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I’ve gotten several emails recently about MNB readers’ various experiences at Walmart-owned stores.

MNB reader Brian Carpentier wrote:

I had my first experience with the new Walmart tower also three weeks ago. I was looking for a specific battery operated ride on toy for the grandchildren. I was able to get it sooner and for less money from Walmart then from Amazon. I believe a week sooner and close to $20 less. Though it was a day late, it got here in time for the event. Since it was a very large box, once I entered the invoice number, someone was there within a minute to tell me they were bring it up to the front of the store (where the tower is). This pick-up area is also in orange Vs the rest of the registers in blue. In that area, there were comfortable chairs to sit on. Though they offered to bring it out and load it, I did so myself. Big step forward for Walmart.

MNB reader Lyle Walker wrote:

I shop at Sam's Club because of convenience, and once I started using their self-scan app, I've never gone back.  It is one of the best pieces of technology I've seen for a consumer.  The scan app itself is amazingly fast.  As soon as you point it at a barcode, you get a response.  It takes about 5-10 seconds to figure it out, as it has a very simple design.  Very impressive app and actually makes shopping easier.  It's now nice to see long lines at the checkout and know that you get to walk around them as you head out the door.

I don't typically shop at Walmart, but when the self-scan app is available, at least it gives me an additional reason to add them to my store consideration set.

And, from another reader:

I write you with 3 prefaces: I sell beer for a living rather than write … I avoid Wal-Mart because a) the lines & service are deplorable and b) their corporate image screams "drive out indy biz retailers in your market, screw your employees, squeeze suppliers...then repeat” … and we are devout Prime users.

Last week on vacation we had forgotten beach gear items shipped to us in <2 days for free.

With the above caveats...for the 1st time...I set out to support my wife with the "back to school - tax free shipping weekend".  She had the list for our 3rd & 5th graders of 48 items and quantity along with another 20 or so optionals for Art, PE, etc.

I am a Prime subscriber, Cartwheel user, and shopper (Christmas '16 basketball hoop)

I ran down the list comparing Amazon (her #1 choice), Target (Momma choice #2).and Wal-Mart (her reminder..."you always bitch that 30 cents is not worth 30 minutes").  Here in Florida, Wal-Mart had a price advantage with pick up today available for nearly every item.  Also telling, was that I found their site more intuitive and shopper friendly than Amazon (I know...right).  Target not in the running on price or availability.  It is worth noting the wife insisted on taking the girls to Target for backpacks and lunchboxes.  

Upon arriving at the local WM, the directional arrows for online pickup were clearly marked and I would have used it except the order was in "processing mode" just as it was 6 hrs earlier.  Inside at the orange online pickup., I had the 2 most friendly CSR interactions at Wal-Mart that I remember in 40+ years.  The woman pulling the order went so far as to say she "enjoyed shopping for back to school" and added in a genuine tone "you really did saved a lot on the notebooks".  

I proceeded to take the next 10 minutes grocery shopping and what felt like the next 30 min standing in line (more like 5).

I will use WM's online shopping again, including for groceries and I bet they improve the pick process.  Traditional grocers should plan on losing much of their current GMD and occasion basket to online, dollar, and Big Blue.  Amazon is in for a fight if Wal-Mart can lure away Prime household $ away. An unplanned implication of today's shop is that WM got my grocery $ rather than Publix.

KC's View: