Update: Years later. It’s 2015. I’ve been shopping at Home Depot. A lot. It’s gotten much better over the past several years. So have to give credit where it’s due. There’s still issues with the store experience, but they seem to be doing a lot more right then from when I first wrote the post below.

Sorry, but these guys teed me off a bit…

Home Depot, (a.k.a. “Home Dopey”), has gone down hill. It just doesn’t make sense to shop there when there’s probably a Lowe’s not far away. Following are reasons why, as well as a couple of areas where they do get a couple of things right, just to be fair.

First, background. Over the past few months, I’ve been into three different Home Depot’s and two different Lowe’s stores while doing major home renovations. My experiences there have led me to believe it’s just not the place to shop for home supplies anymore.

What they Get Wrong

  1. Their stores are not well kept
    It used to be Home Depot stores were reasonably clean, from the store stocked shelves to the bathrooms. No more. Merchandise in a variety of sections is all over the place. It’s hard to find items and several things seem out of stock.
  2. Their personnel are no longer the kind of quality they once were, (though there are some exceptions.)
    Their people don’t know their products as well as they used to. Even personnel assigned to a particular department don’t know where stuff is or how to use it.
  3. Their paint is low quality
    I’d used Home Depot paint from Behr to do a couple of rooms in my house. So I used them again to get some stuff for kitchen. The guy either did a poor job of mixing or their computer just has lame color matching based on the swatch. I decided to go to a local paint store to see what they could do. In fact, I went to two different stores; one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom. For the kitchen, I ended up using Benjamin Moore paint and for the bathrooms, Sherwin Williams. Both of these products are far superior to the Home Depot brands. They went on smoother, less spatter, and the end result just looks and feels like higher quality.
  4. Safety
    They store tons of propane right out side their exit door. On multiple occasions, I’ve seen guys smoking right next to them. They may have big signs saying, “Don’t blow yourself up here,” but lets face it… people don’t read. Bottom line is this is a big mess just waiting to happen. I wrote to them about this suggesting they do something about it; no response.
  5. Their management is obviously a mess
    Read any business news magazine. Their CEO… well, I think any one of us would be happy to get many millions of dollars for poor performance. The thing is though, most of us kind of have to perform well in our jobs to maintain our salary, maybe get a promotion or raise, and so on. True enough, this happens with other companies as well.
  6. Crappy Customer Service on Returns
    A counter top was delivered with a huge crack in it. A phone call got a replacement coming. Or rather, a 2nd reminder phone call a week later got a replacement coming. They were asked, “Do you need the old cracked one back or can I throw it out because it’s just taking up space.” They said they didn’t need it. Almost 4 weeks later, the new part is in. And they won’t release it without the old one. (Or $250) I still haven’t quite worked this out yet. What I do know is I’m out $250 and will have to dispute charge with credit card company and go up the customer service chain. In any case, a new one will be purchased from Lowe’s or elsewhere. (And, even though I think I was reasonably courteous and didn’t yell at the customer service woman on the phone, she was still kind of snotty.
  7. They don’t re-stock well
    In the lighting section, for example, it seems a lot of replacement stock is stored up high in their rafter area and I suppose at night they use the lifts to gather up replacements and re-stock. Though clearly, they don’t check often. At one Home Depot store, (on two separate trips), no one could help retrieve fresh stock.
  8. Cashier Lines & Self Checkout
    I appreciate the self checkout. It’s actually fairly quick for most items most of the time. However, sometimes you have bulky items or things where you really need the cashier line. But they’ve gotten so reliant on self-checkout that the cashier staffing, (at all three stores I’ve been to on multiple occasions over the past couple of months), had poor staffing. On two trips, (admittedly at later store hours), there was NO ONE staffing the cashier lines. One of the lines appeared open as the light was on, but the cashier had stepped away for a least several minutes.
  9. They don’t police their shopping carts well
    While we’ve all maybe gotten used to self-serving when it comes to carts and cart return areas, these guys just don’t care at all about this. This may be part on customers not returning them, but at Lowe’s you can always just grab a cart from the cart area. And there don’t seem to be too many all over the parking lot. At Home Depot? It’s a mess.
  10. They’re Just Stupid Regarding Future Business
    I’ve spent a fair amount of $$$ there recently. And based on the broken part they’re not making good on alone, they’re basically losing me as a customer; probably for life. As well, the contractor that worked on some of this project is sour on them now. And he represents both his own supply needs as well as steers untold number of future customer to various sources. For the $250 they’re costing me due to their mistake, they’re basically going to lose thousands to tens of thousands in sales. Stupid. I understand that some people may try to rip them off, but the customer rep I was dealing with saw my purchase history. She’s either too foolish or just not empowered to make what should be an obvious judgement call regarding a good customer. (Or a former good customer I should say.)

Taken together, the above items result in… basically a really poor overall experience. There’s better alternatives. They’ve done very well by me the past few months in that I started and completed a fairly large project with them at least in terms of a kitchen renovation. But they’ve lost a lot on other projects. And going forward? I may have contributed to one quarter’s profits, but that’ll pretty much be the end of that from me.

What they Get Right

  1. Kitchen & Bath Design Rep was Great
    The woman who helped with my kitchen design and product ordering knew what she was doing and the whole project turned out very well. Their install contract guy also did a great job. A few minor glitches, but nothing worth overly complaining about given minor things are going to happen during a major project.
  2. In the wood section, they had a guy there that cut up some boards for me for no additional fee, (even though I went a couple of cuts past where they do charge.) Based on my measurement, his cuts were spot on and the boards fit perfectly into the places they were designed for.
  3. In spite of the stock problem mentioned above, at another Home Depot, one worker did go out of his way to retrieve an item for me.

In the end, as with any large company, there are some standout employees. Unfortunately, overall they don’t make up for the overall lack of quality and service at the company. The company was once known for better. But I suppose that’s why they’re not doing as well these days.

Update: While talking to a co-worker of mine, I’ve come to learn he too had a recent issue with Home Depot. Apparently, his 60 year old mother, (after spending $20K+ with them), needed to return a toilet. She called; they said fine. She brought the thing back to the nearest store, but they’d only offer her store credit. Alternatively, she could bring it to the store at which she’d purchased the product, which was just a bit further away. She didn’t need store credit as she was done with the work in her home. Quite simply, what should be a benefit of working with a major chain that should have its systems linked up turned out to be just another thing in which they’re lacking.