For those involved with manufactured spending, Walmart is a store that they often frequent. Over the past several months there has been talk and now action in regard to a new money order system at nationwide Walmart stores.
The new system hasn’t been issue free, as the initial software rollout at nearly every store brought with screen freezes and backed up customer lines. People standing in line weren’t happy about what was taking place in front of them, and the front end staff were fed up with it too. Unfortunately, the software would often freeze regardless of the money order amount, be that $20 or $2,000. Many stores went back to the way they were reporting money orders of over $3,000 with the paper form, which I’ve detailed in previous posts.
Many stores (at least in my area) have outdated machines that were slow to being with, and whatever issues the new money order software brought with it just intensified those inadequacies. Many updates and patches have been administered since the initial rollout(s), and the system seems to be working better now. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s operational.
As you can see from the photo above, the new system allows the cashier to type in the amount of the money order requested. Just like the old paper form, the new system gives service reps the option of doing 10 money orders for a customer. Since each money order has a maximum value of $1,000, then $10k is theoretically still possible. Unfortunately theory isn’t boiling down into reality, as the new way of creating money orders has unfortunately brought with it some terrible changes, at least in my market. Formerly “MO friendly” stores have now implemented a $2k max amount in money orders.
In the area that I live as of a month ago, there were 5-6 stores that would do $10k worth of money orders (via the Money Gram form) or more. Some of that was cashier dependent, but in general, things were quite good compared to other metro areas in the country. That has all changed within the past 7 days.
Basically with the rollout of the new software, a couple of Walmart’s regional managers have visited stores and instructed staff to only do $2k worth of money orders and to only allow 4 (debit card) swipes. In other words, if you plan on getting multiple money orders, everything must now be done on one transaction. No more getting back in line or doing multiple transactions. The new norm now is 4 debit card swipes and you’re done. Stores that were very MS friendly just a week ago are now totally different, even with the same service representatives. Some big changes took hold in this area in a short amount of time, and it has changed from a macro to a micro-MS city.
On occasion, some cashiers will still do more than $2k, often because the store isn’t using the new system regularly yet. That type of store has usually has tried implementing the new software, and because of the freezes and issues, they temporarily went back to the old way. Customers may even be allowed to do over $2k still and use the paper money order form, but in general most stores are now using the new software. And with that change, $2k is the new standard.
As one example, one store went from not allowing multiple debit swipes back to $10k as a max just a few months ago, but is now is requiring (customer) names on all cards. That’s the second centrally located store to require customer names on the cards. That bad news is just adding to the MS trauma.
What Does It Mean?
These changes aren’t good at all. If things stay $2k as a maximum amount at basically all stores in this metro area, people will be faced with the real choice of whether MS is actually worth if for them. How much driving, standing in lines, and time will you devote to manufacturing points? What are those points really costing you?
Let’s say you buy $10,000 worth of debit (gift) cards somewhere. The $2k rule would basically create a situation of 5 trips to different stores to clean out your pile of cards. Certainly some days might be better than others, but in general, 5 trips would create significant drive time for most people. Those who are retired or who MS full time can deal with this inconvenience, but for most people who casually MS, this is a possible deal breaker.
What’s frustrating is that the stores have the option of doing more than $2k. The new system allows more than just $2k, and essentially is just an electronic version of the old way of doing business. The old way presented a form that needed to be signed that was then kept in a back room at Walmart (in case the store was audited), whereas the new system prints a receipt that customers sign after all is said and done. Some people in other states are doing not only $10k, but much more depending on their setup. So to be in a market that’s being cracked down on is frustrating. Things will evolve in the next few weeks to couple of months, but I’m not looking for any major positive shifts in this market.