Handling Of Sam’s Club Closing Not Right

The first I heard Sam’s Club was closing was from a press report that a small notice had been put on the Sam’s Club door just saying: “We are closed for the day.” I said to myself: “This couldn’t be. A major international firm like Walmart wouldn’t do that. They would make a public announcement with an explanation.” I was wrong.

After 20 years in a community where thousands had patronized the store and hundreds had worked at it… we get a one-page notice of closure. I wouldn’t say that was just bad, it was awful.

It is not that I am a fan of “big box” stores in general. Their dominance of the retail market has often meant the demise of many smaller businesses. Yet, their reality is part of our daily life. In the case of Sam’s Club, it had become not just a place where customers could save money… it had also become the source of supply for other businesses like family-owned restaurants. Then one day: “Sorry, we are closed,” and two days later a rather cryptic announcement that items would be sold at discount for a couple of weeks and then a final closing would occur at the end of January.

The first day the store reopened, I got caught in a traffic jam of cars trying to get to the Sam’s Club store. I imagine the additional discount helped spur traffic, but I would also assume that some people were “members” and were just trying to confirm what was going on.

As I sat caught in the traffic, I felt sad. It shouldn’t have happened this way. The people who had patronized Sam’s Club over many years had been let down. The employees had to be in shock. The community felt let down. Though not a frequent customer, I felt some anger over the way the company had handled things. One day they make an announcement that they are raising wages at Walmart and giving bonuses and two days later they summarily and without fanfare close 63 Sam’s Clubs across the country.

Nary a word about the 63 communities that had supported the company over many years. It’s no wonder people become disillusioned and cynical about big business.

What caught my eye also was that the business community in general and the financial press seemed to be left in the dark. What was the strategy? How had these 63 stores been selected? Were there any options for the stores or communities affected? Just silence from Bentonville, Arkansas. The way the whole thing was handled reminded me of overnight bankruptcies’ and liquidation sales. But, this couldn’t be, this is Walmart, Inc. This is corporate America at its best?

OK, it is really none of my business. I will not be greatly affected. I will continue to shop locally when I can, and I am not a shareholder so I can’t actually go to an annual meeting and object. But, somehow the way this was handled just wasn’t right. It leaves a hole in the community no matter how you look at it. Yes, we are a small community and the economic effect of it will be felt by many. Yet, we are also citizens and customers and we deserved better than this from one of America’s largest corporations.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.