Tag Archives: Walmart

CVS / Pharmacy Stores Win First Prize In The Shrinking Toilet Paper Contest !

Quite honestly, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

The CVS / Pharmacy chain of drug / variety stores (a division of CVS Caremark Corporation) was never on our list of places that provide “fair dinkum” value to consumers. That’s too bad, because they have about 6,200 stores in the United States. That makes them almost as ubiquitous as McDonald’s. Many towns have more than one CVS location.

We’re digressing, but come to think about it, McDonald’s doesn’t exactly offer great value for your money either. That’s one of the reasons we don’t eat at McDonald’s. Of course, most of the stuff they sell is so unhealthy that they’re probably doing you a favor by selling (in our opinion) barely edible food. I think we’ve set foot in a McDonald’s one time in the last five years. There must be a correlation between a chain of stores getting very large and offering poor value to consumers. And don’t get us wrong… Burger King, Wendy’s and the others aren’t any better values or (again, in our opinion) any healthier or more palatable.

The high prices at CVS are in line with the prices in convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, albeit with a much larger selection of merchandise. We only rarely walk into a CVS store, to pick up something on sale, and only if we happen to be passing by anyway. But frankly, we’re not careless enough with money to shop there otherwise. If you have a Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart or other discount store nearby, you’d have to be insane to do much shopping at CVS. Nobody we know ever confused CVS with a discount chain. To make matters even worse, they are often out of stock on the sale items we try to find there. Like many other retailers, they go through the trouble of printing and distributing a weekly sale circular, but don’t seem to be able to have much of what they are advertising in stock. Keep your stinkin’ rainchecks. To us, they seem like a poorly managed company that takes their customers to be a bunch of idiots. We’re amazed they’ve grown as large as they are and manage to stay in business. Then again, there are many horrible retailers (here’s a prime example) that seem to defy the laws of physics by being able to stay in business. Go figure.

We will often find the HIGHEST prices for many different items at CVS. Toilet paper, a favorite topic of this blogger, is no exception. On my last visit to a CVS, they were up to $1.15 for a single role of Scott Tissue’s 1000-sheet roll, which is by far, the highest retail price we’ve seen for Scott toilet paper.

CVS’s store brand of 1000 sheet, single ply toilet paper is now the smallest roll we’ve ever seen in any brand of toilet paper. It boasts a sheet size of 4.3″ x 3.66″. That makes the miniature rolls of Scott Tissue’s 4.5″ x 3.7″ sheets seem huge by comparison.

The reduction in width from 4.5″ to 4.3″ means you’re getting about 5% less paper per roll. But then they added insult to injury, by chiseling 0.04″ off the length of each sheet, compared to what most brands currently measure (after a number of product downsizings).

Really now. 3.66″ instead of 3.7″ ?

How desperate are they getting ?

Now what about the price of CVS brand toilet paper ? Did CVS shrink the price too ?

No such luck. I believe it was selling for 89 cents a roll, which by concidence, is probably the highest price I’ve ever seen for a store-brand roll of toilet paper. But then again, it’s CVS, and I’ve never heard anyone say that the “V” in CVS stands for “value”.

– Routing By Rumor

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Filed under Business, Consumerism, Deception Engineering, Home, Kimberly-Clark, Life, Money, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Scams, Scott Tissue, Shopping, Shrinking Products, The Economy, Your Money

Wal-Mart Photo Processing At The Impossible Price Of 9 Cents A Print ? Don’t Bet On It.

screenshot from walmart.com

Order 4″ x 6″ prints of your digital photos at walmart.com for only 9 cents each.

Impossible you say?

You’d be right. In fact, it appears that nobody ever paid 9 cents for a photo printed at Wal-Mart, regardless of how long they were willing to wait for it, or whether they picked it up or had it delivered.

Now, is it just us (we’ll admit to not always being the sharpest tool in the shed), or is this deceptive and illegal advertising ? Is this what you expect from Wal-Mart ? You be the judge.

Walmart’s online photo processing is actually provided by Hewlett-Packard’s Snapfish service, rebranded with the Wal-Mart name. If you choose the 1-hour processing option, Snapfish transmits your photos to the Wal-Mart store you select, where they are printed by Wal-Mart’s in-store minilab using FujiFilm equipment and FujiFilm photo paper. If you choose one of the two less expensive options, your photos are processed by Snapfish. They were reportedly processing these photos using Noritsu equipment and Kodak photo paper, but it appears that they may now be using FujiFilm equipment and paper for these orders also. Depending on the option chosen, Snapfish ships them to your local Wal-Mart store for pick-up within a few days, or mails them to your home.

