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Upholding the Walton Tradition

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Vicki Gill, Manager of Ponderay Wal-Mart

Vikki Gill, manager at Ponderay’s Wal-Mart, was surprised to learn from a customer about a negative article that had appeared in an area newspaper, faulting the store for its treatment of a customer with a complaint. Vikki was surprised that she hadn’t been asked for comment before the article was printed, but was even more surprised at being taken to task for a situation in which she’d done her utmost to provide quality service in a difficult situation. “I’m really sorry for the misunderstanding,” she said in the soft drawl that marks her as a transplant from the South. “We’re doing the best we can do in a timely manner. We have over 5000 customers a day, and we try to make all of them happy. I really feel like we did our best.”

    One of those 5000 daily customers this summer was a lady from Montana who wanted to purchase an inflatable swimming pool that Wal-Mart had already taken out of inventory, and was shipping to another Wal-Mart store. “People do not understand what this process entails,” Vikki explained of the system which tracks just how much product is in place in the 160,000 square foot store. “Once it’s out of inventory, it doesn’t belong to this store anymore and we can not sell it.”

    Still, Vikki felt her Assistant Manager, whom the customer called to voice her complaint, handled the situation in the best way possible. “We told the customer we would put a pool on layaway for her, then called the store we were shipping the pools to and had them ship one back when they received them. It’s a long process,” Vikki acknowledged. “The turn-around time is often up to seven days, and we did it for her.” When the pool arrived, the customer was not able to return to pick it up, so Wal-Mart went one step further.

    “I had one of my sales associates drive the pool out to Noxon,” Vikki said. “We gave her the pool, without charge, and gave her a gift card worth more than the pool as well as our sincere apologies.”

    It might seem a lot to do for just one customer out of 5000, but not to Vikki and her associates. “When Mr. Walton was alive,” she said, referring to Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, “I worked in stores where he would come in and say that Wal-Mart only has three rules: Number 1- The customer’s always right. If you forget rule number one, go to rule number two- the customer’s always right. And if you forget rule number two, go to rule number three- the customer’s always right. We did what we did because customer satisfaction is important. It’s what our company was founded on. Mr. Walton began with one little store, and now we’re the number one retail store in the nation, and have stores all over the world. We fully understand that we wouldn’t be here if not for our customers.”

    Pools to Noxon aren’t the only way Vikki strives to keep her customers happy. When a woman from Canada bought a VCR in the store, and was told by a sales associate it would work with her existing TV remote control, she was upset to get it home and find it would not. “I had an associate drive up to Canada with an upgraded VCR for her at no charge,” Vikki said. “I’ve even done it for people who left behind a bottle of Tide. We often go the extra mile for our guests.”

    Vikki says that commitment to people also includes the local community. “Last year, my store alone donated over $65,000 to various organizations,” she said. “Yes, we really do care about our communities, and we’re very involved.”

    Vikki moved to the area just two years ago, and says part of her reason for coming here was to, “Promote Walton’s philosophy. We strive very hard every day to satisfy one customer at a time, one day at a time.”

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Landon Otis

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