Reporting Kurtis Ming
A Call Kurtis investigation caught Walmarts across the country short-changing some customers who return items with gift receipts. His team went undercover again to see if the retail giant changed its ways.
“It’s basically stealing,” says David Schmitz, “They give you a receipt and they don’t honor the receipt.”
Schmitz of West Sacramento was only offered half back over the holidays when returning an item with a gift receipt after it went on sale.
“I initially paid $15 for the cosmetic set,” he says. “And when I came in, all they would give me is $7.50.”
He was able to argue and get a full refund. During our undercover investigation in the spring, we too were shorted at three different Sacramento-area Walmart stores. So was our sister station in New Jersey.
“I thought it was more than that, but it’s not … ” a producer in New Jersey told the cashier.
“It probably was, but when you don’t have a receipt, it’s the actual price I have to give you whatever comes up,” the Walmart associate told the producer on undercover camera.
Walmart told us customers with gift receipts should get the full price paid. A company-wide memo went out, telling store management to refund the original price paid when customers return items with gift receipts.
So we went back to Walmart this summer and purchased three identical pairs of men’s shorts. Then we returned them when they went on sale using our gift receipts at three separate Walmarts.
“It’s a new regulation, we’re still getting used to it,” a Walmart associate told us on hidden camera, “‘Cause sometimes the item might be on sale, or on sale in our store and if you paid regular price and it comes up the sale price and obviously that’s not good for you. We go it. It kind of got worked out, I think.”
We found two stores followed the correct procedure. But at the third location, we were given back the sale price of the shorts, not the full price we paid. We were shorted $4.87.
Our sister station in Dallas also tested out a Walmart store twice this summer. Both times, they were short-changed.
“Whatever the machine shows, that’s it, that’s all I can give you on this kind of receipt,” the Walmart associate told their undercover crew.
So why is this still happening? Walmart issued this statement:
“Our expectation is when an associate processes a refund for an item with a gift receipt, the customer receives a full refund based on the original price. Clearly, we’re disappointed this didn’t happen in this particular instance. We will continue to work with our associates to make sure they understand the process.”
After seeing our investigation, an outraged Sen. Barbara Boxer called for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Walmart’s practices. Now the California Democrat tells us in a statement:
“These new reports suggest that Walmart’s practice of not refunding customers the full purchase price is not a one-time thing but part of a disturbing pattern. It looks more and more like it’s the company’s policy and it’s got to stop immediately.”
“It’s such a perfect scam,” says Bill Kershaw, a Sacramento attorney who has filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart and wants to know exactly how many customers nationwide have been shorted.
“We have information that, but it’s not clear, as to the fact that Walmart has the capacity, did have the capacity to know how much an item cost right away,” says Kershaw.
Knowing it’s still happening, David Schmitz doesn’t think Walmart is taking what happened to him too seriously.
“I’m just glad that I was the one who realized that it’s not going to get solved unless you stand up and point it out and bring it to light,” says Schmitz.
The FTC responded to Sen. Boxer’s original letter in June, saying they were carefully considering her concerns. After our new findings, Boxer plans to put even more pressure on the FTC.