I know it’s the holiday season. I do hope you had a Merry Christmas filled with the joy of friends and family who you love and who love you. New Year’s Eve is just a few days away. If you look around at work, people are still smiling as the year winds down. Yet, why am I not one of those people who are smiling? It’s because of what I’m seeing around me in business.
You may have heard about the Connecticut guy, Barry Goldberg, who bought $1,300 worth of $10 Wal-Mart gift cards. That’s a lot of cards to buy especially if the cards are not for your family or friends. This lovely man wanted to dress up as Santa and give the cards out in front of the store to spread some good holiday cheer. He was out of work himself, but that didn’t stop him. He said he just wanted to do something nice for others. What a nice thing to do, right? Wrong. Wal-Mart management didn’t think it was a nice thing to do.
While Goldberg was giving out the gift cards, a very determined Wal-Mart employee interrogated him to ask him where he got the cards. “I bought them here 20 minutes ago,” Goldberg said. That wasn’t what Wal-Mart or the employee wanted to hear. Having a receipt wasn’t good enough for them and wouldn’t make the gift card giving acceptable. Goldberg was asked to stop and leave. Why would such kindness be met with such Scrooge-like behavior? The corporate line was that he was blocking traffic. The real reason is that people might actually use the free gift cards by shopping in the store. What a concept! Using a gift card to make a Christmas gift purchase especially when the economy this year is so bad. Wal-Mart didn’t want customers to redeem the cards. They make more money that way. Are you shocked yet?
Maybe it’s the time of year, but when it’s the season to be jolly, I expect people to try a little harder to make business decisions and incorporate being nice when they do. I think it’s good business, too. Isn’t it a pretty basic part of customer service that if you’re nice to your customers they enjoy doing business with you and want to come back to buy more from you? I would think that customers getting free gift cards would make most people feel pretty positive about the store where they’re getting the card. It sounds like that’s just common sense to me. I wondered if Wal-Mart had some rules that the manager was implementing when he asked Goldberg to scram. Makes you wonder about some of these rules–and the people who make them.
It gets better. Goldberg couldn’t believe he was being asked to leave. He wondered if Target wanted his “business.” Sure enough, a spokesman from Target called him and invited him over to exchange the Wal-Mart cards for Target cards and give them out. That’s just what he did.