Can This Be True Of Wal-Mart?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on February 4, 2007

I print this comment about cameras and digital products sold by Wal-mart by a reader because it is so astounding. Please send in any of your own experiences. And Wal-Mart execs, I hope you are taking notes and making changes in the way you do business. The clock is ticking.

Here goes:

“>Here’s a cautionary tale for anyone thinking of making a purchace at walmart or sams based on price comparison.

I wanted an inexpensive digital camera for my daughter. After finding one with the basic features I wanted, I went to sears, target and walmart to check prices. All 3 stores sold the a camera with the exact same model number. Sears -$119 target -$109 walmart - $99 . I bought it at the manufactures online store but when the camera was delivered it DID NOT have all the features that the Sears and Target salesperson had shown me (couldn’t get help at the Walmart store). I contacted the factory store and asked them if perhaps the one I got was an older version of this camera since the model number on the unit was the correct. The customer service agent apologized and said I must have gotten one of the “WALMART” cameras. These units were manufactured just for them with the same model number but with reduced features. So while the price was a little lower at walmart, the value was worse since it was a stripped down version.

When I told this story to some friends, they were surprised because they had similar tales. One had purchased a computer printer and couldn’t get some of the features she wanted to work. When she called the factory, the first question they asked her was if she bought the printer at SAMS. When told that she did not, they were able to guide her through her set up problems. At the end, however, she asked them what SAMS would have had to do with it. The answer: that model, when sold at SAMS, was a stripped down version without the features she wanted.

Another friend wanted a computer. Being a very tech-savvy consumer, he heavily researched all the different model numbers on the brand he wanted so he could compare prices across the different Chainstores. WalMart and Sams were similar BUT slightly unique numbers, which his research led him to believe had inferior internal components, stripped down software and were loaded with WALMART spyware. I cant comment on the veracity of his technical observation - just that he felt that the general public was being misled into thinking they were a better deal than they really were.

This is just one of many reasons why my entire family and circle of friends now boycott Walmart.”

Reader Comments

Dan Lewis

February 4, 2007 10:00 PM

I have often felt this to be true even though I don't have any documentation. Volume purchases alone by Wal-Mart or Kmart or Home Depot can not always account for the lower prices. For a manufacturer of lawnmowers, as an example, it would be easy to reduce the gauge of the metal of the deck (without the need to change tooling) or to use a lower quality screw, or slightly lower gauge of wiring, maybe even one less coat of paint. This would not affect the look, or the general function of the product and it would not be something a consumer, or a buyer at the discounter could tell -- it would however reduce the manufacturing cost and therefore the wholesale price of the product. The product may even be within the original specifications of the product but at the lower end. It would be interesting to purchase 2 products and compare them part for part and process for process. I think sometimes you actually do get what you pay for.

Rich

February 5, 2007 5:38 PM

It’s probable that manufactures will dedicate process lines for Wal-Mart supplied products, considering the large throughput required. This dedicated process line may even be located at a completely different manufacturing site and produced under a different operating structure. However, a manufacturer’s model spec-sheet and the actual product should correlate. This post may be an eye opener to the manufactures. Is it possible that Wal-Mart is unknowingly being infected with cheap knock-offs? Managing two SKUs under the same number but with different features would be a manufacturing, accounting and marketing nightmare.

Bob Sutton

February 5, 2007 6:14 PM

I expect that it likely is true, at least based on my experience consulting to a supply chain group a computer manufacturer a few years ago. They wre pressed very hard for price by Wal-Mart, but did this clever thing called "postpoment" where they would agree on the price, but not the exact features on the computer, so they would be shipping a machine that had the best blend of parts (because the costs of things go up and down), but still hit Wal-Mart's tough price point. And when the couldn't do postponement, they would often just have to agree to on the Wal-Mart computer, which had somewhat cheaper parts and fewer features. So although Wal-Mart -- with its huge volume -- often does sell the same stuff for less, at least based on my experience, I have hints that they also drive down prices by buying cheaper stuff.

jason

February 7, 2007 8:25 PM

Whoa. The most surprising thing to me about this story is the manufacturers' customer service agents who openly admit their firm sells inferior products through Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. I bet the Wal-Mart boys are none too pleased about that.

If true that Wal-Mart is selling stripped down versions of products with the same product numbers, packaging, etc., that seems tantamount to consumer fraud. Surely this camera's packaging listed features on the box. Did the Wal-Mart box list fewer features? I agree with Rich that this arrangement sounds like a logistics/accounting nightmare, but probably one that many suppliers are willing to endure to stay in Fayetteville's good graces.

