I’m not sure why, but I seem to have quite a few snarls at Walmart. The most recent one happened just the other day over a few gallons of water. I’d discovered that we were totally out of drinking water. We’re on a rural water system and the water out of our pipes is fine for washing or watering plants, but we don’t trust it for drinking.
We live in a hilly area rich in springs, and not that many years ago, the water coming out of the ground was pure and safe to drink. Not any more. The spring water, creeks and rivers are now polluted from animal waste, especially the runoff from giant chicken houses. But I guess that’s the price you pay when the world’s largest meat company is just down the road not very far.
So now we refill gallon plastic bottles at the Culligan water machine at Walmart for 37 cents a gallon. It’s good water and you don’t have to worry about chicken poop.
So I was there at the Walmart market filling my four bottles. The first one filled rapidly, but the second bottle was only about one-third full when the water flow stopped. I’d had this problem before. Sometimes the water machine can’t keep up with the demand and needs a little time to generate more water. So I waited a couple of minutes and tried again. Still no water.
The water machine is just a few steps from the self-check area, which has a Walmart employee overseeing it. So I sought help there, explaining to her that I was having trouble with the water machine. She left her post at the self-check and came over to try to help me, or so I thought.
But instead of going to the water machine, she went over to the ice machine. She looked up at a little window on the machine and there was a message that said, “Level merchandise.” She opened the door and began to re-stack the bags of ice.
“I didn’t know the ice machine and the water machine were connected,” I said.
She glanced up at the little message window on the machine and said, “It’s producing again” and went back to her post at the self-check.
I went back to the water machine, which still refused to work. Big surprise. I reached the conclusion that the woman I had asked for help was a doofus.
So I went and stood in line at the service desk and waited and when I finally got to the front of the line, lodged my complaint against the water machine.
The service desk guy said he’d come try to get the machine working again, and as we walked together, I told him about my experience with the woman clerk and how she had serviced the ice machine.
“The ice machine doesn’t have anything to do with the water machine,” he said, giving me a look that indicated there was a lot of inbreeding in my family.
He tried to get the water machine going, pulling it away from the wall, checking the connections. No luck, the well was dry.
“I’ll put a sign on it saying it’s out of order,” he said. I already knew that, I felt like saying, but didn’t.
I decided to settle for the one and one-third gallons of water I’d drawn before the machine tapped out. But I had a moral dilemma. Should I have to pay for the partial gallon?
I was already a little irritated by my encounters with the two employees. I decided there was no way I was going to pay 37 cents for one-third of a gallon of water. Walmart was going to give me that water in return for my inconvenience.
I went to self-check to check out. I prefer to check myself out, avoiding any contact with Walmart personnel. Can you really blame me? The same woman who had so expertly gotten the ice machine going was monitoring the self-check. I scanned my items, punched in the code for the water and told the computer I had only one gallon. I paid, loaded my cart, and started to leave.
The self-check woman rushed over.
“Sir, I noticed you only paid for one gallon of water, but you have four gallons in your basket.”
“Actually, I only have one,” I said holding up the two empty bottles. “I had trouble with the water machine,” I said, emphasizing the word water. “I do have this third of a gallon I didn’t pay for. I’ll be happy to go pour it out.”
On your head, I added mentally.
“No, no, sir, that’s all right. Go ahead,” she said, maybe reaching some realizations. Maybe not.
On the drive home, after I’d calmed down a little, I felt petty. I’d been a jerk over about 12 cents worth of water. I may have damaged the fragile ego of a Walmart associate. I’d been impatient and curmudgeonly.
But at least the ice machine was fixed.