, based on this entire experience, that the site-to-store program isn't one much valued by the individual walmart stores, and one that they heartily wish would fail. It definitely isn't a route I'm going to be using to order anything ever again.