Rich

February 8, 2007 5:14 PM

I’d like to hear about an actual measurable case so I can go into my local Wal-Mart and validate the discrepancy for myself. Does anyone have brand and model number?

George

February 13, 2007 5:45 PM

This practice is illegal. It is price gouging. A manufacture can not sell the same product for different prices. They can price products for volume discount though and they would need to follow some sort of plan to consistently discount other buyers from other stores as well. Usually there are specific model numbers created when being sold to stores for special prices this is the legal way. Otherwise they cant be bought anywhere else.

Jay

February 17, 2007 1:29 AM

Weekly I peruse the Walmart electronics department and compare items with other sources. Sometimes I buy from Walmart and sometimes not. After purchasing 20+ items from Walmart like video cards, cable modems, wireless routers, many printers and several digital cameras, I have never had the experience described. HOWEVER, I bought an HP camera (model 733) with a slightly different model number than other stores (735), that lacked a few features but same optical specs at a much lower price. Same for a unique model video capture card by ATI. Slightly different model number, similar specs, but much lower price. No deception here IMHO, just semi-custom manufacturing for a better value.

Crawford

February 17, 2007 2:52 AM

I clearly recall feeling the stripped naked effects of his Wal-Martizing when I was handling the branding work for a small-appliance mftr. The pressure to cut costs to get the Wal-Mart order routinely meant starting with the already bare bones discount version of a product and stripping something more out to get the cost down another x-percent. Lifespan was one sure casualty. And the bitch of it was, you were damned if you did it and damed if you didn't, cuz once you got on the Wal-Mart teat, you almost had to be willing to fold up your tent to get off.

Ahhhh, those were the days.

Jay2

March 21, 2007 4:46 PM

When i was buying a nail gun at home depot and Canadian tire I saw that they looked like the same nail gun but the one at home depot was cheaper. Going back to Canadian tire I told them this but they said it's not the same gun and sure enough, both the UPC code and the model number were slightly different. I agree with Jay, it's up to the customer to be savvy. Although after reading this article I will be more careful in the future.

K. Sullivan

March 22, 2007 3:01 AM

Today I talked to a Tramontina, a maufacturer of cookware (pans) I had purchased. The purchase price was $79.97 for a 10 pc. stainless steel set.

I was familiar with this brand of cookware because I had an old set from this same manufacturer. In researching the web to see if I got a good price and consumer feedback about this product, I could not find this particular set. So, I called the manufacturer and YES, I discovered that this set is manufacturered to WALMART'S mandated specifications. They were manufactured with a lower gage of steel (pans were lighter), the bottom is a separate bottom that is triple plied clad vs the more expensive pans with an all-clad bottom (made in one solid mold).

I was told if I bought a comparable set directly from Tramontina, it would cost about $100 more, but it would be made with the higher specifications. I re-stated to the Tramontina customer service representative, "Then you are telling me that the quality of the pans at Walmart are less than what your standard is." The rep emphasized, they are not lesser quality, they are just a different specification (basically cheaper).

She said there is no way they could sell the pans that are ordered directly from the company for the same prices as Walmart.

I have also been told by two reputable individuals in the vitamin industry that Walmart's vitamins and supplements are not the full strength and on some of the products, you can compare the ingredients which reflects differences.

George Zullich

March 29, 2007 3:25 PM

This is a logical outcome resulting from Wal-Mart’s tactic of squeezing suppliers for a 5% price cut each year for the privilege of having their products on Wal-Mart shelves.
Dealing with Wal-Mart is like making a deal with the devil.
Its up to shoppers to beware of false economy!

Muriel Garrard & Nikki Johnson

August 16, 2007 8:35 PM

Wal-Mart Supercenter store #0306 in Arab, Alabama has been here in Arab for about 4yrs. we have been very faithful shoppers at this store every since they have opened up, the problem we have is the way we are watched and treated EVERY time we walk through the front door until the time we walk back out the front door we have NEVER ever even thought about stealing one little thing from this reject store and never have we ever stole from anyone at all....or would want to for that matter. I myself and Nikki feel very "Picked" on while shopping in this store, we are made to feel that we are constanly doing something wrong the whole time we are shopping, and the reason we keep shoppping at this wal-mart is because it is so convienent to us, and that is the ONLY reason we spend our hard earned money in this store, we feel that someone should look into this matter and let us know why we are being treated this way in this store.


Thank-You and please let us hear something back pertaining to this matter, it will be greatly appreciated.

