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Shops with similar names struggle with Walmart warranty calls

Published May 27, 2021

EASTON, Pa. (BRAIN) — What if your shop was named Genesis and people who bought Genesis bikes from Walmart called you every day looking for help? What if Action Wheels were a brand of Walmart's battery-powered ThunderTank ride-on toy and also the name of your bike shop?

We spoke to Tomias Hinchcliff, former owner of Genesis Bicycles in Easton, Pa. (now a Trek-owned shop) and Patty Woodworth, co-owner of Action Wheels in Deptford, N.J., about how they cope with these aggravations.

"Walmart tells consumers with product issues to contact the manufacturer directly," Hinchcliff said. "When you Google Genesis Bicycles, we're the first search result to come up, unfortunately."

"We did everything to try to direct people elsewhere," emphasized Hinchcliff. "A bold heading on the website, ATTENTION Walmart customers. Every phone in the store has a posting above it with Kent's (Genesis' manufacturer) toll-free number and website."

The confusion goes well beyond consumer calls and e-mails. "We even received a very thick envelope from the Consumer Product Safety Commission alerting us to numerous consumer complaints about Genesis brand bikes," Hinchcliff said.

"We've always been polite and friendly with these callers, it's not their fault that they've ended up talking to us," said Hinchcliff. "Callers have been very understanding of our plight as well. Most all have Southern accents, not sure why."

Hinchcliff and team tried to think of ways to take advantage of the situation. "Genesis has a 32-inch wheel model, we got a lot of calls for tubes and tires that size," remembered Hinchcliff. "We considered buying 32-inch rubber and just selling and shipping them out."

Patty Woodworth and the Action Wheels staff have received calls and e-mails nearly every day for the past three years. Such a call came in on the other line during our interview. "I finally got through to a live Walmart person and asked how I could make this stop," she noted. "They were sympathetic and told me to write a letter to company headquarters, which I haven't done yet."

The ThunderTank shipping box says Action Wheels on it, which leads to Google, which leads to Patty and staff. "We get calls for their other products too, like Barbie cars. The typical caller is a grandparent with a Southern accent," Woodworth said. "We're purposely being over-the-top sweet to them so we don't get bad Yelp reviews."

We checked with Action Wheels, an unrelated bike shop in Bethlehem, Pa. They hadn't received any Walmart calls, so Woodworth's success at SEO seems to be working against her.

Hinchcliff is sympathetic. "Patty got the worst part of it," he said. "I'd much rather be dealing with bike callers instead of people who think buying their kids tanks is a good idea."

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