A Step Back In Time

1 05 2012

For all the many success stories Walmart has had the last 50 years, it still cannot figure out how e-commerce works. Amazon continues to give it fits simply because it knows its customers…how we think, and how we shop.

So when I read today that Walmart is now the first major retailer to offer online customers the option of paying by cash, I nearly fell off my chair. I envisioned home computers with a reverse ATM mounted to the side of the monitor, happy customers busily shoving crumpled tens and twenties into a slot. Cha-ching!

But alas, it is not quite this elegant. In fact, as ridiculous as an in-home ATM sounds, it is actually a better idea than what Walmart is unveiling.

Get this. Walmart assumes that, since only 15% of its current customers pay by credit card (really?), then offering a cash option at the point of online checkout would appeal to the remaining 85%. Simply take the cash option, print out the receipt, and run over to your nearest Walmart within 48 hours to pay your bill. Customers then have the choice of having the merchandise sent to the store for free, or to a different location for a shipping charge.

Now stop laughing.

Let me get this straight: you place the order online, drive somewhere, pay within 48 hours, and then still have to wait for your stuff? Is Walmart crazy?

Walmart certainly has more than its fair share of economically-challenged customers, but I wonder if these shoppers are best served in this manner. In fact, are they even going to be shopping online at all? And what is the convenience of all that waiting and driving to the store?

Oh, and here’s one more thought: if certain shoppers do not have credit, I’d say there is a fair shot they probably don’t need to be buying things online anyway.

Walmart may think it is doing something innovative and perhaps even supportive of those with credit crises, but this just pours salt on the wound. Imagine the ignominy of standing in line at the cash register and having to say, “I’m here to pay my e-commerce bill, since I don’t have a credit card.” Yeah, that’s going to make shoppers feel good about themselves. Why doesn’t Walmart just stencil a bright red “CR” on their foreheads? Those credit risks…we just can’t trust them, ya know.

Without really thinking about things, Walmart just set e-commerce back a few years. Maybe that’s why Amazon continues to sweep them away. The river runs deep, the river runs wide. And there’s not a dam thing Walmart can seem to do about it.

Dr “Cash Or Credit” Gerlich