Muriel Garrard
Nikki Johnson

bob

October 11, 2007 2:10 PM

Seems to me that Muriel and Nikki have some sort of a paranoia about stealing. As a loss prevention officer for a major retail firm for nealry 27 years one of the first thing we look for is a person who appears to look uncomfortable while shopping. . . . usually a "white light over the head" of a shoplifter.

Paul

October 14, 2007 1:26 AM

It took me a while also, but have realized that Sams Club does sell the factories rejects. They will throw in something a little extra to further entice you into buying. I recently bought a Sony KDS-60A2020 from them. The price was reasonable and they throw in a stand with it. The problem is that the picture is tilted. I swithched it out and the second one had exactly the same problem. Sony gets rid of there not so perfect sets at Sams. I'm convinced of that now. I have suspected this for some time, but kept ignoring the problems thinking I was getting a heck of a bargain.

Don Dains

November 13, 2008 2:46 AM

Wal Mart products from electronics,food,appliances,toys, to tires are of a lesser grade. Wal Mart is crap. If you can not see the difference between their products vs other retailers you are blind. I am glad to have found these postings to add to my colection of info on how wal mart sells junk.

Angie J.

November 18, 2008 8:12 PM

I recently purchased a box of Quaker Oats Granola bar at my local Wal-Mart while waiting for a friend to get off work. I realized after opening a bar, that they are 1/2 of an inch shorter then the Quaker Oats bars purchased at other stores. I've hated Wal-Mart & their sh*tty merchandise for a long time. This just gives me more reason to shop elsewhere.

Xavier

December 4, 2008 12:19 AM

Welcome to the WalMart world. I used to work at a garment manufacture company and they did the same thing. They needed a garment to be at a certain price and at a certain specification.

In order to meet the price they wanted, the specifications had to be modified to meet the production cost, make a penny or two on it, and meet the price WalMart wanted.

The end result: lower quality fabric and lower workmanship

Dave

December 14, 2008 7:52 AM

I don't know about Wal-Mart. But I have purchased MANY items at Sam's Club that turned out to be inferior . . .

1. Two TVs that have crooked screens;

2. Two DVD players that frequently stop playing right in the middle of the movie, then start up again . . . whenever;

3. A Compaq computer with glitches like you would NOT believe;

4. Bulk packages of CD-R's in which some hold the amount of data advertised on the package, but MOST DO NOT;

5. Tough, stringy, inedible meat.

You get what you pay for, and I've found that at Sam's Club, you'll get cheap, inferior junk if you don't shop carefully. BUYER BEWARE!

everyotherday

December 21, 2008 7:16 PM

Weeeelcome to walmart-now-GET IN LINE.

Wayne

January 21, 2009 9:23 PM

My mother in law purchased a Pur water filter at kroger the kind that mounts to your kitchen faucet. I bought the same filter at walmart and paid more $1.90 more for it because Kroger was out of stock. I have exchanged mine 5 times because of leaks but my mother in laws is still working great. I also bought 5yr bulbs at Walmart they lasted 2 months the bulbs I bought at Lowes have been in for 3yrs. WalMart is for fools they do not save you money and they will get no more of mine.

Ann

January 26, 2009 12:34 AM

One should always read the product information printed on the packaging or informational sheet. One can compare the specs to the same product at a different store and see the difference. An example; Glad garbage bags 30 gal size - comes in .70mil and .90 mil and 1.1 mil. Which do you think is the cheapest and why? It's common sense to read the packaging info

brian

March 16, 2009 5:16 PM

I recently bought a bag of salmon fillets fron walmart, they looked really good. There were five individually vac packed fillets of wild salmon in the bag. What a suprise when I cut open the vac pack to find that the fillet was very, very thin and folded two times. What it looked like in the plastic was a one inch thick chunk of fish. In reality, it was a quarter inch thin and very mushy, nasty chunk of funk. Walmart took the fish back, they are always great about about returns. Buyer beware!

carol lockwood

April 5, 2009 8:35 PM

i am very upset,my cookware tramontina lasted three months,it is suppose to be telflon non stick,i liked it i even bought my daughter a set. iknow how to clean and take care of my pans,and i am upset with them they are flaking,showing white specks.i will have to throw them away i will not eat with a pan that telflon is coming off.also they are 3 months old really upset.

