Yesterday, an incident happened to me at a local warehouse store. That incident enraged me and had me shooting steam out of my ears and spitting fire.
While there is some humour in this article, let me say that it is mostly editorial. I take full responsibility for the words here, because they are mine. This publication/on line magazine recognizes that and is not responsible for my feeling that a national business is a bunch of jackals.
What happened to me prompted me to write a letter to The Las Cruces Sun News (my local newspaper). Let me quote the text of the letter:
I'm tired of getting treated like a thief at Sam's Wholesale Club. They treat every one of their customers this way; it's a corporate policy.
A few minutes ago, I bought six items. The cashier took those items from one cart, rang them up in her cash register, set them into another cart, and gave me my receipts. I walked out the door.
On the way their, I met their security force. They want to see everyone's receipts and check them against all of the items in their carts. If you purchase something that comes in a box, they will open that box to make sure that you didn't sneak something else in there and then tape it shut again (since all of their customers secretly carry their own packaging tape into Sam's - yes, that's called sarcasm).
Well, I told the guy "I don't play this game" as I walked past him. I do that every time; I've done it for years.
Today, however, I was chased by an employee to my car. He demanded to check my receipts and threatened to call the police. I told him that, once the store accepted my payment, the items were mine and anything further was a violation of my "illegal search and seizure" rights. He disagreed, radioed his boss, gave them my license plate number and a description, and his boss called the police.
I don't care. I won't be treated like a thief. No other chain store treats their customers this way; only Sam's tells their customers that they don't trust them when leaving the store.
I may return there to take advantage of the prices, but I will continue to say "I don't play this game" when I leave. Let them call the police; if they ever come and talk to me, I'll also file a complaint on Sam's for illegally detaining me and for illegal search and seizure. I'm tired of getting treated like a thief at Sam's Club.
When I sent a copy of my "letter to the editor" to a friend, he responded to me with the following letter (he's another person that doesn't like the way this company treats him):
It is a damn good thing that Sam's is not in the restaurant business. Can you imagine Amigo?
"Okay ma'am, I'm gonna have ta frisk ya ta make sure that you ain't trying to smuggle out any Sweet 'N Low Packets."
"Excuse me sir, you there, yes, you in the walker, hobble on over here to me and let me make sure you ain't trying to make off with some lemon slices."
"Okay, miss, I'm going to have ta ask ya ta submit to a full body cavity search just in case you're trying to steal one of our 'Not For Resale Heinz Ketchup Bottles.' And don't think that I'm just trying to take a look at your vagina, hell in this business, you seen 700, you seem 'em all."
Does that come across as a little extreme? Maybe, but it's how they do treat their customers.
Much of my frustration with this company stems from a history of being treated like this over the years. My first bad incident happened many years ago when I was managing a business (a movie theatre) in Laredo, Texas.
I previously "Spoofed" my own experience with this 2007 story.
I had a delivery truck that was going to be four days late (I don't remember the reason). I had some huge movie openings that weekend and needed some products, so I went to Sam's.
I told a manager what I needed to buy, and he got two employees with pallets and pallet jacks to help me. They loaded up fifteen cases of Nacho cheese sauce (#10 cans), ten cases of sliced jalapenos (#10 cans), sixty cases of Nacho chips, and twenty cases of popcorn seed (50 pound boxes). They wheeled these to a register and I checked out.
The employees then begin taking this load of pallet jacks outside to the two employees I had waiting with pick up trucks to haul the load back to the theatre.
When we got to the door, the Sam's security guy took out his little box cutter knife and immediately begin opening every case on both pallets. He opened every box of chips, slicing open many of the bags. He also sliced open several sacks of popcorn seed inside of their cases.
As you can guess, they found nothing wrong.
When he finished, I called the manager over and demanded a full refund on everything. The seed had the potential of spilling and many of the chips would have gone stale before using (remember that Laredo was humid). I also demanded a refund on my card as it was renewed only the week before. They ended up refunding the product, but not the card, and I went elsewhere and paid more (but was not treated like a thief).
I got the number for the Sam's district manager and their corporate offices and ended up leaving messages on the machines of both, but never received a reply.
I did not enter another Sam's club for at least five years.
On some occasions since, I had product or merchandise ruined when they insisted on opening boxes and I have gotten refunds each time (though I had to request it myself and it was never offered). Each time, I would get the District manager's number, call and leave a complaint, and never hear anything back. In more recent years, I begin e-mailing their corporate offices through their complaint system, and have never received any form of reply.
A few years ago, I decided to stop playing their game and just walk straight out. I have never had a problem with this until today.
I have already e-mailed their corporate office, stating that I have sent a letter to my local newspaper about their practices. I also informed them that similar complaints will be lodged at the offices of the local Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau. I know, however, that this does not bother them and that I will receive no contact.
I cannot be arrested or charged with anything by the police. I broke no law. I merely "violated a company policy" of a company that I do not work for.
This company demands that customers pay a fee to shop there, and then treats their customers like thieves. I've had it with them. I will not renew my membership when it comes due this summer.
Do you agree with me and my assessment? If you do, then follow my lead. Walk straight out of the store and say "I don't play this game."
If enough customers do it, maybe they might change their policy and start treating us with some respect.
Seriously, though, I doubt that they care.