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Could you get banned from Walmart over two cans of cat food?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

Retailers aren’t shy about blacklisting customers who are deemed problematic. Just ask Jennifer Chropkowski. She got banned from Walmart over two cans of cat food that the company repeatedly sent her by mistake. 

When Walmart refused to acknowledge its error and remove her from its “No-online-shopping” list, Jennifer asked our team for help. She wanted Walmart to lift her shopping restrictions – and send the two cases of cat food she originally purchased. 

But will the mega-retailer be willing to admit its mistake and remove her from the blacklist?

Shopping for two cases of cat food and receiving two cans instead

While scrolling through the Walmart website one afternoon, Jennifer came across a great deal on Hill’s Science cat food.

“The price was great, so I ordered two cases of cat food in two different flavors,” Jennifer recalled. “Walmart had the best price and with free shipping.”

Jennifer completed her shopping, and a few days later, a small package arrived from Walmart. She knew instantly that something was wrong. There was no way two cases of cat food could fit inside that box.

When Jennifer opened the package, she got a surprise. Hill’s Science cat food was in the box – but just two cans.

“I realized I paid Walmart $52 for two cans of cat food!” she told me. 

Not a good deal at all. 

A shipping mistake at the Walmart warehouse

Jennifer immediately picked up the phone to report the shipping mistake to Walmart. 

The Walmart customer service representative was apologetic and placed a replacement order. The agent told me to keep the two cans of cat food for my inconvenience. She said she was putting notes in the comments for the warehouse and that I should have the cases of cat food in a few days.

Jennifer C

A few days later, just as the Walmart agent predicted, a new delivery arrived on Jennifer’s porch. But this one was even tinier than the first one.

This time, Walmart had sent Jennifer just one can of cat food. The next day, another small box arrived with another single can of cat food.

The funny thing is the boxes each had a sticker that said they weighed 20 lbs, but the product inside was only a few ounces. For the second time, I called Walmart. They credited my order and told me to keep those two cans of cat food, too. At that time, Walmart canceled my order and credited my account. And I was fine with this resolution.

Placing the cat food order one more time

Jennifer says that the Walmart customer service agent suggested that she place the order again. But the representative cautioned her to wait a few days to allow the warehouse to fix the problem. 

A week later, Jennifer saw the cat food was on sale, so she decided to try again. 

The result was predictable.

Unbelievably, my order arrived again in two boxes with only one can of cat food in each. But this time, when I called Walmart to complain, the agent had a different attitude. Later that day, I got an email from Walmart announcing that I was banned from further online shopping. The letter implied I was doing something wrong!

Now Jennifer was incensed. She had done nothing wrong, and yet she had ended up on Walmart’s blacklist.

Her next move was to contact our advocacy team for help.

Paying Walmart $52 for two cans of cat food

When Jennifer’s request for help landed on my desk, she was angry that Walmart had banned her from online shopping. Of course, she could drive to her local Walmart and buy the cat food in person. But that wasn’t the point. The retailer had blocked her from the convenience of online shopping for something that was not her fault.

At least that was the story she was reporting.

But reading through her request for help, I wasn’t sure what was going on. 

Jennifer’s initial willingness to let Walmart correct the problem seemed reasonable. However, when the same two cans of cat food arrived again and again, and Jennifer continued to place the exact same order, the thought crossed my mind that I might be in the middle of some consumer shenanigans (…which, by the way, I am not unaccustomed to receiving. See: Never claim to be nearly killed by an inflight injury if you weren’t).

As a result of years of mediating complaints from consumers – not all of them being entirely on the up and up, my shenanigans detector is strong. 

Potential customer shenanigans lead to getting banned from Walmart

Something about this case also set off the shenanigans detectors at Walmart. That resulted in Jennifer getting banned from Walmart’s online shopping portal. The company rejected her insinuation that their warehouse staff had repeatedly made the same bizarre mistake; sending her single cans of cat food instead of the cases that she ordered.

And then she was unable to find anyone at the company willing to look at all the facts.

Unfortunately, Jennifer’s experience of getting banished from a company and finding no appeal process isn’t uncommon. 

What to do if you’re unfairly banned from a company

If you’re a regular reader of Consumer Rescue, you know that we regularly receive complaints from people who have been banned from Facebook and Paypal. Troubled travelers have found themselves put on permanent Do Not Rent lists; preventing them from using entire car rental company brands. Still others have been placed on their favorite cruise lines’ Do Not Sail list and even on an airlines’ Do Not Fly list. We know investment agencies like Robinhood are more than willing to lock accounts  and permanently blacklist customers — with their money frozen inside. 

It is true that some of the customers who complain to our team about being blacklisted by a company did legitimately earn their spot on that list.

Fast-track ways to get banned by a business (including Walmart)

  • Not paying your bill.
  • Paying your bill and then disputing the charges later.
  • Frequently returning products.
  • Not abiding by the terms and conditions of your contract with the company.
  • Publicly badmouthing the company via social media.

But unfortunately many innocent consumers find themselves on this type of list, too. Sometimes, even the best customers bizarrely land on these lists. To add insult to injury, it’s often nearly impossible for a banned former customer to find someone willing to discuss the “mistake.”

That’s where Consumer Rescue can help.

If you’re struggling with a business and just need the name of a real person who can help, you can Just ask Meera. You tell her the name of the problematic business and she’ll tell you the name and contact information of someone there we know can help.

But let’s get back to Jennifer’s situation with Walmart.

The proof is in the photos

After speaking to Jennifer, I was convinced that whatever shenanigans happened here, she didn’t cause it. Walmart should not have banned her from shopping online.

She still had the boxes with the labels attached. The pictures that Jennifer sent me showed one small can of cat food wrapped in bubble tape. That can was inside a small box with a 20-pound label attached. Clearly, there was no possible way that two cases of cat food could fit in that box or that it weighed 20 lbs.

One single can of cat food in a box delivered to the home of this Walmart customer.
This is the “case” of cat food that Walmart sent to its customer’s home — repeatedly — by mistake. The outside of the box was labeled “20 lbs.”

That was all the evidence I needed to prove that Jennifer had been falsely accused and unfairly banned from shopping online at Walmart.

The good news: You’re no longer banned from shopping at Walmart

I sent Jennifer’s photographic evidence over to the executive resolution team at Walmart. It seemed clear that something was going wrong at the warehouse, causing two cans of cat food to repeatedly be sent to the customer.

After reviewing all the evidence, the company had good news. Walmart refunded her $52 and Jennifer is no longer banned from online shopping. She is free to shop online and in the stores. 

That resolution is acceptable to Jennifer, but she wonders why it took a consumer advocate getting involved before Walmart would take a look at her complaint.

And one thing is for sure: From now on, she’ll buy her cats their food elsewhere. (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)

If you have a problem with any company that you can’t fix on your own, Send your request for our free consumer mediation assistance, and we’ll be happy to rescue you, too. 

*Before you go: If you’re a shopper who likes to make a lot of returns, you might be in for a surprise the next time you try it. Here’s what happened to one serial returner who became acquainted with the Retail Equation at the CVS return counter. 

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.