Walmart 1 Hour Photo Fiasco

Jaime and I took a ten-day vacation, and our neighbor was kind enough to watch our cats while we were gone. We wanted to get him a nice gift from Chicago, but the day we spent downtown was crummy and miserable, and I was sick, so we ended up not getting him anything.

So, we decided we would take one of our nice photos from Illinois, get it blown up to an 8×10, frame it in a nice matted 11×14 frame, and give it to him as a gift.

What a nightmare it has been.

I ordered the photos from Walmart’s 1 Hour Photo on Thursday. It’s under $3 per 8×10, and the prints have always been pretty nice (this is where you should infer that I am a repeat customer who is familiar with the quality of their prints). The pictures were ready Thursday night, so I took the 15-minute ride out to Walmart to get them.

I had already paid for them when I ordered (much easier than paying at the store), so the pickup was smooth and easy.

I got home, pulled out my framing supplies, and eagerly slid the photos out of the envelope. I love doing that. You get to see all the details and colors that you just can’t seem to see on a computer monitor or a small 4×6 print. My excitement soon turned to disappointment.

There was a line, about an inch from the long edge of each picture where it appeared that the roller from the paper feeding mechanism removed the image. It left a big white line on one of the images. The other image (an 8×10 for Jaime and me) had the same problem, although much smaller. Still, I expect my prints to be perfect. There should be no added lines or banding or color errors or anything even remotely close to that. They should look like the picture I took, with a little room for color variation due to my uncalibrated monitor.

I didn’t have a chance to address the situation until today. I called Walmart corporate and asked what to do. Instead of saying, “We’ll get a new order printed up and sent out to you right away,” they recommended that I reorder the prints for in store pickup, and not pay for the prints until I got there. That way, I could bring the bad prints and exchange them for the good prints and not have to spend any extra on my two little images. It sounded like a plan to me, although I would’ve been much happier if they offered to ship them to me.

Again I order the prints, and again I get in my car and make the 15-minute ride to Walmart to pick them up.

I arrive at the photo section and explain what happened to the employee (I believe he was the photo manager.). He agreed that the prints were no good, and checked for the new prints I had ordered. Even though it had been an hour and twenty minutes, they were not ready. He said he would do them right away, and they would be ready in five minutes, which they were.

He called my name over the loudspeaker to let me know they were done, and I headed back there. He apologized for the original error, and told me that the new prints had the same problem. He said there must be something wrong with the machine, and would get a technician to fix it. He gave me the newer, less damaged prints in my original envelope, put a sticker on them, and told me to go to customer service for a refund.

Ok, I’ve driven here twice, have no photos to show for it, and now I have to go stand in the customer service line. This is not looking good.

I was number seven in line, and we were all waiting for the same register. Customer service employees were coming and going, restocking items or seemingly just looking busy. Finally, a few more registers opened up. Over twenty minutes after I got in line, and over 45 minutes after my prints were to be done, I was finally talking to a customer service representative about my six dollars and change.

I explained the situation. She started to process the return. Here’s where things get interesting.

See, they don’t like returns without a receipt. It says it really big right there on their sign. But, when you do online photo ordering and you pay for them online, you are NEVER given a receipt. Ever. You get your photos in an envelope marked “PAID” with a barcode across it. That is it. No receipt. Nothing. Just the pictures in an envelope.

I explained that I had no receipt. She tried scanning the barcode. Nothing. She tried again. Nothing. She tried again. I recognized that it was not looking good. Not only did this representative have little idea how the photo center worked, but she also had little idea about how barcode scanners work (as if the database said, “Oh wait– I DO have a row to return for that ID. Sorry about that…). She calls the store manager.

The store manager is one of those people who listen to what you say (or at least appear to), but never provide any sort of feedback of any kind. No head nod, no “hmmm”– no sign whatsoever that you have spoken and he has comprehended.

The customer service rep explains that I am “not happy with the prints” to the manager, at which point I have to butt in and explain that the 1 Hour Photo manager was not happy with them– I hadn’t even seen them. I have to go ahead and retell my whole story to this manager who seems to be staring right through me. I point out the receipt, the sticker the manager put on the envelope– everything. Still, very little recognition that I was even speaking.

He finally puts in a manual override and gets the cashier started on processing the return.

She then asks me for my ID. I ask her why. She says it is because I don’t have a receipt. I tell her I do. She says I don’t. I kindly remind her that I placed and picked up two orders without so much as signing my name, and that I wasn’t showing her my ID. If they can take my money without an ID, they can give it back without an ID. She says she can’t process the return at all.

I go flag the manager down (he was moving slowly– go figure) and explain to him that I had a receipt and, according to their policy, I don’t need to show my ID. I told him I had driven out twice for TWO pictures, have received ZERO pictures, and have spent over THREE HOURS on ONE HOUR PHOTO.

He finished the return, asked for my signature, I refused (again on the principle that I never signed to pay or pickup the order, and that they had my credit card number stored in their computer system anyway), and he gave me my money.