Ima Acorn

May 17, 2009 9:43 PM

This is not a Walmart Issue, though all the Walmart haters out there would like to blame it on them. If a product is not what it advertises, this is a VENDOR issue, not Walmart. You do get what you pay for. But I have comparison shopped at Walmart for 18 years and have found that my budget needs are met more effectively at Walmart. They didn't become the biggest retailer in the world by accident. People on a smaller budget than the middle to upper class rely on the products that Wmt have to offer because they would otherwise go without. If you have complaints about products, than go directly to the source and make your grievance known. That is the only way you will get results. But to just bad mouth one of the greatest companies in the world because of one or two disappointments and then post it on the web is not the way to handle it maturely.
If you buy 100 things at Walmart and are slightly disappointed with 1 item. That is a 99% positive against 1% negative. I challenge you to go anywhere; a resturant, grocery store, gas station or your favorite hardware and buy 100 things..... compare the price to what you could have bought at Walmart and tell me if you are 100% happy. In this economy, I am just grateful for a company that gives me bargain prices on everything I buy. I go home with far more groceries and household needs than any store locally. So I'll take the chance and do my homework on the bigger items. If it is worth the savings, than I am just glad I have a place where I can afford a television, or a microwave or something I want on a budget that needs to be stretched as far as possible.
Walmart changes their products frequently because when people speak up and say they don't like a product; they get rid of it and find one we do like. Try writing a letter to the President of Walmart. They always want to hear from the consumers. If not, then I guess a bunch of comments on a blog (which I found by accident) will have to do.

sick2stomach

August 22, 2009 10:23 PM

About 6 weeks ago I started taking equate vision formula w/lutein, antioxidants and zinc. I took it with other new vitamins for balance. I noticed feeling nauseous the first few days, almost throwing up. Didn't put the 2 together, actually took a pregnancy test which came up neg.

Continuing to take them - who would've guessed? - I would on some days feel fine and on other days feel queasy, 3 times I vomitted over the course of a month, the last time my entire lunch. All the while I experimented, taking just 1 vitamin at a time away from the others; it took me awhile to figure out it was the vision formula, again b/c some days I'd be fine, other days feel bad.

Attempted to take the bottle back but w/o a receipt they refused. Odd b/c in the past their return policy has been lenient. Maybe the clerk thought I was nuts. I haven't found any recall on this product.

After seeing these posts and having this experience I'm only getting a few absolute necessities at WM from now on.

Please, beware of walmart's "vision formula" and possibly other supplements. Keep your receipt if you're going to try it. Hopefully it was only a small tainted batch but why take chances w/your health.

As for electronics, no more WM for us.

Ust Mom

September 21, 2009 4:24 PM

I swear the Pampers Cruisers diapers I purchased for my son at Walmart are different than the ones purchased elsewhere. I can’t explain it but the ones I bought at Walmart seem “cheaper” and not as substantial. My husband even asked “do we have 2 different sizes of diapers, some of these seem bigger than others?”. No they are the same brand, same style and the same size but some were purchased at Walmart and some at another store.

John S

January 24, 2010 9:16 PM

To the comment about the issue not being Wal-Mart, but the vendors, it is ULTIMATELY Wal-Mart. When any other store goes to a manufacturer to purchase a product, the manufacturer will tell them what they will cost to produce. If the company doesn't like that, they go elsewhere. Wal-Mart goes to Mfg's and states that they WILL make this product for $X.XX. If they do not, Wal-Mart will not sell that particular item. A few years back, Rubbermaid Sold plastic bins/boxes/ etc.. at Wal-Mart. The cost of resin to make these went up, and as such so did the price of the product. What did Wal-Mart do? Drop Rubbermaid's entire line.

Damid

July 16, 2010 4:19 PM

Last week I bought a camera from Walmart for $849. I went back this week to get one for my son and the price was $899. That's a $50 increase in just a few days. Walmart is not rolling prices back but rather rolling prices up. I have noticed a dramatic trend in Walmart's vitamin section with prices almost doubling in the last 2 years. After running every other store out of business, now Walmart is scaring me with these framatic price increases. This is probably due to higher demand for goods with the influx of illegal immigrants and Obama's policies of spending and printing more money. (Nashville, TN)

Jason Miller

August 24, 2010 8:15 AM

I am wondering if you can update the firmware to get some of the features back. when items have the same model number they should have the same specs. but the parts inside may not be the same kind. like one may have parts made it japan and the other may have parts made in china.

