DISCLAIMER: In this story, there are about to be plenty of twists and turns as we go through each page. Please be sure to read carefully to gather all the information, including the official response issued by Walmart themselves.
In July 2017, one customer at an Arkansas Walmart believed she might have uncovered a secret that would change the lives of Walmart shoppers forever. After an average day of shopping, Sharon Bufford was left confused by the receipt she had been given at the store. According to Sharon, the call she made to Walmart’s customer service left her with an uneasy feeling. Not only did she believe that Walmart was harboring one of their greatest secrets at her local store, but she also felt as though she had a duty to inform the rest of the world about her discovery.
Arkansas was the birthplace of the original Walmart back in 1962. Although the headquarters still remain in the company’s home state, it looked as though the 25th state could also be the death of Walmart as we know it…
As the largest retail store in America, Walmart dominates many cities across the country with their low prices and high turnover rates. The store was founded by Sam Walton, who had a dream of creating an affordable store that catered to the masses. By year five of his plan, Sam was already raking in a quarter of a million dollars. Over the next five decades, the store expanded to 28 countries around the world with more than 11,500 locations. With more than 2.2 million employees, Walmart has plenty of training to dish out every day to ensure their customers have the best experience possible.
Each year it is reported that an average family in America will spend nearly $4,000 at Walmart alone. With a reported 200 million customers worldwide that walk through the stores’ doors each week. There is an extensive customer care system in place to avoid any major incidents. Although a lot of thought and effort has been put towards the customers being the number one priority, sometimes these issues slip through the cracks. Sharon Bufford was an exception to the rule when her receipt created a huge mystery in the summer last year. Even though Walmart has now resolved what could have been one of the biggest scams of our time, what could have been so dramatic that it had thousands of people talking all across the globe?
The chain store
It has been over five decades since customers first got to step foot inside one of the now most famous stores in the world. From the low prices to the variety of items, the friendly greeters to the store’s hundreds of locations, Walmart is one of the most convenient stores across the nation. As the business continues to grow, so does the number of customers walking through the shops each week. However, one customer in summer 2017 didn’t leave a satisfied shopper…
The day in question
It was July 22, 2017 – a day just as any other for the folk of Arkansas. Sharon Bufford was one of the thousands going about her life when she headed to Walmart for some groceries. Everything was how it was on any other day. Sharon loaded her groceries ready for the cashier to scan. Sounds pretty standard, right? That’s what Sharon thought. However, when handing over the money, it dawned on her that she had overspent. In a rush to get home, Sharon grabbed her bags and left.
Discovering the truth
Sharon arrived home where she began to unpack her groceries, but the payment was still bothering her. Sharon dug out the receipt to discover she HAD paid more than she needed to. However, she couldn’t see why as everything on the receipt came to the correct price. What could possibly be the cause of so much stress? Sharon scanned through the items until she saw the culprit. Unbeknown to Sharon, people all across the internet were about to find out who she was…
Sharon wanted to make sure she had all the facts before calling the store for answers. On the receipt lay the cause of the charge: a $10 item labeled as “JAJKET.” As much as she tried, Sharon couldn’t recall purchasing anything that would appear under such a strange name. She began to inspect the receipt closer to see if there was anything else about the charge and there was; the code appearing next to the item was unlike any other on her receipt…
Getting answers to the questions
Sharon didn’t waste any time in calling the local Clinton store. She wanted to discover why she was charged $10 for an item that didn’t even exist, and, according to Sharon, the answers she was about to hear were shocking. Sharon began to explain to the person at the store how she was watching the screen while the items were scanned, but was confused when the butternut squash flashed up as $10. Although she was confused, Sharon thought she would wait until she was home to discover the truth.
The mystery item
While being interviewed, Sharon explained how she had first noticed the extra charge. While waiting for her groceries, Sharon saw the butternut squash be scanned but looked up to discover the item was coming through at $10. Sharon was flabbergasted by the price. However, she confessed she believed it must have been that price because when the spaghetti was scanned, it popped up as the correct amount. It was only once she was home that Sharon saw the hidden charge in between the two items.
On the hunt for answers
Unsurprisingly, Sharon wasn’t happy to see the additional charge on her receipt. She had never experienced any troubles like this is the past even though she had been shopping at Walmart for years. Sharon knew there must have been a mistake as there was no item in her bags that matched the item on the receipt. However, according to Sharon, the response she was about to receive from the store would not leave her wanting to return.
Left in shock
Allegedly, Sharon was told news that left her in shock. According to Sharon, the customer service representative from the store confessed to Sharon an alleged secret that no one had been told before. The “JAJKET” item was a $10 charge that didn’t exist. Even though the item would appear on receipt, it was a phantom item that would randomly crop up even if something hadn’t been scanned. This could mean that other customers had had no idea of the item appearing on receipts for years.
Nothing to show for the money
Sharon says that as soon as she heard the news of the item, she demanded an immediate refund. The Walmart store agreed to Sharon’s demands as she said they knew that the company was in the wrong. Sharon was told if she returned the following day she would be able to receive her refund. However, while it looked as though the story was about to be over, things were only just beginning.
