Friday, September 12, 2008

Caveat emptor, baby.

Picture with me, if you will, the interior of a courtroom. The case is Some Dude Whose Gun Blew Up v. RetailCo, Inc.:

Plaintiff's Attorney: "And where did you say you received this ammunition?"
Guy in his best poly/cotton blend: "Um, well, some guy brought it in the store..."

Picture the alternate scenario, now:

Plaintiff's Attorney: "And where did you say you received this ammunition?"
Guy in his best poly/cotton blend: "We received it from XYZ Wholesalers, who purchased it from ABC Ammunition Co. Representatives of both those fine organizations are here in the courtroom today."

Which defendant would you rather be? Yeah, me too.

This is why practically no retail firearms establishment will let you return or exchange ammo. Yeah, I know the counter troll at Dick's told you it was a "Federal Law" or somesuch, and that's probably what his shift supervisor told him, if only to shut him up.

Now, understand that the person working the counter at Wally World does not have the same fine, high-powered thinking instrument you do (since, like every VFTP reader, you're a veritable genius, right?) This is why the policy is written "No ammo returns, period." They don't want Cletus or Imogene to have to puzzle through "No ammo returns except for rimfire ammunition," or "No ammo returns except for CCI Blazer which is non-reloadable," or "No ammo returns except for Mrs. Johnson, since you've known her since she babysat for you when you were six."

No, they just tell Cletus and Imogene that it's some bogus "federal law": No ammo returns, do not pass go, end of story. We've done it that way at every shop I worked at, too, except without the lying about federal law part.

Anyhow, this policy exists because any time there is a mishap involving a firearm, the sky turns legal-pad yellow and pinstriped dorsal fins start circling. This is why it's actually kinda funny when a real live, you know, lawyer gets cross-threaded with Wally World about it.

(H/T to Unc.)

25 comments:

George said...

You're right, Tam. The smart thing for Walmart to have done would be to return his money and let him keep the ammo.

JimB said...

Then again... If he had actually looked at the boxes BEFORE he paid for them and left the store he wouldn't have had this problem. JimB

Tam said...

Hence the title of the post.

Still, Wally World could have saved a bunch of ill will for a very small amount of money.

HokiePundit said...

I wonder how many of us would look at our receipt if we were undercharged for something at Wal-Mart and demand to pay for it next time we're in. This seems to go both ways.

BryanP said...

Yet another good reason to double and triple-check anything gun related, even retail purchases. Or go to a real gun store with somewhat more knowledgeable clerks.

Way back when I was a bit more of a gun n00b (okay a, *LOT* more) I picked up a box of .38 ammo to run through my nice new revolver. The guy behind the counter stopped me and said "You do know this is .38 Super, right?" Then he explained the difference. Whoops. And yeah, I still go to that gun shop.

Anonymous said...

.38 Super...revolver...

Does anyone remember the movie "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"? Specifically when they are loading ".38 Automatic" into a revolver...and what happened next?

Good gun shop...

Tam said...

True Story:

Customer: "Can I shoot .38 Super in my .357 Magnum revolver?"

Me: "You mean is it physically possible? Sure, since .38 Super is a semi-rimmed cartridge."

C: "No, I mean will it handle the pressure?"

Me: "Well, yes, since .357 Magnum generates more pressure than..."

C: "Great!"

Me: "You realize that .38 Super is more expensive and harder to find than either .38 Special or .357 Magnum, and you're probably going to have serious ejection problems and maybe split case mouths, right?"

C: "I just want to shoot .38 Super in my gun!"

Me: "Whatever floats your boat. It's a free country..."

DirtCrashr said...

It's not a bug, it's a feature! As a newbie gunowner I once bought a box of 20-gauge shells for Grandpa's old A5 Light-Twelve at WalMArt - and then tried to return it. "IXNAY!" Now I have to buy a 20-ga - what could be better? I'm constantly shopping for that "perfect" little scattergun!

OldTexan said...

As an old retailer, almost 50 years, I see two problems here. Number one, the customer was unhappy that he had the wrong item and wanted to return it.
That is a not a problem, make the return and give him his money back.

Number two problem comes up, the policy of not taking ammo back and reselling it. That is understandable since it might have been screwed with and blow up.

Now the soulution come in to play when you look at the customer's point of view, who caused the problem? The customer or the store.

I see a simple solution for the selling company since the problem was caused by them. Give the customer back, take back the ammo and do not resell it or has been suggested elsewhere just let the customer keep the ammo.

When the store makes the mistake the store should eat the mistake and keep the customer.

D.W. Drang said...

