It takes a Big Company to admit its mistakes — and Wal-Mart has admitted to making mistakes at three of its stores in Tulare County, California. The admission, however, only came after the County’s District Attorney filed a lawsuit October 4th. alleging that Wal-Mart was charging customers full price for bicycles that had been returned by other customers. According to the Fresno Bee newspaper, the DA is charging Wal-Mart employees with engaging in fraudulent business practices by selling returned bicycles at regular store prices, and not inspecting the bikes. The lawsuit adds that the uninspected bikes were then sold to other shoppers. The DA says that Wal-Mart stores in Visalia, Tulare and Porterville were fraudulently selling returned bikes as new for over four years. The DA noted that Wal-Mart declined to offer information about its bicycle sales as part of the investigation. A Wal-Mart spokesman told the Bee that official policy is to inspect bikes when they are returned, and resell them at a reduced price. Wal-Mart’s excuse for this not being done? The newspaper said Wal-Mart claimed it failed to communicate the company’s policy to its employees. “It was something that was a mistake and we feel was unique,” said a Wal-Mart spokesman, who added: “the bottom line is making sure that we take care of the customer”. The DA seeks $5,000 for each violation discovered, saying that customers “must be told the condition of any item they purchase”.
Revelations like this one put the phrase “taking care of the customer” in a new light. It turns out that this is not the first time that the Visalia and Porterville Wal-Mart stores were in the news. Four years ago, the Bee reported that Wal-Mart had scanner problems at these stores, resulting in customer overcharges. Wal-Mart paid civil penalties in that case. Must have been another “unique mistake”. As for “taking care of the customer” — that just doesn’t scan. For much of corporate America, the bottom line is taking care of business, not taking care of customers.