WalMart’s online ordering system is atrocious!

Just to warn my friends: WalMart’s online ordering system is atrocious! Avoid at all costs.

I recently had occasion to order a couple of things from WalMart online, via their “ship to store” system. It was a disaster.

I placed an order on Monday September 7 for a couple of bicycle helmets at the Morse Road store in Columbus. The inventory (mis)management system assured me that they were in stock and could be held for pickup, and that I would soon get notification.

Hours passed. I attributed this to thinking that it was altogether reasonable that someone actually had to pull the merchandise before I could be alerted. OK, so it takes a while …

Then about 5 hours later, I received an email, telling me the order had been cancelled, and:

We’re sorry to tell you that the item(s) below isn’t currently available at the Columbus Walmart. However, for your convenience we’ve reserved your item(s) at a nearby Walmart.
You don’t need to take any further action, and your order is now ready for pickup. The new order number is #xxxxxxx-xxxx.
FREE pickup today at Whitehall Walmart
3657 E Main St, Whitehall OH
If you are unable to pick up your item(s) at this store, please initiate a cancellation by 4:44 a.m. on 09/08/2015.

I promptly went online, using the “Request Cancellation” link in their email. Only the “old” order number shoed up — not the “new” one. I found what seemed to indicate that I should be able to choose a different store more convenient to me for pickup. I then ordered the items sent to the Sawmill Road store, where I could easily stop and pick them up the next day. (Another story! pickup took over 15 minutes! on a Tuesday morning when one could shoot a cannonball through the store and not hit anyone.)

Soon after completing my order(s?), I checked my credit card transactions online, I noticed that TWO charges were listed as “pending” for the amount of the purchase. I figured that the one for the transaction WalMart had labelled as “cancelled” would be deleted when it became obvious that I was going to pick up the items a different location. …. NO WAY!!

The next morning was the first I heard (via email at 6 a.m. )that the Whitehall pickup had NOT been cancelled … and I could not cancel it online!

After I succeeded in actually getting the bicycle helmets, I sent a message to WalMart via their (hard to access) web system. The reply (with quoted message) is below:

Recently you requested personal assistance from Customer Care.
Below is our response and a summary of your request.

Reference#: 150908-005671
Response email (09/08/2015 10:10 AM)
Hi Richard,
The order XXXXXXXXXXXXXX that we placed is ready for you to pick up at the store you selected. I totally understand that you do not longer need these items. Unfortunately there are system limitations that will not allow us to make any adjustment on Pick Up Today orders. In this case, to amend this situation I will kindly recommend you to contact the store you selected directly at (614)239-7509 and they will be able to better assist you with the refund, or you can wait for this order to expire, any item that isn’t picked up within 14 days of arrival will be canceled and refunded, your order should expire by September 22.
Emma C. Customer Care
Customer email (09/08/2015 09:49 AM)
This was **automatically entered by your system** after **you cancelled**
I re-ordered YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY and finally succeeded in getting satisfaction
I DO NOT WANT to visit Whitehall for

I eventually broke down and called the Whitehall store, figuring it would be “due diligence” before attempting to deal with the WalMart problem through the credit card “dispute resolution” procedure. I was passed through several parties, all the while attempting not to take it out on the workers. When I finally got the “manager,” I was advised that the person who would need to cancel an order was gone at 7:30 p.m. (even though the department was open until 9:00 p.m?).

After experience shopping at a number of online merchants, I must say that WalMart has provided me with an exemplarily BAD experience. A few thoughts:

  1. With WalMart’s vaunted inventory management system, why can’t they more quickly know what is actually in stock? Is “shrink” that bad that they could not come up with two helmets, when their system seemed to indicate several in stock?
  2. Why can’t the same system facilitate easily cancelling my duplicate order, then notifying the store to return items to shelf?
  3. Why are they charging customer’s credit cards promptly, before any merchandise is actually taken possession of? Companies like Amazon don’t charge until an item is actually shipped! I could understand running the preliminary “pending” transaction system to verify that a card is active and valid. … Perhaps it’s all about the “float?”
  4. Why are they charging customer’s credit cards promptly, and then making it so awfully hard to get credit? (Though one has never taken possession of merchandise, it is handled more like a return than an order.) It seems that in this case my options are:
    1. Wait several weeks until they actually “time out” the transaction
    2. Make a pilgrimage to Whitehall (first suggestion when I called that store!), and hope that someone could actually help me.
    3. Call the credit card company, and start a “dispute resolution” procedure, which could take a while to resolve.

