Monday, August 04, 2008

Camping...Robbie Style!

The camping trip to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania was a much so that I'm planning on buying a bigger tent and doing it again next year. For four days and three nights, we were in the comfort of the great outdoors with family, friends and food. The weather was great (even cold at night - really cold one night) and the laughs were greater. It lived up to the hype.

This all being said, let me be very clear that I am never going to be confused with a master camper. I need my hot shower, my change of clothes, my good food (or I'll go off-site and get some), and pereferably, I need something fun to do. A pool. A tourist-friendly site (like the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway and The Old Jail). A place to go get a cup of coffee without waiting two hours for the damn thing to percolate (if I so choose).

But most of all (maybe) I need a comfy place to sleep. While I can sleep almost anywhere, my back is not a big fan of the aftermath. So for me to camp, I bought an air mattress. I tested it out a month or so back, and noticed that the air seemed to leak, but was led to believe that it might be normal. So I set up shop on our first night at the campsite and laid down. Within two hours I was wide awake...and much of the air in said air mattress was gone.

I spent the night wrapped up in a sleeping bag on the ground. Thank God I got the sleeping bag.

As I lay there on the ground, in the tent, I figured that I could just go to the Wal-Mart in Lehighton - about 20 minutes away - explain the situation, and that would be it. Simple, no?

No dice.

They told me they had a strict policy against airbed returns. No receipt? Nothing they could do. I walked away, furious. I found nieces Laura and Steph - both of whom came along and they encouraged me to find a manager. I tried the sporting goods department, figuring we could work things out back there. Nope - the stooge on duty said she couldn't help me. I needed to find a manager. I was told Brenda, the assistant store manager, could help.

I returned to the Customer Service desk where Brenda was getting ready to head onto the sales floor. Using my patented Honest All-American Good Guy approach, I explained the situation. Still, no go.

So let's see if we're straight here. I have an air bed that is clearly defective, but they have a policy that says they can't take defective air beds without a receipt. Makes sense?

The problem was, they were enforcing it incorrectly. Oh sure, there's a policy that says they won't take the air bed back without a receipt if I'm trying to get my money back, but the part about being defective didn't include anything about a receipt. Sadly, ol' Brenda had no interest in hearing that, and really never did answer me when I said, "So what you're telling me is that Wal-Mart doesn't support their products." She just stood there, dumbfounded.

I was just about to walk away and weigh my options when Laura walked in as if I had just high-fived her in a tag-team match. She slammed the policy right down in front of Brenda and repeated what I just said about receipts and defective air beds. Still, no go.

So we stormed away (calmly) and regained our composure (at this point, I'm calming Laura down). I decided that the only thing to do was to call Wal-Mart's coroporate office from outside the stoor.

I explained the situation to the rep that answered the phone. She said that I would need to speak to regional marketing manager regarding this...and I could feel my blood beginning to boil as if I was waging a fruitless battle. I could see my options would be: a) sleep on the ground or b) buy a new bed and try to return it back in New York.

Yet I persevered. I explained the situation calmly one more time to the marketing manager's office like this:

"I just bought an air bed in New York (it was acutally Danbury, CT) and was using it while camping in Jim Thorpe. It's clearly defective and I've brought it back to your store in Lehighton, but trusting your product, I foolishly didn't bring the receipt. Your assistant store manager, Brenda, won't take it back. To be honest with you, I'd be happy with a bed of lesser value at this point. I just want a decent night's sleep."

Her reaction?

"I'm so sorry, Mr. Adams. I don't understand why Brenda is being so difficult about the return of a defective product. She clearly isn't enforcing the policy correctly. Go right back into the store and I will call Brenda myself."

Though I didn't get the pleasure of facing Brenda again, I did get to see Cat, the Customer Service Rep who I first dealt with, and she just kind of snarled at me. I picked out a smaller bed - easier to put in our tent - and before Cat could say a word, I told her that I didn't care at this point. I just wanted to be done. So I got the bed, and a gift card for the difference (which I didn't expect).

Thanks to the people "up the line" in the Wal-Mart food chain for doing right by their customers. The funny thing is, I really don't like to shop there, and hadn't in a long time, but being fiscally responsible negates such pride.

Laura and I are now firmly a tag team, and reminded everybody of that back at the campground (oh, thanks Jim Thorpe Camping Resort for a comfortable and fun experience).

Sean learned to fish, I got to relax, and we had fun. We had major father-son time. Sean acted like a bratty six year-old at times, but I don't view him as being worse than any other kid. Sure he needs to toughen up, and he's been coddled a lot, but he could be worse.

Oh, and we named my new air bed. Brenda, of course.

Pictures from the experience are here. I shot a short video as we waited for the train ride to start.

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