Walmart stole my money (and other stories you’ll never read about here)

We’ll never know what happened to Mattie McGhee. “Walmart stole my money,” she said. “I want Walmart to pay me for the pain inflicted on my family and me.”

How much? $5,000.

When we see cases like this come through our helpline, and no further details, we get — how shall I say this? — excited.

Or problems like Geni Sundquist’s; she wants $11,263 from Grand Circle for a trip she couldn’t take. Why? She doesn’t say. She just wants her money back.

“I would appreciate knowing if I have any recourse,” she says.

These are big dollar amounts, but the details are scant. And that’s the problem. No specifics means we’ll never know if the case was legitimate or if it was just someone with buyer’s remorse.

By the way, we’ve circled back with both of these customers for details. We’ll update this story when we know more. But for now, we know nothing — except that Walmart and Grand Circle allegedly owe these customers a lot of money.

What’s with these dead-end cases?

I have a few ideas:

  • Maybe people just want to vent. I mean, let’s face it, isn’t that what this site is all about? People venting. Perhaps these folks, and others like them, know they don’t have a prayer, but they still want the world to know they’re unhappy. Fair enough.
  • Maybe they have a case, but it’s not ready for prime time. When someone sends us a one-sentence complaint, our response is: “Show us the paper trail, please.” In other words, we need the emails or letters between you and the company. They’ll usually show if the case has legs or not.
  • Maybe they know they don’t have a case, but they want to play the media card. That’s also familiar territory to us. Customers who know they’re wrong, but still want to lob a Molotov cocktail at the giant, faceless corporation. I get that. Who hasn’t felt that way at some point?
Related story:   "Recently, your column has become a bitch session"

Dead-end cases can be instructive to those of us who want to be better consumers. They show us that big numbers and big words are not enough to get what we deserve. Instead, it’s the details and the process that will secure the refund or apology.

And for those of us who don’t care about being better consumers? (And yeah, I know you’re out there.) Perhaps problems like this serve as a reminder that you can’t bulldoze your way into a quick resolution. You don’t have the power, as an individual consumer, to do that. You have to be polite, but most of all, you have to be right.

Of course, our advocacy team can give you a helping hand and a megaphone, if necessary. But we can’t help everyone. I wish we could.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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