I have yet to resove this. I’m so mad at WalMart I’m ready to spit! Perhaps I should just call the credit card company, wait for them to reolve it, … and then studiously avoid WalMart?

You too have been warned.

Columbus Dispatch irritates subscribers regarding hyped Special Edition [updated]

I am VERY irritated with the Columbus Dispatch. After hyping a “Special Edition” for at least a week before the Ohio State University football Buckeyes played in Monday night’s championship game, they FAILED to deliver to this long-time subscriber!

I was up early Tuesday, and found

I noted an email apologizing for a late paper, and assuring me it would be delivered. Silly me. I assumed this meant I might actually get to read all about it upon returning after a hard day’s work. Wrong!

I must remember what experience has taught me concerning Dispatch circulation: always call right away if the paper is not there, since no one answers the phone after some time in the morning.

So in the evening I called in anyway. The automated system said I’d get credit (for one day of non-delivery! After all the hype, and still advertising the “Special Edition” for sale — for $6.95 or so … !!)


I then tried the online “chat” line in Subscriber “Service.” That, of course was unstaffed, and eventually offered to take a message.


I even sent an email to Subscriber “Service,” offering to forestall griping about this on social media, if they’d just get back to me.
No response — even through Wednesday night. There was a nice article in today’s paper, about how the Dispatch is cashing in on great demand for the commemorative “Special Edition.” (Is the “D” shorting subscribers so as to cash in on this special demand?) Still, …


I don’t want a paltry day’s credit I want my darned newspaper!!!!!

Benjamin Marrison is quoted as saying “The last thing we want to do is irritate our readers.” I’d say the Dispatch has done a great job at doing just that!!!

N.B. I’ll let you know if I get a response from the “D.”

Addendum — Response from the Dispatch
After posting this I received an email from Carol Huddleston, Customer Service Manager at The Columbus Dispatch, at 5:38 a.m. Thusday. Upon calling her, she apologized for the problems and saw that a full copy was delivered later Thursday.

Bottom line: the D has some good people working for it — if you can get through to them.

Hotmail Annoyances: please use plain text

I’ve noticed that whenever a Hotmail user replies or forwards a previous message, everything is concatenated so as to give a message without line returns and other formatting features in the PLAINTEXT part of message. The message is then duplicated in HTML. Apparently there is some bug, or non-standard practice in Hotmail (now a.k.a. Windows Live Mail).

I practice and recommend that everyone use plaintext as much as possible, as it lacks certain vulnerabilities that can be slipped into HTML messages, including web beacons (1 pixel pictures that help spammers verify an email address), malicious java code, and other nuisances. Because of these things I turn off the HTML view by default, and only enable it when needed, when I am sure I can trust the sender. (You might notice some of that spam and phishing mail shows up only in HTML.)

If you use Hotmail, please use plain text, so the rest of use don’t get the infamous Hotmail “run on sentences.”

Hotmail users may choose Plain Text thusly:

    Per message:

  • In the New Message window click the formatting tab that will say one of the following: “Rich text,” “Edit in HTML,” or “Plain text.” Choose Plain Text.
    Hotmail - Choose plaintext per message

    Hotmail - Choose plaintext per message

    By default (recommended):

  • It used to work this way: To make that permanent, in your Live Mail window go to Tools – Options – Send and activate the Plain text default button. … Anyone got the answer?

Doing one of these will save me from the Hotmail Annoyance, save space in the mailboxes of your correspondents (as well as your own), and encourage safer email practices.

NOTE: Someone replied and informed me that apparently Hotmail has changed their interface. I have changed the “Per message” information above to reflect that. I have not been able to find how to set default to plain text. Have you? Let me know!

