Attention Kmart shoppers

“When does a bargain stop being a bargain and become a liability?” is a question many Carson City residents have begun asking as their Kmart store has turned into a bargain basement outlet.

With the store—described two years ago as the third most profitable in the West—closing in the next few weeks, roadside signs have appeared around the city offering residents reductions on prices within the store.

However, many loyal customers are finding that the store has become nothing more than a dumping ground for hard-to-sell product from around the country. With a no-refund, no-exchange-or-return policy in effect, customers are also finding that they have nowhere to turn to have defective merchandise replaced.

Soon after the Troy, Mich., retailer announced in mid-January that the Carson City store was closing, local staff began moving higher-quality merchandise off the shelves, replacing it with inferior products, which were shipped in from various stores and distributors around the country.

Although company management declined to discuss the relocation of Carson City merchandise, one staff member says that within hours of the announcement of the store’s closure, they were instructed to remove much of the existing merchandise and prepare it for relocation.

Longtime Kmart customer Alisha Andres is disgusted at the way the company has treated local customers.

She says that, soon after the store announced its closing, she purchased several items of clothing for herself and her children in the belief that they were regular Kmart stock.

“Knowing that a no-refund-or-return policy was in place, I asked a sales assistant if they were of good quality, and she assured me they were,” Andres says.

Much to her dismay, four of the seven articles developed defects within days.

When she contacted the store, they reminded her of the no-return policy and suggested she contact the manufacturer, although they couldn’t tell her who the manufacturers were.

“One garment stated it was manufactured in Vietnam, another Cambodia. Where do I go from here?” she asks. “People in this town have always supported the store, and now, in its final days, the store is not supporting us.”

Mary Rodriguez says she purchased an $89 Bed-in-a-Bag from the store, only to be told by a friend at work that the identical bag was available on the Kmart Web site for $69. Then she discovered that she could have purchased it at another Carson City retailer for even less.

“It upsets me to know that I purchased a product that I paid top dollar for, and it can’t be returned,” she says. “When I purchased it, the checkout operator made a big issue of what a great bargain I was getting.”

As to when the store will close, nobody is prepared to offer a date.

However, an indication this week that the closing may be not too far away came when most merchandise that had a 20 percent off label was changed to 40 percent off.

“You will know when the final day arrives—the label will say ‘95 percent off,’” said one staff member.