Dear Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse,
A long while ago, you built one of your stores in my town, and you built it literally right next-door to the existing Home Depot. When my wife and I bought our first house, we remodeled the entire place, floor to ceiling, from that Home Depot. We were able to do that because we didn’t have kids yet, so we had all the time and money in the world.
We were rich and carefree. We could go out to eat anywhere, at any time. We could go to the movies any day of the week – not just on Tuesdays - and buy all the popcorn we wanted, even at those movie theater prices. We played golf, both mini and regular. We could do all that while still saving for retirement and pouring tons of money into the home renovations.
We had no idea how much would change when we had kids. No one at the Home Depot warned us. You’d think they would have, since they knew damned well that once we had kids we’d have no more time or money to spend at their store. Go figure.
Anyway, when you built your Lowe’s right next to our Home Depot, I remained very loyal to them. Their employees had always been top-notch (except for the not warning us about the kids thing), and I wasn’t going to share my business with you.
However, over the period of a few months to a year I began to notice a decline in the Home Depot customer service levels. The employees seemed to be getting younger and less knowledgeable, not only about general home improvement how-to, but also about where things were actually located in their own store. Then one evening, a funny thing happened.
I was walking down an aisle and overheard a customer ask one of the employees where something was located. The employee didn’t know what it was. She explained what it was, but the employee still had no idea where to find it. I stopped and told the woman exactly which aisle to find it on, how far down the aisle, and how high off the floor it was located. She thanked me and asked if I was an off-duty employee. I said no, just someone who’s shopped here a lot, as I shook my head in disgust at the pathetic excuse for a customer service representative, hanging his head in shame above his orange apron.
That night was when I decided to give you a try, Lowe’s. And our relationship was good for a long time. Your employees would drop whatever they were doing and walk me to where I could find something, even when I insisted that it was OK if they just told me. Sometimes that was uncomfortable and weird, but it was appreciated, nonetheless.
Somewhere along the way, Home Depot got the memo and stepped their customer service back up, and over these many years, you have both performed fairly well. But I wanted to give you the courtesy of a warning. You’re slipping, big time, in the stocking and returns department.
My wife and I have denied our teenage boys food and shoes just long enough to be able to afford some new lighting and mirrors for our master bath. We bought two light fixtures from you the other day, and I was more than a little upset when I unpackaged the first one back at home. It was immediately obvious that something was wrong, from the complete lack of internal packaging involved.
The only damn thing in the box was the light fixture. No protective bag. No Styrofoam end caps holding it in place, no installation instruction sheet. Also missing were the bracket that holds it to the wall, the electrical connectors, and the screws. And to cap it all off, it was visibly and obviously scratched up. Digging down to the bottom of the box I did actually find one other item – the receipt from the last time it was purchased!
I have one simple question for you: How in the actual hell did this thing end up on the shelf?
Based on my recent past experiences, combined with this incident, both purchasing and then returning this fixture (for at least the second time in its life), here’s my estimation of the current inner workings of your returns department:
1) Customer brings in a return.
2) You ask zero questions about the product’s performance, current state, reason for return, or even origin.
3) You assess whether the product is in the original packaging.
4) If it’s not, you shrug and say, “whatever.”
5) If it is in the original packaging, you will, under no circumstances whatsoever, open that packaging to inspect the item, or even verify that it’s in there at all.
6) You give the customer back whatever amount of money they ask for.
7) You turn around and throw the return into a Lowe’s shopping cart.
8) Someone rolls that shopping cart out into the store and puts whatever it is back on the shelf in the approximate location it came from.
9) Everyone in the breakroom complains about how many returns we’re getting today.
Like I said, this is not an isolated incident. It’s just the latest one, and I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. The price of gas is too high for me to make two round trips to get one item. The boys will eventually need to eat again, and the school is complaining about them being barefoot.
So, from now on I’ll be the guy bringing my own box cutter in and completely unpackaging everything right there in your store before I buy it.
And fair warning: If it’s not all there, I’m just going to leave it lying there on the floor.
Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen
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