I have also learned that there is a downloadable conventional program – a successor to Outlook Express of sorts. This does not apply to that.

Switching to plain text… in Windows Live Mail Desktop
regarding plaintext email – especially in forums

Email – plaintext and appropriate attachments recommended

I feel compelled to comment today upon the propensity of many to compose their emails in HTML, complete with pictures, fancy fonts, etc. This is one of the areas where I am a “conservative.” (gasp!) … You’ll notice that my emails are almost always sent in PLAIN TEXT (2). Let me tell you why.

  1. Plain text gets to the point, communicating a brief message without distractions.
  2. Plain text does not have the potential to compromise a reader’s system by javascripts, spying web beacons, etc. hidden in the code. (This is mostly for the receiver’s benefit.)
  3. Plain text is “green.” It simply uses less bandwidth, storage space, etc.

Of course, there may be times when “fancy” is appropriate – where we want more formatting. This may include when one wants text formatting, pictures, etc. for emphasis: it may also include when one wants the same, only with WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”) fidelity. It may also include when one wants to send specific data – say a spreadsheet. There are some recommendations for these situations as well.

  • If you simply want pictures and fancy formatting, go ahead and use HTML. Most email programs allow this option now (even web mail). You might want to leave this option off, and turn it on only when you want it. You can also edit a document in a word processor, like, save it as HTML, and attach it, if that gives you more familiar and better tools for formatting.
  • If you want WYSIWYG, then use your OpenOffice and export as a PDF. (Other programs may also create PDFs, but call it “save as” – e.g. AbiWord.) … Note: Even shipping a word processing document will not get you WYSIWYG, as printers vary and so do fonts. (Recognizing the threat to their crumbling monopoly, Microsoft is scheming in their latest Word 2007 to introduce new proprietary fonts to deliberately introduce such incompatibilities(!), Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols informs.)
  • If you want to use word processing documents, spreadsheets, etc., stick with open formats such as Open Document (ODT is text, ODS is spreadsheet). These international ISO standards are emerging as the lingua franca of documents — and they should be able to be read far into the future! And there are converters for those with software that is deficient in this regard. Do not use Microsoft’s formats. Not only are they inconvenient for the recipient, pressuring them into feeling like they must buy Microsoft’s expensive products; you might even some day be unable to decipher what you have composed. (Sometimes even the latest version of Word cannot open very old ones!)

Windows Annoyance # … No DVD Player codecs!

I recently had the experience of seeking a DVD player for Windows XP. My wife has an XP Pro computer at work, and found she could not play even unencrypted DVDs. Windows Media Player 11 came up and grouched. The “helpful” links then took her to a web site that offered to sell her DVD player software/plugins.

As my search began to take much more time than I thought, I found that the preponderance of options for Windows users are commercial! One does not realize that with pre-installed computers, as Microsoft relies upon the hardware vendor to license and include some software solution.

To make a very long story short, I finally found the best options, and now share those with you:

  • First, if all you want is to play DVDs and some media files, and have an interface that resembles the old, familiar versions of Windows Media Player (before the DRMdigital restrictions management” onslaught!), try: Media Player Classic (MPC) — look for it here.

    With MPC you get a single binary (executable file) that can be run as a regular (non-administrative) user in Windows. (If you want it integrated into menus, etc., you’ll need to place it somewhere with appropriate permissions and link to it.)

  • If you want a more comprehensive solution, which integrates into all users’ menus and provides browser plugins, autoplay and the like, go for VLC (VideoLAN – VLC media player). VLC is the cross-platform “Swiss Army Knife” of media players. During install or initial run, you might allow it to be the default for numerous video formats. (When you insert your first DVD, you can even set it as the default player for DVDs, so you no longer get the annoying message from WMP!)
  • Another Candidate from the cross-platform open source world is MPlayer. I have used it for years in linux and it can play just about anything. But alas there seems to be no GUI included for windows. I think it depends upon you choosing a frontend — maybe more on that later … there do seem to be some packages including GUI there. SMPlayer is the first listed, and looks worth checking out.