Lowe's Removes Your Carpet, Disappears For A Month

Rebecca was sick of her old wall-to-wall carpet and hired Lowe’s to remove the old stuff and install some new laminate flooring and some new carpet as well.

Sadly for Rebecca, Lowe’s contractor ripped out her old carpet, realized they hadn’t ordered enough new carpet to cover her floors, then disappeared. Where did they go? Well, they’re just really busy!

I live in Appleton, Wisconsin and a Lowe’s came to town about a year ago.

After 7 years of living with horrible wall to wall carpeting, it was time for a change. Home Depot doesn’t have a great reputation so I thought Lowe’s might be the way to go.

Was I EVER wrong.

Ordering was easy and paying for laminate and carpet AND installation upfront was easy. I paid with 41 $100 bills. Yes, $4100. In cash- upfront BEFORE installation. I thought, well, they must stand behind their services if you have to pay upfront. Satisfaction guaranteed. The nightmare began the minute I was handed my receipt for $4100 in product and services from Lowe’s. The cashier actually apologized because my change came to about 8 cents. From 41 $100 bills. I pay everything in cash. I don’t do credit.

The laminate was simple, or so I thought. Pick it up a few days before installation and we are good to go. I ordered special order carpeting, which was to arrive in two weeks. Two weeks later the carpet was in and I was ready to schedule installation. Upon scheduling installation, I was told all I needed to do was pick up the laminate a few days before installation so it could adjust to the temperature of my house. The contractor would pick up the special order carpet and padding and other items.

It was Friday July 13th. I should have known not to begin my home improvement journey on Friday the 13th. I waited one hour for them to bring my laminate to me and load it in my vehicle. That was Friday. Installation was scheduled for the following Thursday, Friday and Monday. After I had already picked up the laminate the previous Friday, Monday July 16th I received a friendly voice message from Lowe’s instructing me that I was to pick up the laminate at least 48 hours prior to installation. I called back and happily explained that I had picked it up on Friday and was ready to go. They said OK and confirmed my scheduled installation. Tueday I received another friendly message from another Lowe’s employee telling me that I had to pick up my laminate blah blah blah. Same thing as the day before. I again called to tell them I had already picked it up. Wednesday, same deal as Monday and Tuesday only this time they said I had to cancel installation because I hadn’t picked up the laminate.

By now I am wondering if my installation is going to go ahead as scheduled. The contractor seems nice enough and had confirmed with me the installation time frame. Wednesday night the contractor called and said he would be slightly late on Thursday morning. OK, I told him to call before you get here. Thursday comes and my husband and I wait and wait and wait. 4pm the contractor shows up and does nothing. Tells us he will be back tomorrow and if need be, can the installation be completed on Tuesday instead of Monday. OK, seems alright since my husband works at home.

Friday comes and the laminate installation seems to be going smoothly. Monday he continues to work on the laminate. He starts to remove the carpeting from my stairway and loft area where my husband has his office. He unrolls the special order carpet and there is a major flaw, several rows of material are missing. SO we have to order more special order carpet. I see where this is going and start to get extremely upset. It’s going to be another two weeks for carpeting. Many phone calls to Lowe’s and their sub par management do nothing for me. They order new carpet and can’t do anything for me satisfaction wise until the installation is complete. So they have my $4100 in cash for partial materials and partial installation.

Three weeks later the carpet has arrived at Lowe’s, the contractor calls and asks me if it’s OK if another contractor installs the carpet as he is booked out 2 and 1/2 weeks. This is not how things work at Lowe’s. They schedule all installation. So I called Lowe’s immediately and spoke with a nice man named Sonny. He said that Lowe’s installation manager was working diligently to get another contractor scheduled. I told him that Thursday August 23rd is it. The carpet has to be installed that day. My husband and I are not taking any more time off work for this. I also informed him the laminate installation was not completed by the first contractor. The transitions were not complete and he left a bunch of stuff behind, tools and nails and other assorted items. Found a few razor blades in my loft from where he had started to remove the old carpet before we knew there was a flaw in the special order carpet.

