2023: A Walmart Odyssey

Bad app design and my own negligence conspired against me.

John I. Carney
3 min readMar 30

Jar of Silver Spring brand prepared horseradish, on a white background.

I had been wanting to buy a replacement Christmas gift for the family member whose name I had in the drawing this year. The item I wanted was on sale a few days ago at the Walmart website, and I thought that was the perfect opportunity. I bought the item and had it shipped to the family member in North Carolina.

Today, meanwhile, I had to buy some groceries and decided that I would pick up the ingredients for Jezebel sauce, which I only learned about this week and have desperately wanted to try. I went to Walmart because of one non-grocery item that I thought I might need to pick up, although they ended up not having exactly what I wanted.

One of the ingredients for Jezebel sauce is prepared horseradish. This is sold in jars and kept in a refrigerated case, and different stores have it in different places — some near the meat or fish, some near the dairy, some in the deli area, etc. “Keep it cold to keep it hot,” states a slogan on the Silver Spring brand label.

I know that the Walmart app will let you look up an item and will tell you what aisle it’s on in the store, so after not seeing the horseradish in the first place I looked I went to the app, which told me it was on aisle A33. I went to A33, but it wasn’t refrigerated, and in fact was a wine aisle. I looked to see if there might be some cooler or display nearby, but there wasn’t.

It was at that point that I figured out the Walmart app was giving me directions based on the Walmart store nearest to my family member in North Carolina.

It took me what seemed like 10 minutes of fiddling with the app to figure out how to change the store in the app. They hid that function well. Meanwhile, I already had several perishable items in my basket.

I finally got home, whereupon I discovered that

  1. I already had a jar of prepared horseradish. Horseradish loses its potency over time, but this still seemed fairly strong and was still three months from the expiration date on the jar.
  2. I had somehow picked up a jar of apricot preserves instead of the apple jelly called for in the recipe. This is not a major thing; I think, in the sauce, it will work just about as well, and as the Southern Living article indicates, there are variations in the recipe.

The Jezebel sauce tasted pretty good after I mixed it up, although I think the flavors are supposed to blend in the fridge. I’m going to air fry some chicken nuggets in a little bit and use it as a dipping sauce.

Walmart should not, I think, automatically change the default store in the app just based on the fact that you recently shipped an item to someone else, with a different name, in a different state. As a matter of fact, since Walmart offers in-store Wi-Fi, the app should be able to tell what store you are in and give you location information based on that store. Bad app design, although of course it’s my own fault for forgetting I already had horseradish.

John I. Carney

Author of “Dislike: Faith and Dialogue in the Age of Social Media,” available at http://www.lakeneuron.com/dislike