Snapfish rebrands their website and processing service for many different retailers, not just Wal-Mart. Uploading your photos to the Wal-Mart/Snapfish website, and having them delivered to your local Wal-Mart, or to your mailbox, is certainly convenient. And we’re sure that regardless of whether Snapfish or Wal-Mart prints them, you’ll get good quality photos.

It’s interesting to note that whether your prints are processed on a Noritsu or FujiFilm minilab, the hardware was probably made by Noritsu, since they also supply hardware to FujiFilm. That’s what you call market penetration. In the automobile industry, that would be like Toyota supplying the engine and chassis to Honda for them to produce their cars with.

We can understand the “snap” in Snapfish, but why that name? Why not snapturtle.com, or snapdog.com, or snapcat.com, or snapcow.com, or snappy.com, or snapit.com, etc., etc., etc. There is a type of fish called the Red Snapper, but is there also a fish called the Snapfish? And even if there is, why choose that name? Just curious. After all, there’s a ton of strange names that have become popular Web destinations… ebay, google, yahoo, etc. We guess Snapfish is OK. Strange, but OK. Actually, in the Web universe, the rule seems to be the more ridiculous (and the shorter) the name is, the better the chance of success.

As shown above, Wal-Mart advertises 4″ x 6″ prints as low as 9 cents each. The problem is that there is no way to actually get them for 9 cents. The most expensive 1-hour option, with processing and pickup at a Wal-Mart store is 19 cents a print. The process-by-snapfish and pick-up at Wal-Mart option is 15 cents a print. The least expensive option, processed by snapfish and mailed to your home, is 9 cents a print, plus shipping. Shipping charges range from 14 cents a print (total cost of 23 cents a print) when ordering 10 prints, to 5 cents a print (total cost of 14 cents a print) when ordering 100 prints. We checked the cost for orders up to 600 prints, and it never dropped below a total cost of 13 cents a print, including shipping.

There appears to be no way to actually get 4 x 6 prints, in any quantity, for the advertised price of “from 9 cents” each. That holds true even if you are willing to pick them up at a Wal-Mart store, and even if you are willing to wait a week, or forever, for that matter.

Now, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to be charging for shipping. After all, they do have to pay for postage. But is it fair (or legal) to advertise the 9 cent per print price, when you can’t actually get them for that amount, even if you are willing to wait a week, and pick them up at your local Wal-Mart? We don’t think so.

…And don’t forget to add the sales tax, which is added to your total, regardless of the pickup or delivery option you choose.

Maybe we could swallow their pricing claims if they charged 9 cents a print when you choose in-store pickup (in days, not in 1-hour). The fact of the matter is that for either of their least expensive processing options, you’ll pay a total of 15 cents a print, plus tax (based on an order of 50 prints… even more per print for small orders).

We think a retailer such as Wal-Mart, who is the largest retailer in the world (as well as the largest private-sector employer in the United States), should be more forthright in their advertising.

Get the picture?

The true cost of printing your photos at walmart.com should be coming into focus now.

– RoutingByRumor

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Filed under Business, Consumerism, Deception Engineering, Digital Photography, Hewlett-Packard, Money, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Scams, Shopping, Walmart, Your Money

If You Think The Pay Is Low At Wal-mart…


mean-walmart-face-2.jpg
image from grokdotcom.com (click here)

If you needed any proof that RoutingByRumor has it’s finger on the pulse of America, here it is.

Two days ago, I posted a piece on this blog entitled “Made In USA? Yeah, Right”. In it, I discussed the fact that we are becoming dependent on China for everything from clothing to automobile parts. Last week, I posted a piece entitled “The Walmartization of America”, in which I discussed, among other things, cheap merchandise, imports from China, and the hard working Wal-mart employees that don’t earn a decent salary.

