Monday, December 13, 2010

Uh, WalMart? Ham's Never Delicious for Chanukah.

So there I was Wednesday afternoon innocently procrastinating on Facebook when there were a bunch of documents I needed to review.  I justified the Facebook travels as "market research" and felt good about it.

And then there was payoff!  A friend shared this pic on his wall.  And it spoke to me because of its lovely ridiculousness.  We've got latkes with sour cream in the upper left corner juxtaposed with smoked ham text.  You can't make this stuff up.

In my last post, I talked about GEICO commercials as being unintentionally exclusionary because the context assumed you were a native English speaker.  I pointed out that by mid 21st century, "minorities" will represent over 50% of the U.S. population and I wondered why GEICO would want to leave 50% opportunity on the table.

And now, because the world works in mysterious ways, we have an opposite situation.  In WalMart's zeal to be inclusive, to honor and to celebrate all cultures, something has gone a bit awry.  And that something is a little basic information and knowledge.

Retailers have it tough during the holidays, admittedly.  Many celebrate Christmas but if there is too much Christmas, it's to the exclusion of other religions and perhaps can turn off long time shoppers who've had enough of the imbalance or repel prospective shoppers.  The easiest remedy is to find ways to make connections with others to show that the retailers "care" and "respect" other traditions.  

And, sometimes that means a menorah display in a corner of the store with a smattering of dreidels in another part of the store.  So I'm sure that somewhere in a WalMart store the same thing happened: the menorah, the blue and white wrapping paper, some gold foil wrapped chocolate and some dreidels.

Mistakes like the one in the picture make what may have been an honest effort ring false.  It's almost better not to make the effort than to make a mistaken effort like this.  You've heard me talk about "Surprise and Delight" more times than you could bear this year.  "Surprise and Dismay" is probably a good descriptor in this instance.

Just as I've said before (here, here and here) that the little things can make a big positive difference in the perception your customers have of you, so can the little things make a big negative difference.  The reason for the Buick salesman's success, the popularity of the Butterball hotline and Ramon DeLeon's high customer service scores is that in all three instances, they appreciate the fine art of detail to make things go right.  And they appreciate the fine art of detail to avoid things from going wrong.

Of course they're not perfect.  There are plenty of examples that Ramon DeLeon shares of orders that his team didn't fulfill correctly.  He'll even Tweet or put it on his FB page for the world to see.  But for each of those examples, he's always made up for the errors to keep the customer satisfied which means he's detail oriented when it comes to problem resolution, too.

In other words, it's a two way street when it comes to details.  In all three examples, there is this tacit understanding that you can't just "show up" and be rewarded for your existence.  Just showing up doesn't even cover the cost of doing business these days.  Just showing up is like opening your eyes in the morning: you don't know if it's cold, warm, raining or snowing.  All you know is that you're awake.  

And the WalMart price tag is an example of just showing up.  And this honest effort that rings false may not make a huge dent in WalMart revenues, but only reinforces the growing cynicism we have about retailers and other companies valuing our business.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


  1. Well said, Parissa. I wonder if it calls into question the cultural diversity that makes up the staff at Walmart. Was this a promotion sent down through corporate or borne from misfired initiative from a worker in the deli section? Either way, no checks and balances. And a screaming indictment of company culture. But...the bottom line might be that folks who shop at Walmart dismiss such faux pas b/c, in the end, they save at the register.

  2. Hi Katie, thanks for the comment! I agree that price is king especially in a down economy.

    However, I shouldn't have to sacrifice respect (not political correctness mind you) for good product at good price. As a minority, it's irritating to see stores "get it wrong" though we keep going back and giving them our business. It's like we don't "matter" as much as others though our dollars matter equally.

  3. This photo actually had nothing to do with Walmart... see

  4. Parrisa:

    My head is still shaking on this one. Thank you for sharing. Wow! Points to a two things: 1.) Details, details, details. It is all in the details. Last week I went to look at the social media campaign for a 4 unit restaurant in SF that I was told is doing a great job. Moved off their landing page to their wall and noticed on Dec. 1 they were launching a new Korean specials menu for the month, also posted via Twitter, but why did they forget to change the landing page to announce their new menu. People just do not connect the dotes. Apparently someone at Walmart fogot to connect the dots. Which leads me to; 2.) Social media thanks to transparency for me is beginning to expose how many companies are working in silos. Was anyone in senior management of at least a level above supervising the individual responsible for this post?

    In closing, maybe we are being too critical and next year Walmart will post specials for Halal food to address ethnic diversity.

    I am still shaking my head.

  5. Shmuel - thank you so much for sharing that information. It appears that it is a real food label but from Balducci's instead. Apologies to WalMart for the attribution error.

    That said - bad form on Balducci's part!