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What we can learn from Home Depot’s crappy service

Not so long ago I went to the Home Depot to buy a water heater. My brother being a professional plumber, we knew exactly what we wanted.

We went to the aisle, found the make, model and capacity we wanted, then sought help getting the 50 Gallon (9 year warranty) G&E model from one of the overhead shelves.

A funny thing happened, the assistant tried to sell us a different model, actually two, those at floor level (e.g. not on the overhead shelf).

It wasn’t until I was emphatic about what I wanted that the clerk left and brought back one of those triangular ladder/steps platforms instead of a hydraulic lift for the 200lb, glass lined water heater … after getting a little surly.

We explained to the clerk that we were not going accept the unit unless it was brought down via a hydraulic lift. It is too heavy and unwieldy for one man to SAFELY manage on a ladder/platform. He again gave us some lip, telling us that “we do this all the time.”

Did I mention that unit inside the 6′x3′x3′ box weighs 200 lbs and is glass lined? Yeah, imagine the losses if he slipped just once.

Finally, we found a sales assistant who, when we explained what we wanted and pointed to the unit on the upper shelf, said “no problem” walked right past the rolling platform and retrieved the water heater in a safe and secure manner using a hydraulic lift.

About the only thing that made the experience more frustrating were the Home Depot employees standing outside the loading area … I assume to aid customers load heavy objects, though in our case, they just sat there and watched as my brother and I, carefully and safely placed it into my pickup truck.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems at store 2558 in Aspen Hill Maryland (zip:20853). It has been my personal experience that many of the employees are less than helpful when it comes to heavy, upper shelf objects. Perhaps because I’m a big guy and they think I should go it alone. Similarly, it has been my experience that those helping load vehicles usually don’t unless you track them down. Some want tips afterwards … as was the case last weekend when I bought 10 rolls of sod … which by the way they sold out of this Spring in the first week.

Not a surprise, them selling-out of popular items. I’ve often found popular items sold out at that store, rarely to be restocked even though they could easily sell twice as much. You would think with all the computer barcoding that goes on there, they could quickly spot trends and adjust to them. You would also think they have a record from the past couple of years of what was hot and what was not per season. But noooo … no sod, no quick setting cement, no general purpose stones and other things people tend to buy this time of year.

Why should they care? How about lawsuits? Imagine if my brother or I had hurt ourselves loading the object at their store while employees looked on. Imagine the money lost if/when the assistant dropped the water heater, especially on a customer. How about profit? What is this apparent aversion to making sure they have what the customer wants, when they want it … and not when it is convenient for Home Depot to buy or stock it.

Here is something else Home Depot should consider: SURVEY the homes near the store. More than once, the Aspen Hill store has been out of large ticket items that are common to the area. E.g. a 50 gallon gas water heater, which is standard equipment in almost all the homes that surround the Aspen Hill store. Same too with sinks, counter tops, etc…

This is why I hate going to the Home Depot just 1 mile from home. Same goes for the Home Depot just 0.5 miles from where I work in Gaithersburg. This is why the Lowes about 10 miles away gets my business for big ticket items. Just thought I’d let you know when you get a bit frustrated with serving <SIC>”the stupid users“</SIC> who visit your church and/or charity’s website.

7 Comments

  1. Odd, my experiences have been just the opposite. I drive out of my way to avoid the Lowe’s near my neighborhood and go to Home Depot for the littlest items. The reason is the same as yours, crappy service at Lowe’s great at Home Depot. There is only one Lowe’s I know of but three Home Depots, and I’ve gotten great help at all three.

  2. This doesn’t address your comment, but is a comment on your heading. I guess you didn’t know that everyone anywhere in any nation which is or has been a member of the British Commonwealth reads CRAP (derived from Thos J Crapper & Sons, whose name proudly appeared on many white porcelain fittings) as an exact synonym for another four-letter word (starting with “S”) for a gastro-intestinal end-product.

    Have a nice day.

  3. Interesting. I was at Home Depot just today and left grumbling about their less than stellar customer service. I suppose it really does come down to the individual, though. It doesn’t matter how much training a person receives, if they aren’t in a mood to be helpful, or simply aren’t by nature, then there’s nothing you can do about it. (Except maybe fire them and hire someone who actually feels like doing the job they were hired for.)

  4. I worked at one of the local food chains (I’d rather leave the name anonymous) here in Canada two summers ago, though I’m sure things the chain very much the same now as they were then. Our posting board one Sunday (a way to communicate with employees each week) stated that customers complained people working in the store didn’t look like they wanted to be there.

    After that summer, I could truly conclude I’ve seen both sides of the story. For the most part, I’d rather be on the customer side, working with employees like that is not a fun experience. Attitude (as a team and as an individual) is a key issue, one that employees and employers can easily overlook.

    Sometimes it’s hard to say whether management was involved in causing the negativity or not, but I can admit when I worked at the establishment, it didn’t seem management tried very hard to leave a positive image. Management should focus more on teamwork and inspire employees to have the same team spirit. Everyone has a rough day no doubt but if management doesn’t encourage employees, and vice versa, all we are left with is no one enjoying the job. I suppose it can be stated that this is my opinion, but I firmly believe it’s a strong truth.

  5. Should you ever need another water heater — may I suggest one of the instant-heating tankless types. Works great and not nearly so heavy!

  6. Heh,
    Even better with that store is the lack of parking. (I live near Norbeck and Bel Pre) I went there the other week drove through 3 ailes looking for a parking spot, and got so fed up I just went home. If you really want to get your “water boiling” try ordering a door or window sometime. The first time I did this I almost had to walk the employee through their own ordering software.

    On a side note I’m really glad that I found your site. I work on my church’s website and am in the process of a long overdur overhaul. Look forward to some good tips.

  7. I found this story interesting. It’s too bad that the original author’s experience with Home Depot is so bad. I, too have had the opposite encounters at our local Home Depots. My boyfriend works for one them. He was struck by how seriously they take safety and customer service. The behaviors described above go against all that Home Depot stands for. Associates are to drop anything they may be doing to help a customer, without a thought and with a smile, until the customer no longer requires the associates assistance. The safety training he went through was very thorough. When any sort of equipment is used to retrieve product, by a certified employee, the aisle is too be closed to all customers until the item has been retrieved. Also, another store associate is to stand guard to be sure no one gets within harms way.The safety procedures go on and on, to prevent injury to customers or staff, and customer service is a priority. The stores described in the above story do not represent the majority of Home Depots. As for the people who live by these poorly managed Home Depots…be thankful you have Lowes!! =)