Well, today’s local newspaper (12/13/2007) carried a Reuters article with the headline “Senator Says Wal-Mart Sells Products From Sweatshops”. I don’t know about you, but I was shocked and taken aback upon reading that headline. Totally flabergasted. In fact, I’m still in denial. Wal-mart selling sweatshop merchandise? I’m sure that Kathy-Lee is as shocked as I am. The article reported that Senator Byron L. Dorgan, (D) – North Dakota, held a news conference yesterday, at which he released a report by the National Labor Comittee, a human rights organization.

The report highlighted conditions at a company in China that employees 8,000 workers and manufactures Christmas ornaments sold by U.S. retailers, including Wal-mart. It indicated that those workers earn as little as 26 cents an hour, half of the legal minimum wage in China. And you thought our minimum wage was low?

The Reuters article went on to quote a Wal-mart spokesperson as saying that they have a “rigorous ethical standards program”, and were investigating NLC’s claim. If the National Labor Committee’s report is true, I guess Wal-mart might have to add some rigor to their already rigorous ethical standards program. And if the NLC’s report is true, then “Always Low Prices. Always.” (Wal-mart’s former advertising slogan, which has been replaced with “Save Money. Live Better.”) might as well have been “Always Low Pay. Always.”, not only for Wal-mart’s employees, but also for their supplier’s employees.

I had an Uncle who was a CPA, and who was the family’s source of wisdom and advice on all things financial. One day, many years ago (long before I became a cynical blogger), I was bragging to him about some bargain I had gotten on something, the specifics of which I’ve long forgotten. My Uncle sat me down, and said “RoutingByRumor, you get what you pay for“. (OK, I just made up the RoutingByRumor part, but the rest is historically accurate.) Of course, he was right. So, don’t expect to buy anything, at Wal-mart or anywhere else, at an incredibly low price, without there being a catch. Maybe the catch is that the workers that made it earn 26 cents an hour.

I came across this fascinating article from Fast Company about Wal-Mart. Although it’s from four years ago, it is very interesting reading. It puts a lot of the criticism of Wal-mart into perspective.

Here’s some other websites dedicated to Wal-mart issues…

WalmartWatch

WakeUpWalmart

(e-mail me if you would like your Walmart-centric website added to this list)

Never one to underestimate the lowest common denominator among my fellow human beings, or ignore the value of Google, I did a Google search on “walmart sucks”. Google returned the expected stuff, like this, and this. But the real surprise came when I did a whois search at networksolutions.com for the domain name “walmartsucks.com”.

Here’s the domain registration data that Networksolutions returned…

Registrant:
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
(DOM-1582466)
702 S.W. 8th Street
Bentonville
AR
72716-0520
US

Domain Name: walmartsucks.com

Registrar Name: Markmonitor.com
Registrar Whois: whois.markmonitor.com
Registrar Homepage: http://www.markmonitor.com

Administrative Contact:
Domain Administrator
(NIC-14300985)
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 S.W. 8th Street
Bentonville
AR
72716-0520
US
domains@wal-mart.com
+1.4792734000
Fax- +1.4792775991
Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
DNS Management, Wal-Mart
(NIC-14570620)
DNS Management, Wal-Mart
805 Moberly Ln., M31
Bentonville
AR
72716-0560
US
dns@wal-mart.com
+1.4792734000
Fax- +1.4792775991

Created on…………..: 2003-Nov-18.
Expires on…………..: 2011-Nov-18.
Record last updated on..: 2007-Dec-10 16:01:47.

Domain servers in listed order:

L4.NSTLD.COM
A4.NSTLD.COM
F4.NSTLD.COM
G4.NSTLD.COM

I guess that gets filed under “damage control”. I don’t know if Wal-mart did this pre-emptively, or if they bought the domain from someone who registered it first.  Unfortunately, there are so many TLDs (top level domains) like .com, .org, .net, .us, etc., and so many ways to spell “I hate you”, that this really is an exercise in futility. It’s like trying to stop the tide from coming in by using a bucket to empty the ocean. But I commend Wal-mart for trying.

It appears that Walmart would not have been able to sue someone who registered the walmartsucks.com domain name, either to collect damages, or to gain control of the domain name. I found the following passage on a FAQ for bloggers about trademark issues, published by the Electronic FrontierFoundation (EFF)

I want to complain about a company. Can I use their name and logo?