Not the first complaint
While Sharon’s claims were about to blow up the internet, it wasn’t the first time that Walmart had been questioned about overcharging their customers. Other customers had pointed their fingers at stores allegedly changing the prices of specific items without telling shoppers, so they were secretly being cheated. Others claim that customers should hide their receipts from the greeters when leaving the stores as they aren’t legally required, and it goes against the constitution for the United States to show that information.
Digging up an old secret
Sharon reported a story that could change the game for millions of shoppers. She began to ask how long the phantom item had been a problem for the store before she called them out. The answer was unbelievable. According to Sharon, when the store worker admitted the phantom item’s secrets, they were agreeing to overcharging people for the last ten years. Although the item was allegedly a random code that was generated, had Walmart just confessed to one of their biggest secrets?
The truth of the code
According to Sharon, the story didn’t end there. She said that the store had apparently tried and failed to remove the phantom code from their in-store system. This could only mean that every customer was in danger of finding themselves overpaying by $10 if the code randomly appeared on their bill. Sharon believed that she was being scammed by the store; she was determined that no one else should have to go through what she was dealing with. Sharon considered how many times others had never noticed the charge before.
Taking it to Facebook
Sharon was left shaken by the conversation, according to her, knowing there was only one way to fix the problem. She believed that by questioning the $10, she had uncovered some of the biggest Walmart secrets in American history. According to Sharon, there was no way she was going to let anyone else get scammed either. She quickly typed an email to the Walmart corporate office, but there was more work to do before people were safe. Sharon decided to snap a picture of the receipt to accompany her warning Facebook post.
Rallying the troops
Sharon’s Facebook post spread like wildfire, as everyone around the world read and shared her version of events. Americans were up in arms over the extra $10 and soon began to wonder whether they, too, had been charged for phantom items. Shoppers everywhere began to believe that there was an in-store scam that was costing the country thousands of dollars, as no one had ever picked up on the charge before. It wasn’t long before everyone was talking about the receipt and alleged scam.
Trying to reason
Everyone on the internet began finding ways to excuse the charge. Some of the disgusted commenters believed that Sharon’s story was true; Walmart was adding on $10 at random to pocket the money. However, others began to question whether the cashier has secretly inserted the charge in to pocket the extra $10 themselves. Other retail workers started to comment how they thought the ‘k’ at the end of the code could only mean the cashier had typed out the item by hand rather than scanning a code.
A mistaken code
Rumors were flying everywhere as people tried to uncover the truth of the “JAJKET,” but people began to defend the store. Some of the commenters wrote what they believed to be the actual story. They felt the cashier had entered the code but had merely put in a wrong number, which led to the great Walmart mystery. If an item doesn’t have a barcode or the tag won’t scan, the cashier has to manually type the code. The defenders believed the item was a jacket that was entered incorrectly.
Defending a fellow worker
Some of the individuals flying to the store’s rescue were retail workers, or had previously worked on checkouts; some had even had jobs at Walmart in the past. The argument was they believed the cashier had mistakenly typed in the number one rather than entering the code, which caused the $10 charge to appear. Others thought that the cashier might have believed they were typing in an item’s quantity which caused them to enter number one rather than an item code.
How barcodes work
Most items in packaging come with a barcode. The bars and numbers may seem like organized chaos, but the little rectangles provide a lot of information. Each different width of the bars and randomly generated number combination correlates to a particular item put into the computer system. When that barcode is scanned by the laser, it picks up the item and price to make checking out at the store as quick and easy as possible.
Life before the barcode
Before the first use of a barcode back in the ‘70s, stores were forced to check out customers in a completely different way. At each checkout, the worker would have a list of all the items in the store alongside their price. It was then the job of the worker to input the amount by hand before finally printing a receipt at the end of the shop. When each item was added the register would make a dinging noise which gave birth to the saying ‘to ring up’.
Getting on the case
Walmart didn’t want anyone to panic so quickly set about debunking the rumors before too much damage had been done. Unfortunately, thousands of people had already read Sharon’s warning after it had been shared across the internet. However, would they be able to undo the damage that had been done? Walmart issued a statement that no one at the Clinton store was in danger of a phantom charge, but they needed to find evidence to reassure their loyal customers quickly.
Finding the answers
It was just one day after reading Sharon Bufford’s email that Walmart announced they had unearthed the truth of the phantom $10 charge. Walmart had done all the research they could only to discover that the phantom item didn’t exist; it was, in fact, a barcode that the cashier had entered incorrectly. Sharon was informed that she would still be entitled to her refund to apologize for the store’s mistake, but it didn’t look as though the story was going to be ending there…
Getting to the bottom of the claims
Although it seemed as though the story should be over, Sharon had accused the store of overcharging people for years. According to Sharon, the Walmart employee had informed her that the code had been floating around for the last decade. Were there still people walking around that were at risk of receiving an extra $10 charge? Or perhaps the head of Walmart hadn’t realized that Sharon had just uncovered the years of secrets from a store that was stealing from its customers?
