“This is how fly-by-night companies operate” 

Numerous local radio stations in various cities across the US reported that Sam’s Club is permanently closing stores in their cities, and without announcement. In a number of cases, employees showed up to work this morning and found the doors locked and a notice saying that the store would be closed.

KHOU in Houston, Texas, alerted by locked-out employees and customers, said that of the 10 stores in the area, two had voice mail messages which said that the stores are closed. It was also checking into rumors of a third store being shuttered in the Houston area.

At the other end of the nation, KTUU in Anchorage, Alaska, reported that both Sam’s Club stores in Anchorage and the store in Fairbanks were closed:

Customers of Sam’s Club noticed the Anchorage-area stores closed early Thursday, Jan. 11, with no indication as to why. Now, according to a representative of Sam’s Club, it’s not just Thursday that the stores will be shuttered.

“It’s closed today, to let associates prepare for the eventual closing of the stores,” the Sam’s Club employee told KTUU. “They will be closed for good on January 26th.”

On Twitter, @AKJeff_64 lamented, that with all stores closed in Alaska, “Nearest one is probably a couple thousand miles away.”

Jessica Buckner, an audit team lead at the Sam’s Club in the Tikahtnu Commons in Anchorage, told KTVA that all Alaska stores are closing as part of a larger downsizing. “From what I heard, there’s over 260 stores that have been closed down,” she said.

In Ohio, “at least” two stores in Cincinnati were closed “without notice,” WCPO reported. “This came as a surprise to both employees and customers.”

This erupted across the country. Rumors are swirling because there was no announcement in advance of the closures.

It seems Walmart — which imports the vast majority of its merchandise — was too busy today brown-nosing up to the White House and hogging the media limelight with its announcement that the corporate tax cuts motivated it to increase the starting wage by $2, add some benefits, and hand out one-time bonuses – from $200 for newer employees to $1,000 for an employee with 20 years’ service. Massive, OK.

“Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.,” CEO Doug McMillon explained. Walmart was able to get this plastered all over the media.

“We are early in the stages of assessing the opportunities tax reform creates for us to invest in our customers and associates and to further strengthen our business, all of which should benefit our shareholders,” he said.

Clearly, closing the Sam’s Club stores was also one of those “opportunities tax reform creates for us” — not to speak of the opportunity “to accelerate plans.” But he didn’t say that. He didn’t say anything about the Sam’s Club stores though it must have been front and center on his mind.

Instead, when the furor erupted on the social media by customers who’d just paid their membership fees and couldn’t use it anymore – all stores in Alaska are done – and by employees who suddenly didn’t have a job anymore, and when thus heckled directly on Twitter, Walmart replied via @SamsClub:

After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we’ve decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy. Closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.

@JoeDavola16 asked:

So are you both screwing your employees and your membership? When can I expect a refund?

Whereupon @SamsClub replied:

We can help with that [with what, “screwing” employees and membership?]. Please private message us and we can share all you need to know.

And @GuGu_Journey asked

what about all of our memberships? i just paid $100 last week to renew my membership to find out my local store is one of the many that are closing

@SamsClub replied:

Hi Guiliana, you can follow this link to review your options:

The reply has a link to a page where customers can consider their options, none of them good when your store closes:

  1. “Free 3-month membership extension” (to use at the store that is many miles away?).
  2. “No thanks, I just want a full refund for my membership via e-gift card.” This refund will be sent “within 7 business days.” Don’t worry, just drive a little more to use it?
  3. “No thanks, I just want a full refund for my membership via check.” OK, sounds good. But you gotta be patient: “We’ll send this within 6 weeks to the address you provide below.”

What about the vendors? According to @Bob_Larson:

seems vendors don’t know either .. seeing pictures of vendors outside not knowing what to do … this is how fly by night companies operate, this should not be how a major us retailer operates. There was no reason to keep this secret except to screw people.

@ColeWilliams_12 added:

My issue isn’t you closing this happens all the time, but when you make me waste my time and gas and no one has answers this terrible. Employees don’t even know. Why was there no warning. Terrible customer service!!

It was quite a mess on Twitter.

Walmart, perhaps somewhat frazzled by the uproar it has caused with its way of doing this, eventually told Business Insider that 63 Sam’s Club stores would be closed across the country. By now, no one is believing anything anymore.

Walmart says on its website, under “Company Facts,” that a Sam’s Club store has 175 employees on average. If just 63 Sam’s Clubs will be closed – and not 260 as rumored — then about 11,000 employees would be impacted by today’s version of brick-and-mortar meltdown.

These store closings are in addition to the 269 store closings globally that Walmart announced properly back in January 2016, including 154 in the US. Of them, 102 were Walmart Express stores, 23 Neighborhood Markets, 12 Supercenters, 7 stores in Puerto Rico, 6 discount centers, and 4 Sam’s Clubs. At the time it said that 16,000 employees would be impacted, including 10,000 in the US.

Walmart usually announces large-scale store closures in advance, including last time in January 2016. All big retailers do when they close 10% of their stores. What happened today was just nuts. All these rumors. Employees and customers are upset. No one knows anything…. Timing was terrible too. The whole thing was so amateurish.

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