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Few are buying ‘Wal-Mart life’

By Jay MacDonald ·
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Posted: 3 pm ET

© Ken Wolter/

Remember that unusual blind date a couple years back between retail sumo wrestler Wal-Mart and the ever-lovable Snoopy, brand mascot of New York-based MetLife life insurance?

Let's just say it hasn't gone all Kimye yet, OK?

Last week, The Wall Street Journal revisited the novel attempt by MetLife to jump-start middle-class interest in life insurance following years of declining sales. Suffice to say, the two-year pilot hasn't exactly ignited life insurance fever.


© Bo Zaunders/Corbis

Boxes, then touch-screens

Rather than unleash an army of glad-handing Ned Ryersons from "Groundhog Day" upon the land, the insurer tried out two merchandizing strategies to connect with everyday peeps.

In the first, launched in October 2012, MetLife stocked the shelves of 200 Wal-Mart stores throughout Georgia and South Carolina with eye-catching, color-coded "life insurance in a box," each containing one year of coverage to be prepaid at the register.

"It looked nice, but it was expensive to produce the box," MetLife manager Ray Burton told the Journal. Those who did pull one off the shelf were hesitant to spring for a couple hundred bucks to pay the one-year life insurance premium at checkout.

So MetLife launched a version 2.0 in two states in 2013, installing touch-screen kiosks at 223 Wal-Mart locations that lured shoppers to "get life insurance today for only $5." This time, a $5 prepaid card, once activated, would cover the first-month premium of a $50,000 policy. After that, the premium for the second and subsequent months would be based on actual underwriting criteria, including gender and age.

Consumers shop for cheapest coverage

Had MetLife's marketing team actually shopped at a Wal-Mart, they would not have been surprised when the few shoppers who did pause at their kiosks used them in reverse to bargain-hunt how much death benefit they could get for a $20 or $30 monthly premium.

As the Journal observes, life insurance is a tough sell today, with or without an adorable beagle. While MetLife declined to disclose how much they've lost exploring the pain threshold of Wal-Mart shoppers, they revealed in June that they expect to suffer a $40 million loss this year on start-up costs and other costs from such direct-marketing initiatives.

The Snoopy folks are undeterred, however. Burton called the results of the Wal-Mart pilots sufficiently "intriguing" to expand beyond Georgia and South Carolina.

Perhaps they'd have better luck with Charlie Brown or Lucy.

Here's a look back at MetLife's Snoopy in a box program.

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August 16, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Walmart stores are horrible. They have stuff stacked in all the isles and a person can't get around. They are terrible at having merchandise on shelves where the tickets say products are supposed to be, and their re-stocking is bad. Whoever at MetLife decided people could understand life insurance from a box should be fired. Lots of people don't like Walmart (see above) and hitching your star to a non-union mega-employer is dumb. Try Dollar Tree for great bargains!

d Lagrand
August 10, 2014 at 9:40 pm

I shop Walmart regularly and the employees I speak to all appear happy to have a job. Who wouldn't want more money? The fact they reject a union should not reject poorly on them or Walmart. Walmart offers quality products at competitive prices and as long as they do I will give them my business.

August 10, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Excellent comment by John- "Met Life wrapped up with these characters is like Lucy holding the football for Charlie."
Perfect analogy. If anyone is considering buying life insurance, they should talk to two real, human beings who are professionals in investing. There are usually better options.

As for Walmart, I don't/won't shop there. Most of the "bargains" are hype - for example, they have cheaper meat, but it's inferior cuts that many legitimate grocery stores don't/won't stock. Americans would be smart to boycott Walmart. The Walton family, Koch family, and their ilk are turning America into a third world country.

August 10, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Sam Walton, What a phony. He would have got the goods from Mars if it would help him drive out competition. The nut doesn't fall far from the tree and his offspring are exactly like him. Try to unionize a store to get a decent wage and benefits from these multi-billionaires who will not out of common decency provide good benefits and they will close the doors. Met Life wrapped up with these characters is like Lucy holding the football for Charlie.

August 10, 2014 at 6:03 pm

I thought they had a Snoopy blimp? Maybe they can't afford that kind of advertising? Walmart has to be getting some sort of fee for pimping this insurance offer?

August 10, 2014 at 4:33 pm

I wouldn't buy life insurance from Met Life if it were the only company selling life insurance on earth....and if they were giving it away for free.

I don't shop at Wal-Mart because the lie to their employees when they are hired and then suck the lives out of them after they are hired.
I have lost track of how many of my friends told me that when they were hired by Wal-Mart they told Wal-Mart that they could not work on Sunday's because of their church obligations. The personnel employee told them...."No problem", and made not of that and said they would not schedule them for Sunday work.
Well....guess what! Almost immediately they would find themselves being scheduled for Sunday work. One friend finally told them that he told them up front that he did not work on Sundays and it was agreed to by personnel, and if they scheduled him for Sunday work in the future that he just was not going to show up.

lori deal
August 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm

they ran Wallmart out of most of Europe , and out of Germany all together .. hello to ALDI...