Here I sit, waiting for Paul the installation manager to call me and tell me that my carpet will be installed August 23rd and this nightmare will be over. My husband has had to work around ripped up carpeting and exposed tack strip on the stairways since July 23rd. We haven’t been able to have anyone in the house for fear they would injure themselves using the stairs with the exposed tack strip. The first contractor couldn’t remove the carpeting without making some nice scratches in my newly painted walls. So that is another project I will have to work on. Do I get a lawyer involved? What type of compensation do I deserve for wasted days off of work and a disgusting mess of a house for a month? All the unnecessary phone calls to pick up laminate I already had? A manager at Lowe’s even admitted to my husband we could have picked up more laminate and they would have never known. Twice we could have done that, and didn’t .

Help!!

Rebecca

Last we heard from Rebecca (August 21) she hadn’t heard back from Lowe’s about her complaint.

Obviously a lawyer would scare the contractor and (maybe) Lowe’s but lawyers aren’t free. We suggest filing a complaint with the BBB and your state’s attorney general—they just love shady contractors. You’ll also want to escalate your complaint with Lowe’s. You can do that by launching an EECB. Make sure to include the photographs that you sent to Consumerist.

Another resource is your local government. In some states there are government agencies specifically set up to deal with home improvement complaints. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection has a complaint form (PDF) specifically geared towards home improvement complaints. We suggest filing a complaint and asking the department for more information about your options as a citizen of Wisconsin.

Anyone else have advice for Rebecca?

lowesbadinstall2.jpg

Comments

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  1. JKinNYC says:

    You know, credit isn’t that bad, if you just pay it off immediately. Perhaps you should rethink that tactic, Bec.

  2. pegr says:

    Keep the tools?

  3. davebg5 says:

    Yeah, I’ve got some advice for her…get a credit card for big purchases (even if you have the cash on hand) so you can dispute the charges when there’s a problem.

    You’d be suprised at how much more responsive companies are when they have to battle the likes of AMEX instead of little ol’ you.

  4. gibsonic says:

    @davebg5:

    my thoughts exactly. even if you are die hard against credit cards, get an AmEx card as it is a charge card that MUST be paid off every month. AmEx is good to it’s card holders (at least in my experience since 2003) and will definitely go to bat for you on issues like these.

  5. JKinNYC says:

    Hire an intern to picket?

  6. davebg5 says:

    @gibsonic: I actually managed to whoop Ticketmaster’s ass once w/AMEX’s help.

    GO AMEX!!!

  7. TechnoDestructo says:

    “I thought, well, they must stand behind their services if you have to pay upfront. “

    ….what?

  8. kerrington.steele says:

    $4100 is a whole lot of money to hand over upfront for something that doesn’t come with a whole lot of written guarantees of completion and satisfaction. honestly, if I were an unscrupulous subcontractor, I’d take that cash and get the fuck out of town with it. wouldn’t any reasonable consumer, distrustful of bloodsucking and deceitful corporations, assume the same?

    how did Rebecca get 41 $100 bills? did she go to her bank and withdraw them from her account? if so, she could have just written a check — but I guess some people like the feeling of crisp c-notes instead of stupid old checks? or maybe Rebecca doesn’t trust banks and keeps all her money in a biscuit tin under her floorboards. in which case, wouldn’t she have been just as wary of all large corporations and their subcontractors?

  9. warf0x0r says:

    This works with purchases that haven’t been “opened” but most credit cards, if you want to return something you haven’t paid off and the manufacturer wont take it back, or not without a fee, you can tell your credit card to return the money and void out the charge. Then go back to the retailer with a bit of leverage. I was going to do this to a laptop to avoid paying a 15% restocking fee, but the company gave me the 15% when I told them I was going to do that in order for me to keep the laptop that had a dead pixel. I don’t know if this would work in this situation, but you might have had that option with a CC.

