Insane Store Policy: An Analogy to Insane Grading Policy

12 Jun

It all started when my wife asked me if I could pick her up a flat iron at Walmart on my way home from work.

Sure- that sounds simple enough.

As I traditionally need, she e-mailed me a link to the exact item she was looking for so that I could get the right thing in the store.  I found it in record time, only I noticed that the online price of $14 did not match up with the store price of $20.

Being thrifty, I asked the cashier if I could get the online price, to be told, “I’m sorry, we don’t honor the online price.”  She proceeded to ring me up, so I asked if I could go over to Customer Service and try.

At Customer Service I got about 3 words out (“The price online…”) before I was stopped and told, “I’m sorry, we don’t honor the online price.”  The young lady at the desk turned to someone I presume to be a manager of some sort.  The manager did not look up from the computer she was looking at and said something about the store getting credit for the sale versus online, and that’s why….blah blah blah.  This was quickly becoming a quest for what is sensical and fair more than wanting to save a few bucks.

So I ask: “I notice on your site that I have pulled up on this phone, that this item qualifies for free in store pick up.  Can I actually buy this item right now, right here, on my phone, and ‘pick it up’, thereby getting the online price?”

The “manager” (still not looking up): “Yes, I guess you can do that”

You have got to be kidding me!

So standing there, I bought the item that I held in my hand, online, via my iPhone.  Now technically owning the item, having paid for it, I said to the girl at the counter. “Ok, great- well now that I’ve bought it, what do I need to do now, just get a receipt?”

Her answer “Well you actually can’t pick it up until your purchase comes into our system”

Huh???? I AM HOLDING THE ITEM I PAID FOR AND OWN IN MY HAND!

When I go into a place like Walmart, I understand that it is not the workers’ fault when a policy like this doesn’t make sense, so I remained calm and just asked, “Well how long does that take?”

She said she didn’t know, so she would call someone over (for those scoring at home, this is now the 4th employee who has helped me with this transaction.)  A guy came over, was told the situation, and he said “Yeah, that takes at least 30 minutes…the longest I’ve ever seen is 5 hours.”  Mind you- I AM HOLDING THE ITEM I PAID FOR AND OWN IN MY HAND!

Still attempting to remain reasonable I say, “Well I did promise to bring home iced coffee- so I’ll run over to Starbucks and back.  Hopefully by then I’ll at least have visitation rights to my flat iron”

So I run over to get coffee, and as I waited, I received the e-mail from Walmart saying my item is now ready to be “picked up.”  I headed back to the store, go to Customer Service, and the girl at the desk recognizes me.  My flat iron (THAT I OWN!) is behind the counter, now taped up with special “In Store Pickup” tape.  This girl hands the item to a new girl (the 5th employee helping me complete the transaction) and asks her to take me to another part of the store where they do dot-com orders.  We get there, and after about 10 minutes of waiting for the computer to work, I am handed the item (which I feel like I’ve owned all afternoon at this point) and told the sale was finally complete.

So, finally, here’s the analogy: The purpose of a store is the exchange of money for goods.  That is the simple transaction at the heart of that purpose.  I had paid for that flat iron by exchanging my money, but because of insane policy, my good was being withheld until all the hoops were jumped through.

The purpose of school is learning.  The simple transaction at the heart of the purpose is assigning a grade that (hopefully) reflects learning.  However- we all have heard the stories of insane policy that gets away from that purpose. Even if a student has learned something, they may be subject to having their true grade withheld because they have not jumped through all the hoops.  Completion grades, zeroes, taking off points because a paper was 1.5 pages instead of 2 pages….the list goes on and on.  

As the “manager” was trying to tell me, there is probably a good reason why Walmart can’t just honor every online price.  However, there must be a better way to conduct good business than what I dealt with.  Everything that happened got away from the simple transaction of a customer exchanging money for a good.  (Not to mention that the company definitely lost more than $6 in productivity having 5 employees dealing with me.)

Likewise, there are good reasons to hold students accountable for following directions, meeting deadlines, and completing assignments.  However- there has to be a better way than getting away from truly measuring learning and assigning grades that communicate what has been learned- not behavior.  Tracking, documenting, and communicating these items are important.  They simply need to be separate from the grade, as the grade should be the measure of learning, which is the purpose of school.  

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