The Checkout

Chatting It Up with Wal-Mart

Ylan Mui

Wal-Mart held its first online chat with shoppers Thursday on its new Web site, The guest chatter was Ellie Kay, who dug herself out of $40,000 in debt and now writes books about saving money.

The chat was the latest example of Wal-Mart's attempts to refresh its image under the new slogan, "Save Money. Live Better." (The old motto was "Always low prices. Always." Just in case you missed it.) For two hours, Kay fielded questions on everything from how to start a budget to paying for college tuition to filing bankruptcy -- though not in such a depressing order.

"Some of the questions that we had that came in were surprising, and we were also surprised that we didn't get questions that we expected," Kay told me after the chat.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien said Kay received about 70 questions. She said they were not screened or changed before they were published online but that Kay was able to choose which questions to answer.

One question submitted did come from a woman who identified herself as a Wal-Mart employee in the company's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters who was retiring to become a stay-at-home mom. O'Brien said the chat was promoted among associates but they were not directed to participate.

More chats are likely to come, O'Brien said.

By Ylan Mui |  June 20, 2008; 12:00 PM ET Consumer News , Consumer Tips , Credit Issues , Marketing , Ylan Mui
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