  10. Kos says:

    Have to agree… Amex is great at this stuff. Build up a good payment history and they’re great in your corner. They’ve helped me out when my old sports club tried to charge me after I terminated the contract and on several other occasions. Yay Amex

  11. chrispiss says:

    When will people learn that credit cards aren’t evil as long as you just pay them off immediately? Good lord. $4100 in cash?!?! Stupid stupid stupid! Nobody should pay cash up front for a job that hasn’t been started. Man. One call to the CC company and she’d have her money credited and the contractor begging to let them install her carpet.

  12. rjhiggins says:

    Um, nowhere in her post did she ask, “Was I a dumbass for paying cash?” She asked for help in dealing with her problem NOW.

    Of course, it’s a lot more fun to bash the victim, right?

  13. kylere says:

    I really have a hard time developing sympathy in this case, because part of being a good consumer is making rational and reasonable decisions when shopping.

    No single contractor on the planet should be paid in full prior to work completion, and you should not let them push you around like that. They are not special people, they are just like everyone else. Hold them to reasonable expectations and immediately correct them when they fail, just like puppies, doctors, and mechanics.

  14. not_seth_brundle says:

    IAAL. I will write a nasty letter to Lowe’s for only 10 $100 bills. I demand cash payment upfront–that’s how you know I’m reputable.

  15. brendanm14 says:

    another reason why I won’t go with Home Depot and Lowe’s when it comes to getting things installed. I have never heard of any project being completed smoothly be it carpeting, ceiling fan installation, fence. Find a local, dependable contractor!!!!!!

  16. MeOhMy says:

    One more on the “shoulda used a credit card” dogpile.

    Not sure what to say about actually getting satisfaction, in fact I have nightmares about having to hire contractors.

    However:
    If you are worried about getting injured by the exposed tack strips (and you probably should be worried!) REMOVE THEM! Wear gloves and eye protection and just pry them right off.

  17. Buran says:

    My god, is the “blame the victim” crap ever piled thick in here.

    OK. Maybe she SHOULD HAVE used a credit card. She DIDN’T and it’s too late in this particular case.

    Are you going to actually offer help, or just sit there on your high horses and blame the victim — again?

  18. philipbarrett says:

    Lowes took 9 months to correctly install a patio door on my house. The screen door didn’t fit, 3 replacements didn’t fit! Finally they sent a real contractor who discovered the first guy was assembling them wrong! Got a 50% discount on the entire project ($1,400 door & labor) so might have been worth it in hindsight!

  19. juri squared says:

    Wow, guys, way to help out with the problem at hand. Instead of mocking her mistake, which she can’t take back, why not give the poor gal some useful advice?

  20. j-o-h-n says:

    @jurijuri: Let’s spell out the useful advice then, shall we:
    1) Make noise, lots of it, to get Lowe’s attention,
    2) Learn from this mistake and use a CC in the future,
    and I’ll add:
    3) Learn to do this stuff yourself so you are not at the mercy of contractors.

  21. dbeahn says:

    @jurijuri: “Wow, guys, way to help out with the problem at hand. “

    Part of the problem at hand is that in paying in REAL CASH has left her no decent recourse. She can’t call Visa and do a chargeback. She can’t couldn’t call her bank and do a stop payment. No, she gave them cash, so now she’s totally at their mercy. “Oh, that lady wants a call back? Well, I’ll get to it when I get to it, we’ve already been paid, and in cash, so it’s not like she can do anything but wait…”

    The useful advice is “DON’T PAY CASH FOR A MAJOR PROJECT!”.

    Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment. Hopefully she’ll gain some experience from this.

    Incidentally, since you’re so down on everyone for pointing out her mistake, were is your “useful advice” for this woman?

