This happened to me recently with Amazon on an item that cost $10. I no longer needed the item and sought to return it. I was told to keep it and I would get a credit of $10 on my next order. Just two years ago Amazon wanted me to return an empty box when the product was left out of it before shipping. My, how times have changed.
I applaud the move to credit shoppers and not require the return of low-cost items that would render a loss for the seller. I like the idea of asking the shopper to donate the product to a non-profit and then allowing the seller to take the tax deduction. There should be safeguards in place that alert the retailer of those bad actors who try and OVERUSE the returns.
The lines do continue to blur between online and in-store given the rise of BOPIS at Walmart and elsewhere. Walmart counts BOPIS in its online sales. Grocery BOPIS at Walmart is a big reason for the strong e-commerce sales growth in the past two years. All consumers care about is getting the products they want at the price they want, when and where they want. Those retailers that survive will be the ones who deliver on customer demands, that could be in-store or online, but it's more likely to be omnichannel.
10 years ago, who would have thought we would get in the car with strangers and pay them for a ride, or share our homes with strangers looking for a bed and breakfast? Walmart is no-doubt looking at this evolution of consumer behavior and trying to provide a service that some will use and others will still see as creepy.
I see this as a niche market for the time-being. Walmart is testing it, but I don't think this will ever be rolled out nationally. That said, it might work in select markets.
If I had a vacation home in Vero Beach I might use the service to restock the fridge before a visit. Only time will tell. Kudos to Walmart for testing it and innovating for the future. There are liability and privacy issues that will have to be considered by Walmart before this is service is scaled.
Walmart is good at giving tools to its associates, but in the past, some associates have not necessarily known how to use them. That's been my experience. I know kiosks would work just as good, Target has proven that concept. I do applaud Walmart for trying to see what customers are not finding in their stores. In theory, this concept of giving associates the tools to help shoppers looks great, executing it well is another matter. Depending on the time of day, associates can be hard to find in a Walmart store. Having the tool available in the customer app would seem to be a way to solve that issue. Walmart scores a point for trying to help shoppers find out-of-stock orders, and for assessing missed sales opportunities with its inventory assortment. We will have to wait and see how well it can be executed by associates who already are being asked to do a lot for minimal pay.
Amazon set the bar high for fast home delivery with its Prime membership and despite the fee, it's still likely a money loser for the retailer. Walmart won't play a money losing game. They have instead focused on offering consumers more choices with respect to how orders are retrieved.
Given there is a Walmart store within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population, BOPIS makes a lot of sense for Walmart. The minimum $35 order to get free online delivery from Walmart.com is about as low as Walmart is willing to go.
Investments in pickup towers, lockers and other means for final-mile or yard continue across the retail spectrum. Given the diverse demands from consumers, retailers should likely have lots of options for order retrieval. While free home delivery is the new benchmark, that doesn't mean retailers should mortgage their future to get there.