In the course of doing some online 3D print shopping, I discovered a very large vendor: Walmart!
A Google search provided me with a list of several reputable sources for the products I sought, but among the search results were some from Walmart. Yes, the same company that more than likely has a store within walking distance from you, if you happen to be in North America.
It turns out that Walmart has a rather lively online store that includes not only their own products, but those from third party vendors. It’s like a “Mini-Amazon”. Except it’s not really “mini”. It’s pretty extensive.
A search for “3D Printer” reveals hundreds of products from these familiar vendors:
- Silhouette America
- Two Trees
- JUST BUY IT
- HEMU FASHION
- Art of Shoes and Beyond
- Reddy Creative Cards
- The Olsson Ruby
- USA Sealing
- Unique Bargains
- 3D Solutech
- Artillery 3D
- D and H Distributing
- Flexion Extruder
- Hamilton Buhl
- Leyton House Professional
- Micro Swiss
- Office Suites
Well, many of them are familiar. There are quite a few brands that are a bit of a mystery, as well as a number of spelling errors, repeats, brand names confused with companies, etc. That’s the sort of thing you’d find in a large, highly automated e-shop, I guess.
I found not only 3D printers, but also materials. There’s plenty of filament options, as well as resin bottles for sale. Of particular interest were parts for all kinds of machines. Need a replacement FEP film for your resin 3D printer? You can probably find it on Walmart.
Well, maybe you can find it. Their search facility is pretty poor and you often end up scrolling endlessly through pages of results. So that’s what I did.
Then I started noticing a pattern. Many seemingly identical products are repeated. Some appear perhaps dozens of times. Here’s an example:
If you were to open them, you’d likely — I hope — see they were from different vendors appearing on Walmart’s site. It’s fascinating to see how these vendors play with the pricing, even for inexpensive items like these plastic shovels.
This pattern appears for several types of common items, like this cleaning kit:
Then it got a bit more confusing. Take a look at this selection of products:
It’s a list of different 3D printers. Or is it? They clearly appear to be an identical machine, but the brand names are Htovila, GoolRC, Walmeck (“WALMECK”, really????), mooBody, and lastly, some type of unbranded machine. By the way, this was just one line of these products, as this same image appears scattered all over the search results.
Is this the same machine being marketed under multiple brands? I took a look at some of the listings and found they are virtually identical, aside from brand name and price. Even the sequence of product images is often identical.
It’s clear these are simply repeats by the same operation. I checked the other products of some of these mysterious vendors, like “Walmeck”. I found a random collection of products that had no relation to each other. Tools, kitchen items, clothing, housewares, electronics, parts, construction materials and much more. Each seemed to have different sets of products, but likely they were actually all drawn from the same pool behind the scenes. Oh, I should mention essentially all of these products have no reviews.
So why are “they”, whoever “they” is, remarketing these products under slightly different and cheesy brand names? Could it be some kind of massive A/B testing to seek the optimal price level? Or a runaway data entry generator?
In the end, I found Walmart’s capability as an online 3D print vendor to be lacking, considering the endless repeated products and questionable pricing. I don’t think I found a good deal on anything, and many of the 3D print products were from unknown companies, even companies clearly trying to re-label products. You can’t even determine the reliability of any of these vendors, as you can on sites like AliExpress.
For 3D print shopping, I’d steer clear of Walmart, at least until they clean up the gigantic mess of confusing products.