I read the whole post linked to and nowhere did Mr. Lawyer say "Sure wish I had noticed that it was The Wrong Stuff." Instead it's all "They lied and are screwing me!"
Me, I'm surprised that WalMart carries .357 Sig, which may actually explain why he didn't look.

Somerled said...

I stopped buying anything firearms-related items at Wal-Mart when all the stores stopped stocking firearms in this area. I didn't buy much besides Hoppe's or targets before that.

The Wal-Mart closest to me once sold bullets, powder, primers, and unprimed brass. None of it was locked up behind untended cash registers. That practice ended years ago. Now it isn't even a good place to buy toilet paper. It is going the way of K-Mart.

It requires a long drive to get to any gun shops. MidwayUSA or Brownells gets it here fairly quick, although I still drive for primers and powder.

MidwayUSA, Brownells and a lot of gun shops support the NRA. Wal-Mart wouldn't dare.

KurtP said...

I can't believe it took 24 comments to mention that he should have looked at the box before he left the store.

staghounds said...

Yes, it's a customer service AND stupid customer problem. For $24, the customer wins.

Although I doubt you'd have seen a column about it.

Our Wal Marts give broken boxes of ammunition to the police department.

Don Meaker said...

Snicker. Stupid lawyer didn't read the fine pring. Snicker.

Ben said...

You know, the white box Winchester from Wal Mart has the most consistent loads per case of any ammunition and is never, ever underpowered.

And if you believe that, you'll probably believe I stopped in for some ammo there earlier. It turned out to be .45 Colt rather than .45 ACP. But with field stripping, and a little quick work with a rubber mallet, I was able to force one into the chamber. I used a hack saw to cut it down to size once crammed in there and sealed the end with bubble gum and a number 11percussion cap. Can't wait for the range test. I'll post pictures.

Xrlq said...

"I read the whole post linked to and nowhere did Mr. Lawyer say "Sure wish I had noticed that it was The Wrong Stuff."

Why the hell should have to? The idiot clerk told me he the ammo he was giving me was .357 magnum. As a customer, I should be entitled to assume that if a salesman tells me the product he's selling is X then it is, in fact, X. Oh wait, did I say I "should be" entitled to rely on such representations? Silly me, I meant to say "am."

Instead it's all "They lied and are screwing me!"

Screwing me? Certainly. Their mistake, they should bear the cost. But I never accused anyone of lying. If I thought the guy had actually lied, and deliberately slipped a box of .357 Sig ammo where the .357 magnum should be, I'd be siccing the authorities on his ass for fraud.

Anonymous said...

On my way out at a gun show, after too many hours on a bad foot, I bought a box of range .38 ammo from one of the dealer tables. Could anyone in the greater Columbus, OH, area [or Denver, CO, around Thanksgiving week] use a box of .38 S&W? OldeForce

Vinnie said...

I sell tickets to see The "Cave at emptor"
I don't go to Wally world anymore. ANYBODY who puts ANY faith in the people who work there need to go to a range far from me. No common sense.

joe said...

"But I never accused anyone of lying."

Scroll down to comment #25...

It's so much easier to blame the other guy than accept that the whoopsie is at least partly your fault. Also, did you ask for ".357 Magnum" or just ".357?" In the original post, you don't mention that. If you just asked for ".357," they gave you what you asked for. Sure, an experienced gun type person would have asked for clarification, but a clerk who doesn't know better (not a crime, btw) will see ".357" on the box and hand it over.

Since Chase refunded you money, we could consider it a "free" lesson learned, with a bonus box of ammo to give a friend. Of course, it's so much more fun to rant about how evil they are for "screwing" you by following a company policy.

Xrlq said...

"But I never accused anyone of lying."

Scroll down to comment #25...


That was a description of their policy, not the events that happened. Neither manager dropped so much as a hint that he would have handled the matter any differently if the clerk had intentionally lied and misrepresented the ammo, as opposed to simply being a bonehead. In fact, neither manager asked enough questions to even know.

It's so much easier to blame the other guy than accept that the whoopsie is at least partly your fault.

Of course it's easy to blame the other guy. He was the one that picked out the ammo (and the only one who could, given its location), contrary to my directions, and proceeded to misrepresent it to me. Of course I blame him. Though I admit, it might be fun to sue these guys, just to see if they have the chutzpah to defend the case by arguing that Wal-Mart employees are such known congenital dumbasses that it's not their fault for failing to tie their shoelaces, but mine for failing to correct their shoddy work.

Also, did you ask for ".357 Magnum" or just ".357?"