yucky oats

September 18, 2010 3:52 PM

While visiting in Bakersfield,CA I went to a VONS supermarket (which is a marjor chain store, high quality and expensive) and purchased a box of Quaker Instant Oatmeal Fruit & Cream. This is a variety pack, I like all the flavors but Bananas & Cream is my least favorite so I hadn't eaten those packages when I bought a new box from a local Walmart. I started eating from the new Walmart purchased Quaker oats and immediately noticed I was spitting out hard kernels,pits and ineatible bits. Pack after pack was filled with these hard bits. While consuming my fourth bowl I'd had it, it was work to eat this cereal, constantly spitting out hard kernels drained all the pleasure from eating my favorite cereal. I never remembered eating Quaker Oats with so many pits before, I knew Walmart was suspect so I

yucky oats

September 18, 2010 4:26 PM

While visiting in Bakersfield,CA I went to a VONS supermarket (which is a marjor chain store, high quality and expensive) and purchased a box of Quaker Instant Oatmeal Fruit & Cream. This is a variety pack, I like all the flavors but Bananas & Cream is my least favorite so I hadn't eaten those packages when I bought a new box from a local Walmart. I started eating from the new Walmart purchased Quaker oats and immediately noticed I was spitting out hard kernels,pits and ineatible bits. Pack after pack was filled with these hard bits. While consuming my fourth bowl I'd had it, it was work to eat this cereal, constantly spitting out hard kernels drained all the pleasure from eating my favorite cereal. I never remembered eating Quaker Oats with so many pits before, I knew Walmart was suspect from the begining. these things are going in the trash. Then I remembered that I still had the two packs of Bananas & Cream from the Box I bought at the VONS Supermarket, I ate them and NO PTIS. I'm angry and I wasted my money at Walmart, their oats should be feed to horses not people. Quaker shouldn't even want their name on this product. I had never hear of this problem of inferior namebrand product being sold at Walmart, I always thought that a Sony was a Sony and Quaker Oats were Quaker Oats. So today I Goggle Searched "Walmart, Quaker Oatmeal and Lower Quality" together and found this article. I am convinced these reports are all more than ture and will use extreme caution, that is if I ever buy food or anything at Walmart again.

Jessica

September 22, 2010 8:54 PM

I used to know an ex manager of Wal-mart who used to tell me never to buy electronics from Wal-mart because they switch out the electronics components with cheaper parts but keep the same brand name & change the numbers slightly. Some deal with the manufacturers or something like that.

John

September 23, 2010 10:53 PM

While at an auto show I talked to a SONY rep who declared that they were thinking of pulling their X-PLOD line of amps and speakers because of negitive backlash stemming from the lower quality products sold at WM.
He actually said to me "Do NOT buy ANY Sony products from walmart".
I never liked wallyworld to begin with, and that was just what I needed to hear to keep me out of there forever.

Sarah

October 12, 2010 5:15 PM

Up until recently, I purchased Allen's Green Beans in bulk at Sam's. I noticed that every can I opened, I ended up pulling green bean stalks and strings out of my mouth because they weren't de-stringed (or whatever you call it). Then one day I found Allen's green beans on sale at Publix (a local grocery store in my area). When I started eating them it was like night at day. Not only did I not have to constantly spit strings out of my mouth, but the flavor was so much better!

gbuddah2012

December 11, 2010 8:21 PM

great article and responses... confirmation of why i hate that place.
no wonder there is so much cynicism around. capitalism has turned into a con game perpetrated against workers and consumers.

dizzle

January 20, 2011 4:07 AM

I swear the doritos at wal mart have less nacho flavoring....I've had this thought many times...so much so that I will pay twice the price at a gas station for better tasting ones

Dustin

February 7, 2011 9:37 AM

Its not just walmart, I own a remodling company and have found its also Lowes and Homedepot, and im sure its the same for all the other larger stores, But as for Walmart, if you buy some "GoodYear" tires from walmart, and try and find the same tires from a actual "GoodYear" store they do not carry the same subname, I will admit it hurts me as a business, If I buy products from HomeDepot or Lowes it makes my work crappy, but if I buy from a wholesaler I cannot get the same price and it causes me to raise my prices.

gain muscles

February 16, 2011 8:58 PM

I much prefer a place where I could take all muscle building information from one source. Don't get me wrong, this article is great. I'm going to link this on my site and refer it to others.

landscaping Hockessin De

March 6, 2011 5:46 PM

That is kind of uncommon, but pay attention to that.

Life Plus

March 17, 2011 2:36 PM

Review by Darren King for Intech Tri Trac 3-Wheel Pull Golf CartRating: Got mine for a song at a local Ks merchandise, and its fine. Its no pneumatic-spoked-tire Bag Boy, but youre not paying that price, either. Id prefer a drink cup to the special water bottle they provide, but thats a small quibble. The pencil holder design is a little poor, as is the score card holder. As far as pushing/pulling the cart goes, it does nicely. The non-detachable, fold-under third wheel is clever and time-saving. I like this cart much more than this review comes across. As soon as I can make mine stop pulling to the left, Ill REALLY like it!

Muskan Singh

May 14, 2011 3:53 PM

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About

Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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