State of confusion
For anyone that had read or shared the story, they were left utterly confused after hearing the statement from the store. Not only did it appear as though Sharon had concocted the whole story, but her post on Facebook disappeared. Since its origin, Sharon hasn’t made any mention of the story. So, was it really Sharon that had been behind the whole plot of the story all along? The receipt in the photo was confirmed to be real, but the claims against the store appeared to be all lies.
The TV station WUSA took it upon themselves to do some digging into the original post; there had to be answers to the secrets. Sharon had made bold claims against Walmart as she accused them of scamming their customers for over a decade, but when WUSA began to investigate they discovered that Sharon was the only person on Facebook to find the code. In fact, she was the only person on the whole internet to ever notice the “JAJKET” code with the $10 charge.
The spotlight shifts
It seems as though the tables may have now turned for Sharon Bufford as the claims she made against the retail store have left her in a sticky situation. As her Facebook post was seen by so many people across the world, Walmart could create a strong argument that she damaged their reputation with existing and potential customers. However, it looks as though Sharon may be safe as she removed the post after the store’s public statement.
The store’s comment
Walmart quickly commented on the issue, saying, “We immediately began looking into this issue when it was brought to our attention and want to assure customers at our Clinton store that they are only being charged for items they purchase. We isolated the problem our customer experienced to an incorrect product barcode that one of our cashiers entered as she was checking out. The issue was immediately resolved and as a precaution, we’re training the store’s associates on what to look for should anything like that happen again and ensuring none of our other stores are affected. We reimbursed the customer for the incorrect charge, apologized to her and appreciate that she brought this to our attention.”
Another hidden secret
Luckily for Sharon Bufford and the locals in her area, the Clinton Walmart was confirmed to, once again, be a safe place to shop. Even though they may now be safe, it seems as though the Walmart may be involved in an international line of fire. While Sharon’s case was at one store in Arkansas, this trial included the Mexican government, four continents, millions of dollars, and several executives working at the top of the Walmart company.
It was during 2010 that the Mexican association of the company, Walmart de Mexico, came under accusations of accepting bribes. Over the country, thousands of stores began to appear very quickly. While it may have seemed the branches were just opening a new section, they were cropping up quicker than should have been legal. It was rumored that the CEO of the Mexican office was bribing the Mexican government with suitcases of money to bypass the permits needed to construct the stores.
Covering up the secret
The CEO in question was accused of hiding the bribes by submitting invoices to the Walmart International company to cover them up as legal fees needed for the building construction. Even though everything appeared to be legit, a manager working high up in the Mexican branch spoke out about the going on’s of the company. An investigation within the business was promptly started, but the allegation was covered up. That is until the manager took their story to The New York Times.
The larger issue
Over the years more and more stories began to emerge of the company’s secrets. Walmart International was accused of making bribes in four continents, including dishing out the cash in Brazil, China, and India. When questioned, the officials involved claimed the bribes were a necessary step to get any of the building done in these countries. While the claims may have been true, Walmart was breaking U.S. laws as bribery is illegal. As Walmart is an American company, they must follow the laws of their country.
Paying the price
Walmart began talks with the U.S. government to avoid taking the case to court. The company may have been able to avoid court fees, but they were looking at a $600 million fine for their bribing ways. It was reported the government was willing to accept $300 million if the company would admit to the crimes it allegedly had committed. Walmart is apparently now in talks with officials to attempt to work in countries where corruption is often the norm, only this time on the right side of the law.
Outdoing the competition
When Walmart began to expand they were once again under fire from the locals. People in the towns began to accuse the chain of running the smaller businesses out of town with their low prices and convenience. Whenever a new shop would open, the city would see a wave of closures to the smaller stores who said they couldn’t keep up with the competition. However, Walmart had denied ever doing such a thing. Perhaps there is more than meets the eye with this store?
The wave of online shopping
In a world where nearly everything is now available online, it looks as though Walmart could be learning the harsh reality of being run out of town. The company is reported to have to pay $64 billion in income tax. However, the online retailer, Amazon, only has to pay $41.6 billion. The staggering difference comes down to the fact that Amazon does all their selling online meaning they come under different charges. Many shoppers blame Amazon for the decline in retail stores, such as Walmart.
Walmart wanted to avoid a repeat of Sharon Bufford’s issues happening again. The company issued a statement where they explained how all staff members in stores across the nation would be undergoing training when it comes to scanning items. They also wanted to ensure their staff members knew how to deal with similar situations should they arise again, as well as identifying mistakes to looks out for on receipts to avoid the situation altogether.
Overcoming the claims
Since the story emerged in summer 2017, plenty of research has been conducted to ensure the store is telling the truth. Walmart has, once again, assured the public that Sharon’s story was a one-off mistake made by one of their cashiers, as opposed to a hidden scheme concocted by the company to steal from their customers. It appears as though customers can be assured that Walmart is still a safe place to shop without the worry of being scammed.