Home Depot does the right thing all by itself

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I couldn’t see my way. The darkness was closing in, as was the heat. The situation was getting dire, and I knew I had to do something.

That’s when my wife told me it was time to get new lights for the garage.

A typical male, I tried to get the old fluorescent lights in our garage to go as long as they could, even as they were dimming more and more. But now it was time to take care of the situation.

And to my pleasant surprise, Home Depot did right all on its own.

I headed to my local Home Depot to pick up some Philips fluorescent light bulbs. The 10-pack was $19.99, right at $2 per bulb. A two-pack was $6.99, almost $3.50 each. With four bulbs in my garage and two in the utility room, the 10-pack made the most sense.

Except there were no 10-packs. The website showed they had them in stock, but I couldn’t find any. A Home Depot employee was in the midst of helping another customer, and he helped me look briefly. He couldn’t find any either, despite his computer showing there were supposed to be 76 in stock.

After much waiting and looking and more waiting, the 10-pack was nowhere to be found. So, the Home Depot associate said, “Here’s what we are going to do: Since you’ve been so patient, I’m going to give you five two-packs for the same price as the 10-pack.”

Five two-packs would have cost $34.95 versus the 10-pack at $19.99. This was a very generous and gracious response by the Home Depot employee. Not only did he say he would do this, he took care of it. He walked me to customer service and stood there with me for about five minutes as they took care of the transaction. I walked out with 10 bulbs for $19.99. Exactly why I went to Home Depot.

But how many of us walk away without getting what we want? Our forums are full of customers struggling to get a resolution to their advocacy problems. Most are much greater than my savings of $15. Regardless, a fair settlement is what most of us desire.

Short of a company doing right without being asked, how can you troubleshoot customer service complications?

Be courteous while asking.
One of the quickest ways to take care of an issue is to be nice. Develop a good rapport with the service representative by asking questions about them; speak in a calm, measured tone; tell them exactly what you want for a resolution. Don’t demand, don’t yell, and be courteous.

Talk to someone who can take care of the problem.
There are times the first line of defense for a company won’t be able to take care of your problem because that person may not have the authority to solve the problem. Asking politely to move up the company ladder may be necessary.

Be realistic
Be clear about what you want. We hear lots of stories at Elliott.org of vacations gone wrong. If this is the case, don’t expect a full refund. Think carefully about what is realistic for the company to do for you. Then be clear in asking for it.

Get it in writing.
A phone call may work. If it does, great. Ask for the resolution in writing so that you have proof. But if you’re two or three phone calls in and not getting anywhere, it’s time to begin communicating in writing. You can always check out our growing list of company contacts to determine who you should write.

Escalate the problem, but not too quickly.
Our advocates regularly advise people to follow this path:

  • Send an email to customer service.
  • Wait a week.
  • If no response, write the first executive.
  • Wait a week.
  • If no response, write the second executive.
  • Continue up the ladder.

One mistake that frustrated customers often make is to go nuclear when a little patience might pay off.

Take to social media.
If a company doesn’t respond, social media is a great tool. The folks in their social media department usually won’t know anything about your problem until you bring it to them, so don’t shame or blast the company through social media. I will admit there are times I have wanted to unleash my full frustration of dealing with an issue for days or weeks, but be calm. Aware companies are doing more and more to solve issues on social media; there is much greater exposure if they don’t.

Know when to give up
Alas, there is going to be a time when you don’t get what you want, and there is not another avenue to pursue. Chris has a number of Case Dismissed stories when he couldn’t get the desired resolution. When you’ve hit the ceiling and nothing is going to be done, it’s time to give up.

My Home Depot experience should be the norm. Customers should be treated right without having to ask, fight, resolve. But most times we are not. So be ready to advocate for yourself. Be courteous, be persistent, be relentless, be wise.

You can do it. [But if you need us,] We can help.

This story originally appeared Aug. 16, 2015.

Kent Lawrence

Kent Lawrence is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He is a husband, father to two, executive pastor, travel enthusiast and sometime writer. You can contact him at kent@kentlawrence.com.

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  • sirwired

    I wonder how one misplaces 760 fluorescent tubes? That’s several pallets worth!

  • Flyonpa

    They are probably on a pallet somewhere high up, When they were put up, they did not scan location tag on the rack, So Corporate inventory says they are there, But Store Can’t find them, At some Point they will inventory the high spots and find them.

  • S363

    I had something similar happen at Home Depot. It turned out that 60 lb bags of concrete mix were cheaper per pound than 80 lb ones. But they didn’t have any 60 lb bags, so they gave me 80 lb bags for the same price. A guy on the floor did it, wrote something on a piece of paper for me to show the cashier, and said to have them contact “Tim” (made-up name as I don’t remember it) if there were any questions. There weren’t.

  • S363

    My experience at Home Depot and other place is that what’s on the computer is not always in accord with reality. Garbage In, Garbage Out, as they say.

  • S363

    Pro Tip: If you click through from several airline mileage program websites’ shopping area, you can get 2 miles per dollar spent ordering online at Home Depot. Even if you pick up your order at the store a few hours later. I know Mr. Elliott thinks they’re worthless, but my wife and I are taking a nice dive vacation to Bonaire in the spring with flights paid by United miles.

  • Molly

    I have had two similar experiences with the Home Depot near me.

    #1: Went in to buy new toilet seats for my 2 baths. When I asked the assistant for the one I wanted, found out they were out of stock. He pointed out different one that looked virtually identical, but was 50% more ($30 instead of $20). I wasn’t thrilled, but then he said he would give them to me for the price of the ones I wanted.
    #2: Went in to buy a gift for a close friend. Can’t remember exactly what, but it was some sort of power tool (around $80). My friend had carefully researched to get the best possible for what I could afford. None in stock. Again, the assistant offered me a more expensive one at the lower price (I think it was near $120). My friend was thrilled as it was substantially better quality.
    I switched to Lowes years ago, back when HD had an abysmal rep for customer service. Now I feel the two companies have traded places in that regard. It’s HD for me!

  • Noah Kimmel

    shopping portals are awesome for extra miles, but if you aren’t a mileage guy, than ebates.com is great. I have been using them for a few years and have yet to find any spam or increased mailings. Shop through them then get a check for 2-5% every few months. It’s not much, but the few dollars for basically no extra work adds up

  • LonnieC

    I think I have one that tops anything. A number of years ago my wife and I bought 17 cartons of ceramic floor tile, for several hundred dollars. (There were enough to require two trips home because of the weight.) After bringing them home, taking them all out of the boxes and mixing them well before laying them, we decided that they appeared to us to be darker than the sample we’d seen. We put them all back in the cartons ( some cartons a little worse for wear), and took them back to HD. They took them back without question and gave us a full refund. Obviously, we bought tiles that we preferred from HD.