How to Scam Wal-Mart For Free Camping Gear
This is a tale of how five young boys took on the corporate giants, putting the no-questions-asked refund policy of Wal-Mart to the ultimate test. Could the purchased items survive a three-day festival in the middle of the desert and be returned for a full reimbursement?
There was only one way to find out.
Preparing for a festival – buying tents, chairs, etc. – can rack up quite a cost, a cost which — having already forked out hundreds of dollars to enter the festival — we were not keen to see again. So five of us, on the way to Coachella in our rental car, had the idea of buying everything from Wal-Mart and just returning it after the festival “no questions asked”. It seemed like the cheapest option, and we figured the money saved could go be put to better use.
Between us, we purchased two tents, five chairs and a 3 x 3-metre gazebo, which, because I despise that word, shall be herein known as Barry. Barry, even though we didn’t know it yet, would become the centre of our little experiment.
We also purchased all our food and alcohol goods in the same stop, but thought we’d be pushing our luck trying to return them. I footed the bill on card, anticipating a full refund in five days’ time, with the grand total for camping items reaching $150 (which, to be honest, really was quite decent value).
Now I won’t drum up any jealousy or bore you with all the details of the festival (it was amazing by the way) except those pertaining to Barry and the other Wal-Mart items. We were assigned a corner campsite, meaning we only had two other sites adjoining ours. Both of these were mostly taken up by extravagantly sized tents; thus, the shade Barry provided became the epicentre of the trio.
The first night and day went off without a hitch. All our camping equipment did its job superbly: the chairs supported our at-times-exhausted bodies, the tents provided much-needed shelter and Barry was still standing, omnipresent.
The first casualty was on day two. Simon, in a severely inebriated and lethargic state, threw all 120kg of his whopping frame into one of the camp chairs. The polyester of the Ozark Trail Folding Chair tore like soggy muesli biscuit boxes and Simon subsequently ended in a tangle of foldable steel legs. Blows were sustained from there on out, with the casualty list at 8pm the final night including three of the five chairs, which were irreparably damaged, and two broken tent zips. But the worse was yet to come.
8:01pm – Sandstorm.
For the next six hours, the entire Empire Polo Club was buffeted by 100km/h winds carrying fine grains of sand that may as well have been glass fragments. Our immediate concern was for ourselves. Every piece of exposed skin was relentlessly pummeled bloody, but we pulled through it with our bodies intact. However, when we returned to the campsite, one of us had not fared so well. Barry, who was lucky not to have been blown away entirely, was in poor shape, with one of his four collapsible legs bent at an obscene angle. Knowing we’d never be able to return him if he couldn’t fit back into his box, there was only one option: amputation. The procedure was quick and painless (although I saw $50 disappear in front of me), and we returned Barry to his box with cheers of triumphs and high fives before collapsing into bed.
The next morning brought further bad news: every single item was now covered in a fine layer of sand, which had become ingrained into the fabric. Instead of its original deep blue, the Wal-mart items were all now a faded straw colour. Not to be disheartened, we packed everything up and departed.
After some hours driving and a quick In-N-Out burger pitstop, we arrived at our original Wal-Mart. We strode in confidently, boxes somewhat frayed. The girl behind the returns counter first pulled out one of the chairs. Sand dropped to the floor. The chair, which we had convinced ourselves was kind of clean, now appeared filthy. She sent us away, but we asked for the manager, belligerently quoting “no questions asked”. The managed came down and showed us the door himself.
To lift our spirits, we hit up a Maccy-Ds, picked up some free Wi-Fi and got searching on Google Maps for some further options. We found another Wal-Mart, which yielded similar results, and one that sold homewares only, so was useless to us.
On the verge of giving up, a final hope arose. We made our way to the last Wal-Mart in driving distance, which was located in a neighbourhood many would refer to as The Ghetto. Before we left the car, two separate people had knocked on the window, one selling CDs and the other asking if we were done with our empty Macca’s cups (he strode off very jubilantly after we gave them to him).
With low expectations, we entered the Wal-Mart and again approached the returns desk. We placed the boxes on the counter and handed the woman our receipt, expecting a thorough search at any minute. Instead, we received $150 in cash. No boxes were opened in that store. We were elated, but tried not to show it and left promptly before anyone could ask us any questions.
The five of us returned to the car rental dealership in the highest of spirits, only to be told that because we’d returned the vehicle after 1pm (which we wouldn’t have if we never stopped at any Wal-Marts), we had to pay for an extra day’s rental. We reluctantly handed over 100 of our well-earned dollars.
Despite the all the effort of driving miles across LA to save a measly $50 (really, $10 per person), it was entirely worth it just for the mental image of the first person to open up that box and find Barry, the three-legged gazebo.
Cover by HalfWittPyscho