  22. freshyill says:

    Useful advice is don’t be a nutcase with an irrational fear of credit cards. What kind of fool carries around $4100 in cash? Doesn’t she have a debit card like normal people? Any bank will raise your daily spending limit if you ask them. Also, Lowe’s takes checks. Credit card companies are vampires who will suck you dry, but if you’re smart enough to realize that, you’re smart enough to beat them at their own game. She’s got almost no leverage left now.

  23. Yozzie says:

    I guarantee her local TV news station will have a consumer action-type division. Give them a call – media shaming gets results.

  24. not_seth_brundle says:

    All the standard “useful advice” applies. Send this to Consumerist (check), alert the media, correspond with Lowe’s executives and cc: the Better Business Bureau, etc. It doesn’t appear she has any legal recourse, and since she’s paid in full, Lowe’s has little incentive to finish the work on her schedule.

  25. SoCalGNX says:

    If you have not done so already, contact corporate. They are usually very receptive to customers at that level. You can do so thru their website. I have had lesser issues with them and used this with good results.

  26. BrockBrockman says:

    What world are we living on where we are relying on a Credit Card company to fix Lowe’s bad customer service? Seriously, this is the BEST answer the Comment gallery has for this person?

    If that’s the case, then why don’t we just make that the answer to every single customer complaint? Forget Consumerist’s Executive Customer Services phone numbers and emails. Let’s just complain to the credit card company we charged when we got the bad customer service.

    In any case, my anti-consumer posting goes like this:

    I guess you haven’t worked with a contractor before. I think Consumerist should come up with a guide to dealing with contractors.

    Try to always get a referral for contractor work from a friend. I think that going through Lowe’s wasn’t a bad call, because at least you can find Lowe’s storefront and complain to them when your work doesn’t get done – contractors “disappear” with your money without finishing work more often that you’d like.

    Not having your contracting work done on time is a hassle, but it unfortunately happens all the time. People are screwed by contractors on a daily basis.

    Getting a lawyer involved may not help because you’ll end up spending nearly as much money on a lawyer as you have on the contracting work.

    I’m afraid the best I can suggest is a bunch of “Next time, you should …”, but that won’t help too much.

  27. royco says:

    Geez, and I hear I thought getting scammed by Lenovo for $1600 was bad – $4100 is just insane! Hasn’t the Consumerist posted the number to Lowes Executive Customer Service in the past? If not, perhaps you could call up their corporate offices and see if you can’t find it. Be sure to share it with us should you come across it!

  28. Leiterfluid says:

    They’re called contractors for a reason. She should have gotten a contract with specific instructions, such as dates and times of the work to be performed; and penalties when those obligations are not met.

    Never pay cash up front for any kind of service work.

  29. Jiminy Christmas says:

    To follow up on Brockbrockman’s post, a typical payment arrangement for a contractor might go like this: 30% down payment is a reasonable amount when the contract is signed. This allows the contractor to purchase materials for the job. Many contractors will ask for 50% up front. If it’s a quick (i.e.: a couple of days) job 50% is not unreasonable, though I would still ask to pay 30%. On a big job with a long time frame (i.e.: several weeks or months, $15,000+ budget) I would be pretty firm about 30%

    The remainder of the balance can be paid out in a number of ways depending upon the scope of the project. If it’s a big job, a few payments at agreed upon benchmarks is common. If you put 30% down, then maybe another 30% at the halfway point, and another 30% at substantial completion (i.e.: 90-95% done) works. Pay the remaining 10% when the work is totally complete.

    For a smaller, shorter time frame project: 30% down, 55% at substantial completion, 15% at closeout is reasonable.

    The overriding principle of all this is don’t pay 100% until you are 100% ready to wave goodbye to the contractor.

    Another important principle: Use a contractor who is licensed, bonded, and insured. These requirements vary vastly by state so it’s hard to offer relevant advice, but using a licensed contractor is imperative. They should be able to provide you with a license number, which you can use to review their state records. Also, many states have funds set up to reimburse people who have been defrauded by bankrupt or inept contractors…but you’re not eligible if you don’t use a licensed contractor.