He grabbed the prints that the photo manager said I could keep (why bother– they’re useless to me). I asked him to destroy the photos. He said he couldn’t, and that since he gave me a refund, they were his photos now.

That is not the best thing to say.

They were not his photos. It was his paper, and his ink, but the photos– oh, they were all mine. I own the rights to the image, and I’m not going to let them float around Walmart. I tell him that he has to destroy them, and he says he has to take them back to photo for the return. I explain that the guy in photo said I could keep them, and I have chosen to destroy them.

He wouldn’t budge, so I said, “OK, let’s go back to photo. I’ll have the manager destroy them.”

On our way back to photo, I gave him a little lesson on how his company’s 1 Hour Photo works when placing online orders. I explained how I would never have a paper receipt because I am never offered one from the time I order until the time I pickup the photos. I also gave him a brief lesson on image copyright, explaining how the images were mine and the paper and ink were Walmart’s. I told him that ripping them up or putting a big black X over them is the appropriate thing to do with MY images.

We got back to photo, and the manager was at lunch. The store manager talked to the lady who was working the counter, and then ripped up the photos.


My images are destroyed. I’ve wasted 4 hours and two gallons of gas, all for two photos totaling $6.04 that I still do not have.

I leave the store and head home. When I get there, I call Walmart’s Online support and explain my situation. The person on the phone noted my problems, and sent them along to the store. He recommended that I call the store customer service.

I call the store customer service, and explain the idiocy of their policy and the fact that I have spend 4 hours and more than the cost of the photos on 1 Hour Photo, and the representative notes it to pass along to the store.

Fine, I’m done. They don’t offer a credit. They don’t offer to get my prints done at their regional printer and then have them overnighted for free, seeing as I have exceeded the theoretical limit for 1 Hour Photo four times over and all. They only offer an apology, which is good enough for me to consider the issue closed with the stipulation that I will never do business with their 1 Hour Photo online service again.

Then, about 2 hours later I get a call. It’s the 1 Hour Photo manager trying to figure out what happened. I explain the whole return fiasco. He agreed that I would never get a paper receipt and that it should have been taken care of. Apparently the district manager or store manager was contacted and they spoke with the employees who dropped the ball.

I explained to the 1 Hour Photo manager that I thought he did a fine job. Printers break, I know that. The problem was with the return procedure and lack of knowledge for the customer service representatives. He offered to give me a discount on my next run of Walmart 1 Hour Photo prints, which I politely declined.

After all, my photos will be ready at Walgreens in about 15 minutes, and at a 14% discount.


4 thoughts on “Walmart 1 Hour Photo Fiasco

  1. Alright so I went to Walgreens to get my images. I opened them up there in the store, and found three big blotches– probably two or three times the size of a period on a piece of paper– along the same edge as the Walmart photos!

    I told the girl that they were unacceptible (“What’s that crisp black dot in the middle of that intentionally blurred blue sky?”). The were unable to try another print right then and there (how’s that for odd), and so I got a refund.

    The folks at Walgreens recommended that I “try to crop the dots out.” Yeah, like that is an option. They’re not on my image when I blow it up 1600%– it’s a printing problem.

    So now I have ordered my images from Snapfish. If they aren’t good when they arrive (meaning they have flaws from the printing process), I will return them and order from PhotoAccess and take the hit on shipping. At least they have consistently good prints.


  2. Too bad you don’t have an Inkley’s nearby. I went to Wal-Mart once and was so dissatisfied with the picture quality, I vowed never to return. Inkley’s is dedicated to photography, so naturally their prints are exceptional. You pay more for them, but it’s worth it. But now I have my own photo printer, so I rarely need to go anywhere. Only when I need 5x7s or run out of ink. :)

    However, I do like Walgreen’s new photo share system–where you can send a link to your family in other states, who can then pick out the photos they want prints of and go pick them up. Very convenient and la-di-da.

  3. Hi Boyd! Thanks for stopping by and reading my petty complaints!

    We do have a “Worldwide Camera” or something like that, but it’s in a very inconvenient location (midtown, and I live downtown). When I went there before, I bought two items and was overcharged on both (one significantly), so I don’t really shop there anymore.

    I’m at the point, really, that I will only trust my photos to a couple of places. One is PhotoWorks (formerly PhotoAccess). They do an amazing job, and their prints always look great. The other is SnapFish. I’m not too sure about them since they’re owned by HP (not an HP fan), but they’re who I sent my two 8x10s to get printed.

    I would try printing them at home, but printers, ink, and paper are expensive, and technology changes so fast that last year’s best printer is this year’s entry level model. Plus, I see a major difference between inkjet photos, and photos that were developed using a chemical process like PhotoWorks does. Add all that up and toss in the fact that I like matte prints for framing, and I’m stuck using an outside processor.

    Thanks again for commenting!


  4. I use snapfish and I have never had a problem. They did an excellent job with my honeymoon pictures in NYC.

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