The latter, but I also told the guy that the .357 and the .38 ammo were both intended for the same gun. I am not aware of any gun that can fire both .38 special and .357 Sig ammo. Are you?

In the original post, you don't mention that. If you just asked for ".357," they gave you what you asked for.

Oh, please. By that logic, I could have walked into a car dealership and bought an Alfa Romeo, and been given an AR-15. And I woulda gotten what I asked for because, gee whiz, I didn't say I wanted a car! Give me a break. You knew damned well what I meant when I said "a .357." It has a pretty standardized meaning, and "Sig" it ain't.

Sure, an experienced gun type person would have asked for clarification,

As would an inexperienced gun type who was doing his job and paid attention to the fact that some of the ".357" ammo said "Sig" and some didn't.

but a clerk who doesn't know better (not a crime, btw) will see ".357" on the box and hand it over.

I didn't accuse the guy of a crime. I did accuse him of incompetence. If Wal-Mart doesn't train their clerks to know what products they carry, or even that there can ever be more than one kind of ammo with a particular number, then apparently you are cool with that but I sure as hell am not. People that dumb shouldn't be selling firearms (or, for that matter, doing anything at all).

"Since Chase refunded you money, we could consider it a "free" lesson learned, with a bonus box of ammo to give a friend."

I do. The lesson is: don't buy anything at Wal-Mart. Lesson learned.

Of course, it's so much more fun to rant about how evil they are for "screwing" you by following a company policy.

Last time I checked, rigidly and blindly adhering to the most literal conceivable reading of "company policy" does not make it OK to break the law. Did you follow my link to NCGS § 25‑2‑313 or simply ignore it?

Regolith said...

I did once manage to return ammo to Wal-Mart recently. It was about a year ago, and I had bought a 100 pack of 20 gauge shells instead of 12 gauge. Took it to the returns area and they took it back. Could be that the minion I dealt with didn't know store policy about ammunition, though.

Mikee said...

Another few problem with ammo returns:

1. Returned ammo cannot be resold, as it might have been tampered with and not be safe to use any longer.

2. Because WW can't resell it, it has to dispose of it in a safe manner, tracking possession in a legally acceptable manner so as to avoid liability for releasing ammo back into any legitimate or illegitmate use. More expensive than would be desired, what with perpetual bookkeeping for the chain of custody along with the actual safe disposal.

3. If a WW employee takes your returned ammo and uses it to do something bad, such as black market reselling to unsavory types or shooting somebody with it himself, WW is in a world of hurt for negiligence. Why open that can of worms?

4. If they pay you for a return box of ammo and let you keep the ammo, and then your incorrect 357 Sig ammo blows up in your face due to the bubble gum you used to fit it into a .45 Colt chamber, WW gets sued again (even though I think it might win that case after typical enormous legal expenses). Why buy that hassle?

5. If you get what you contend is "wrong" ammo and they say "tough luck" all liability seems likely to rest with you if you are stupid enough to use it, after you informed them it was wrong stuff.

Caveat emptor. Walmart won't take back underwear here in Texas, even in unopened parcels, for reasons I can imagine are pretty icky.

Gewehr98 said...

How hard is it to look at the label on a box of ammo?

I'm not too sure I want that person shooting a gun next to me at the range if they don't know how to properly feed it the correct ammunition.

Don't they teach lawyers anything in school anymore? You know, Caveat Emptor and all that happy horse%*^@?

Xrlq said...

Mikee, I don't know what law school you flunked out of, but FYI, whatever product liability may lie with Wally-World if they had refunded my money and let me keep the ammo, certainly attaches if they refuse to take the ammo back. So the liability argument is pure, unadulterated crap. It's a reason not to take back the ammo or resell it to anyone else, but it's not a reason not to refund the money if they screwed up.

Gewehr98: Yeah, Clarence Darrow, they do teach us that and a hell of a lot more, like for example the statute I cited above and you simply ignored when you spouted off. I hope you don't shoot off ammo as carelessly as you shoot off your mouth.

Anonymous said...

X, you fucked up. I also told the guy that the .357 and the .38 ammo were both intended for the same gun

So what? That's expecting a WM clerk to be an SME. It becomes noise. He didn't catch it, so he ignored it. Happens all the time.

There isn't a WM on the planet that staffs certified armorers unless that particular employee happens to hold said certification independent of his employment.

I am not aware of any gun that can fire both .38 special and .357 Sig ammo. Are you?
Yep. Maybe not well publicized, maybe not common, but it's been done. See what happens when you expect others to know what you know? You're a lawyer? Pull the other one.