John's Journal and PPSA News

An Open Letter to Sam's Club

by John Johnson


Last Friday I was at Sam's Club with my roommate and we were both sick with the flu and wanted to just get some quick shopping done. For those of you who don't know, Sam's Club is a chain of warehouse clubs where members get discounts on items. I had been a member for about 7 months and never had a problem until this night.

It seems that there was (we would soon learn a crazy lady) a lady with spoiled brat kids running loose in the store. It bothered us and other customers in the store and Garrett decided to tell the lady to keep her kids quiet. Reflect on the kind of society we have become when expecting politeness in a store is considered too much to ask for... Is this really what we have become?

(This letter was sent to the regional VP for Sam's Club and by Tuesday I had my card back. So I have to say that I hold no resentment toward the way I was handled by Sam's Club and I am glad to be a member still. However, I feel this is an indicitment on society when people fear for their lives because someone has the nerve to tell them to teach their kids manners. If this had not been a private business I would have argued for my (or Garrett's) rights, but as it isn't they have the right to do what they have to for liability's sake.)

January 15, 1999

Dear Sirs,

Thanks for taking the time to hear me out on this. I had my membership card taken away tonight at the Santa Fe Sam's Club and felt like I was treated very poorly. Please call or write and let me know if I can get my membership card back and put this behind us.

I was shopping at the Santa Fe store this evening around 7 PM. I had a friend with me and he has had the flu for over a week and was a little bit iritable. There were some small children running around without supervision and yelling. Other customers had muttered to us that they were ruining their shopping experience as well. My friend went off to see what he could do. I expected him to ask the parent to quiet the kids or talk to a manager. He told me that he found an unsupervised child and asked him to keep it down please. It worked, but I would have sought out a manager before talking to the child directly. A few minutes later as we came around a corner this lady with a baby in her arms ran up to us screaming. It caught me totally off guard. She screamed at us about my friend's innocent request for the child to keep his voice down. She said they are just children, that's how they are. My friend was not as polite as he should have been. I didn't know what the situation was, but I was offended that this crazy lady would come up to us screaming at the top of her lungs. My friend said that she should keep her kids under control and we continued shopping.

Neither my friend or the lady handled this properly. Both of them should have sought out a manager to deal with their complaints (first the noisy children and secondly because a stranger talked to her child). Clearly there are unspoken rules of etiquite in a grocery store. This is when a good manager should step in and get each side to explain what happened and get them to understand each other and shake hands. This is not what happened.

Granted, my friend should have just walked outside and waited while I handled this matter. I am the member and understand my responsibility. The store manager grabbed my card and told me that a lady had complained about my behavior. I asked what specifically I had done. I had been innocently shopping and only knew that there was a crazy lady in the store with loud kids. He later said that he had an associate tell him that my friend had yelled back at the lady and swore. I didn't hear him swear, but I did remember this lady yelling very loudly and my friend muttering a response.

Again, my friend should have left, but he was trying to help and by demanding that the manager speak to him and not me, he angered the manager (who already seemed to be ready to revoke my membership). I waited patiently by my cart for this to be resolved. I am a very quiet and patient man, but I was being embaressed publicly by this point. This manager refused to speak to me and I guess he left to call corporate office to find out what to do. As I waited, police came into the store and three large officers stood in front of me in a threatening stance telling me not to "cross over the line". I tried to explain that I was innocent in all of this and my friend was a victim of confused circumstances, however they didn't seem to care as they questioned me right in front of the store registers. They could have at least asked me into the office or somewhere so as not to publicly embarass me, but they didn't. I would have been terribly ashamed if a client had happened by at that moment. And here I had just gone out to the store to pick up some juice and toilet paper!

I guess my friend said that he understood what he did wrong after speaking to one officer and said that he should have found a manager instead of speaking to the child directly, even though he did it in a polite manner. Through all of this I never raised my voice and kept calm. Meanwhile everyone, including the manager, was comforting the woman with the five kids and telling her it would be alright. I think that certain credit was given to her story because she was a woman, although I still claim that I never saw anything happen that was wrong, dangerous or against store policy. It boils down to two adults who had cross words with each other instead of seeking out the appropriate authority to settle matters (the store manager) until it was too late. Both of them were wrong, but no one deserved to have their membership revoked. And here I was ready to walk out of the store quietly with my groceries, when he had to start all of this in the check out lane and in front of the whole store.

I understand and sympathize with his position of having to keep order in a large store, however he mishandled the whole situation. No one was threatened or abused in this whole instance until he got involved and started calling police. I have not accepted my money back for my business's membership. I really want to continue to maintain my membership at Sam's Club. This is the first time I have ever had such trouble at one of your stores and I think that everyone made mistakes, but we should put this behind us and move on. I harbor no harsh feelings toward anyone involved and hope this can be worked out.

Please contact me and let me know if I can pick up my membership card and receive an appology for the way this was handled. I hope to resume being a happy customer in the near future.


Regards, Dr. John Johnson

I have purged, therfore I am....
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