Joel Anderson, the CEO of Walmart's (NYSE: WMT) online operations, has accomplished something that has eluded almost all of his predecessors. He has floated an idea that has pretty much united retailers and analysts globally in agreement that it is a stunningly awful idea. The concept, according to what Anderson told Reuters, is that Walmart would get its customers to deliver to other customers, specifically to get in-store shoppers to drop off packages to online shoppers.
But wait, this gets better (meaning worse). Despite some media reports to the contrary, the idea is to have the customers do it for free. The suggestion from Anderson was that cooperating shoppers would be given a discount on their bill, but only to the point that it would cover the cost of the extra gas needed. Never mind actually paying customers to do your deliveries, this plan doesn't even fully cover the customers' out-of-pocket costs, in that it addresses neither wear on the car nor a portion of auto insurance.
Let's take a look at the almost-infinite number of potential disasters with this program, assuming that the chain could get any math-challenged customers to cooperate.
· Insurance issues if the shopper gets into an accident while doing Walmart's business.
· Worker's comp matters if an accident (or perhaps just slipping on steps) injures the delivering shopper.
· Liability issues: What if the shopper keeps the product instead of delivering it?
· More liability: What if the shopper engages in burglary or sexual assault while delivering?
· Unhappiness of the online recipient: Will they be comfortable getting the product delivered by a non-uniformed, unbounded, un-investigated fellow shopper?
· What if the product is delivered really late? Or if it's damaged?
In short, the idea is to give these packages to anyone who walks in the store and to hope for the best. Really, Walmart.com? That's what you're floating as an out-of-the-box idea? (We're too kind to suggest that it's better phrased as an "out-of-your-head" idea.)
"I see a path to where this is crowd-sourced," is how Anderson described it to Reuters. So do we. It's the path to making Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos the happiest guy in the room, while also pleasing his counterparts at Macy's and Target (especially Target).
The story described Anderson's idea as leveraging the numbers: "Wal-Mart has millions of customers visiting its stores each week. Some of these shoppers could tell the retailer where they live and sign up to drop off packages for online customers who live on their route back home." Jeff McAllister, senior VP of Walmart U.S. Innovations, added: "This is at the brain-storming stage, but it's possible in a year or two." Assuming anyone tries to seriously push this plan — which we find highly unlikely — it's only a matter of nanoseconds before corporate counsel kills the plan.
There is one bright spot in Anderson's proposal: It will sure make his next trial balloon — whatever it is — seem brilliant by comparison.
- Reuters story