I had an experience at Walmart this weekend that made me question how the company can compete with Best Buy when it comes to selling electronics.
I heard that Walmart had started selling the Apple Watch, so I went to Walmart on Saturday to test it out and compare it to the Fitbit Surge.
I sought out an employee in the electronics department and asked him to help me find the Apple Watch. He said he didn’t know what the Apple Watch was.
I asked if he could point me to the Fitbits, and he said they didn’t have the Fitbit.
This came as a surprise, since I had purchased a Fitbit Flex at Walmart a couple months earlier.
The employee brought me to another worker, who appeared to be his manager. I asked him if he could point me to the Apple Watch.
“The Apple what?” he asked.
I pointed to a nearby cardboard display advertising the Apple Watch. He started digging through a cabinet of boxed electronics, searching for anything that looked like advertisement. Among the myriad gadgets, he discovered a stack of Fitbits.
My patience had run thin at this point, so I left the store and went to Best Buy.
My experience at Best Buy was starkly different.
An employee there led me to all the different models of Fitbits and Apple Watches, explained the technology specs of every model, and allowed me to try them on.
After a lengthy conversation with the Best Buy employee, I decided to purchase the Apple Watch Sport at Best Buy. (Before making the plunge I first did a price check online and saw it was $249 at Best Buy and $349 at Walmart and Amazon. This solidified my decision to go with Best Buy).
My trip to Walmart was disappointing. But it was only one bad experience at one of Walmart’s more than 4,000 US Walmart stores, and Walmart gets most of its business from groceries, not electronics. On the other hand, Best Buy’s business model is built entirely around the sale of electronics.
However, it’s important to note that 60% of customers will bail on a retailer after one bad experience, according to an American Express survey. And Walmart has been highlighting efforts to improve customer service.
The company apologised for the inconvenience, and offered a good explanation for what happened.
“The experience you had was absolutely not the experience we want for our customers,” Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt told Business Insider.
The company said the Apple Watch is being sold on their website but it’s only available in 100 physical stores right now, not including the store that I visited. That explains the employees’ confusion on Saturday. However, I still would have expected an employee in the electronics department to have this information and direct me to order it online, so as not to lose my business.
Also, that particular store did not sell the Fitbit in the electronics section. Instead, it is sold in the sporting goods section.
“That is likely why that associate in the store was not aware of the items,” Marquardt said.
Personally, I’m not going to bail on Walmart as a customer due to this experience. But it gives me the impression that the company has some serious work to do to catch up with Best Buy when it comes to selling electronics.
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