Yes. While trademark law prevents you from using someone else’s trademark to sell your competing products (you can’t make and sell your own “Rolex” watches or name your blog “Newsweek”), it doesn’t stop you from using the trademark to refer to the trademark owner or its products (offering repair services for Rolex watches or criticizing Newsweek’s editorial decisions). That kind of use, known as “nominative fair use,” is permitted if using the trademark is necessary to identify the products, services, or company you’re talking about, and you don’t use the mark to suggest the company endorses you. In general, this means you can use the company name in your review so people know which company or product you’re complaining about. You can even use the trademark in a domain name (like walmartsucks.com), so long as it’s clear that you’re not claiming to be or speak for the company.


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Filed under China, Consumerism, Employment, Home, Journalism, Labor, Life, Money, News, Personal, Personal Tidbits, Politics, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Shopping, Walmart

The Walmartization of America

Wal-mart

<walmart-bashing-mode>

What better way to start my blog than by bashing Wal-mart? After all, they are the retail behemoth that people love to hate. I guess it must be jealousy.

I was never in a Sams Club or Wal-mart store until last year, when a Walmart sprung up about 15 minutes from my home. With their reputation for low wages, poor or non-existent employee benefits and brutal business practices, I wasn’t too eager to become a Wal-mart customer. In fact, the rumor around here is that “Sam’s Club” actually refers to the big stick that Sam Walton would use to beat up his suppliers and the competition. They don’t call us Routing by Rumor for nothing. I did want to check them out, however, to see if their prices were really that good. I consider myself a very savvy shopper. OK, I’ll admit it… I’ve now shopped there several times since they opened.

My first impression was that Wal-mart is K-Mart on steroids. (I hate K-Mart, and won’t shop there.) Wal-mart is very similar to Target stores also. Lots of low-end merchandise. Cheap shoes. Cheap clothes. Not cheap as in inexpensive; cheap as in, well, cheap. I think Target tries to position itself as selling somewhat more upscale clothing. I’ll call it “cheap chic”. And don’t forget that K-Mart has (or had) Martha Stewart. I guess we’re talking higher quality made-in-China merchandise.

Wal-mart does sell many staple items at rock-bottom prices, but many other popular items are priced no lower than other retailers. You can do better on many, perhaps most items at most other chains or supermarkets, especially when an item is on sale, and particularly on grocery items. I felt that some of Wal-mart’s private-label food items I tried were of inferior quality, and not a very good value. Kind of ironic, since one of their private-label grocery brands is called “Great Value”.

Prices seem to jump around a lot at Walmart. Their price “roll backs” come and go, and I’ve seen some items, especially on the last few visits, jump 20%, 25%, or more. I think the bottom line is that you save on one item, but give back what you just saved when you pick up the next item and place it in your basket.

Being the geek that I am, I gravitate to the electronics department of any store I find myself in. I found a few bargains there, but in general, you can do much, much better buying stuff online, a la Amazon or ebay. On some really hot items, like Apple iPods, Wal-mart prices are pretty close to MSRP. I’ve found some small local or regional electronics chains that beat Wal-mart’s prices on electronics by 10% or more.

One thing I’ll concede about Wal-mart, though, is that returns are never a hassle. They seem to be much more consumer-friendly with returns than many large retailers are these days. One other thing that you’ll only find at Wal-mart is that they sell the local newspaper for half-price. I’ve never seen anyone discounting a newspaper at the newsstand, much less selling it for half-price. Obviously, it’s a gimmic, but it is a nice little surprise.

They have gotten a lot of good press lately because of their very low prices for generic prescription drugs. They also have excellent prices on their house-branded OTC drugs. I guess these cheap drugs make up in some small way for the otherwise poor health benefits they offer their employees. Then again, if you can’t afford to see a doctor, you can’t get a prescription for the cheap medicine. Another Wal-mart paradox, I suppose.

What surprises me most about Walmart is how many items are out of stock on each shopping trip. I don’t think it’s so much a case of them having a run on many items, as it is a logistical or management problem. I suppose the really talented, experienced retail people don’t apply for jobs at Walmart. That’s not to say that they don’t have good people working there. They do, and I empathize with anybody that works hard and does not get a decent salary and benefits. Is America better off with the Walmarts, Home Depots and other giants that have decimated virtually all of their retail competition? I think not.

</walmart-bashing-mode>

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Filed under Consumerism, Money, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Shopping, Walmart