Reporting Kurtis Ming
Two years ago the Call Kurtis team exposed how some customers nationwide were shorted when returning items using gift receipts at Walmart.
Walmart insists its policy is to give you the full price the gift-giver paid, but this past holiday season, we checked to see if their stores are following their own policy.
We went undercover again to test the retail giant. This time we bought kids bath sets; each costing us $10. Will we get the full price back when we return each of them using a gift receipt?
We launched a national investigation in 2011 when David Schmitz of West Sacramento was offered half of what he paid when returning something using a gift receipt.
“When I purchased the item, it cost $15 plus tax. When I tried to return the item using the gift receipt, I was offered $7.50 plus tax,” Schmitz told us.
And we found customers getting shorted at stores across the country. Walmart blamed its workers, saying they weren’t following company policy.
“We sent a high-priority notification to store management to help ensure all cashiers and service desk associates know and follow proper refund processes,” Walmart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez said in a video statement in May 2011.
Our investigation prompted a strong reaction from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California).
“It’s no different than having your pocket picked. It’s just a way to extract money from hard-working middle class people,” she told CBS13.
But two years later, what will happen now? After the holidays, we decide to test three stores with the gifts we bought before Christmas. Our first stop was the Walmart in Roseville.
“It’s a gift receipt for this little set,” our producer said as she approached the Walmart cashier.
We bought the “Groom n Go” bath set for $10, but the Walmart cashier offered us just $2.69 for the gift receipt return.
“It was probably more than that, wasn’t it?” the cashier asked our producer.
“Oh, $2.69? Yeah I think it was like $10 even,” said our producer.
“Without the original, that’s what I can give you,” said the cashier.
The Roseville store failed.
Our next stop was a Walmart in Citrus Heights. We tried to return our “SpongeBob Bath Paint Set” and this time we were only offered $2.70, which the clerk acknowledged is what a gift recipient would have received back.
“Yeah, that’s not good,” said the cashier.
After insisting we paid $10, the Walmart cashier ended up overriding the transaction and giving us a full refund.
Our final stop was to the Walmart in Woodland. Our “Bathing Beauty” set immediately rang up the price we paid. With tax, that’s $10.83.
If gift recipients would have returned the bath sets without knowing how much we paid, out of the $32.33 we spent, they would have received just $16.22. Walmart would have kept $16.11 of our money.
We found it’s still happening across the country. Our sister station in Philadelphia was offered $20 less when they tried to return a TV with a gift receipt.
“I can’t believe it’s happening two years in a row,” said Edgar Dworsky of Consumer World.
The consumer advocate says Walmart has to clean up its act.
“I don’t think it’s intentional, but I think once you bring a problem to a company’s attention, a year goes by and the problem still exists, that’s really bordering on negligence,” said Dworsky.
We asked Walmart: how is this still happening? The company didn’t have an answer, saying:
“We continue to take this matter seriously and are committed to satisfying our customers. It’s our expectation to refund the original purchase price when returning an item with a gift receipt. Clearly, we’re disappointed this didn’t happen in this particular instance. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customer.”
We recently streamlined our gift receipt return process to make it more efficient and reliable for our customers.If customers have questions regarding a gift receipt, we encourage them to speak with a member of management at their local store.
Ashley Hardie, Walmart spokeswoman
Walmart customers tell CBS13 they’re also disappointed.
“I think it’s terrible! I mean, you should get back whatever you paid for it,” said one shopper.
“Honestly, now that you’re telling me this, I wouldn’t give out gift receipts anymore,” said another shopper.
“Shame on Walmart,” a third shopper said.
After our initial investigation Sen. Boxer called for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. That was the summer of 2011. We reached out to the FTC for an update and all they’d tell us is, “All information pertaining to an investigation is non-public.”
After hearing about our latest investigation, Boxer gave us the following statement: “I have referred these latest reports to the FTC and have asked Chairman Leibowitz for an update on the agency’s efforts to protect Walmart customers from being short-changed. I have confidence that the FTC will pursue this matter given that Walmart has not kept its promise to fix this egregious problem.”