  30. chrispiss says:

    @jurijuri: I doubt she is looking to a blog that posts consumer based stories for help.

  31. thatnewgirl says:

    I can relate to this. My parents ordered carpet from Lowe’s–they came in, installed what they had and left under the impression they would come back with more carpet. They never did. It took weeks to sort things out and the whole time Lowe’s representatives were dismissive, rude and unhelpful to my parents because they’re English is broken. I’m so glad Lowe’s is being called out on their bad behavior.

  32. ncboxer says:

    Yes, a typical contract with an installer should spell out how much to pay at different steps, etc., but I think Lowes and Home Depot work different. It is as if you were purchasing a buch of tools and you paid right away, that is how they deal with it. In this case you are purchasing contractor services (plus the cost of materials), with the supposed condition that Lowes is going to pick put a great, dependable contractor and is going to handle all the middleman stuff.

    In Lowes and Home Depot’s defense, no one is perfect- sometimes they can pick someone who supposedly is good and later find out after customer complaints the the person is bad and have to stop doing business with them. That said, Lowes dropped the ball because you are paying them to pick up the slack and they aren’t handling their end.

    For advice- I would stop in and talk face-to-face with Lowes employees, I think she will get better service that way. It would be even better to stop in every few days and tie up their time until they start things moving.

  33. CumaeanSibyl says:

    When you go to Lowe’s for an installation, you have to pay up front. That’s just how they do it. You purchase the materials and an installation package, and they arrange for the contractor to come. Traditional advice for dealing with contractors doesn’t apply in this situation.

    BrockBrockman has a good point: paying Lowe’s upfront is not as stupid as paying a regular contractor upfront, because Lowe’s is not able to disappear into the night the way a regular contractor would. If the guy they hire to do their installation disappears, they’re the ones liable, not you.

    Finally: cash is legal tender. I should get the same level of service whether I pay with cash, a check, a debit card, or a credit card. More importantly, I shouldn’t have to change the way I do things so I won’t get blamed for corporate incompetence. Did everyone here miss the part where Lowes screwed up?

  34. jvette says:

    You have to watch out for Lowe’s. I just went through a huge mess with them. We had their contractors come out and measure for carpet and tile. They added 100sq ft to the carpet order and doubled the tile order. We had received another bid from from another local company and found out they would have over charged us by $1600.

  35. MeOhMy says:

    @CumaeanSibyl:

    I should get the same level of service whether I pay with cash, a check, a debit card, or a credit card.

    Yes, you absolutely should.

    More importantly, I shouldn’t have to change the way I do things so I won’t get blamed for corporate incompetence.

    Yes, you absolutely should.

    There are easy precautions you can take to help give you protection and leverage when corporate incompetence strikes.

    Some of the posters grouse about “blaming the victim.” Well perhaps it’s too late to help Rebecca, but at least they can get the word out to others who might make the same mistake.

  36. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    Her flippant attitude regarding credit has cost her valuable time and energy. That being said, Lowes totally screwed up and deserves whatever wrath it suffers.

    @CumaeanSibyl: unfortunately, cash is far more difficult to validate or dispute, whereas a credit card statement can be easily reversed. so yes, you DO have to change the way you do things if you want to ensure that when the corporation does screw up, you have the upper hand. why give them all the power for the sake of rebellion? if you have the cash, just put it on a card and pay it off before the interest accrues. you may even get some mileage points, such as, for the children.

  37. SirNuke says:

    I have worked at a Lowe’s. There is quite a bit of pressure for the upper store managers to meet various customer service standards, such as time to answer the phone. This may or may not actually lead to better customer service, but it works moderately well in practice.

    Top managers, in their quest for customer service standards, pressure lower managers, and so on until the lowest employees (who hopefully are paid enough to care). Contractors, however, are not Lowe’s employees and are disconnected from this pyramid.

    The end result? On the rare case one of our contractors didn’t suck, it was accidental.

    A front manager might be sympathetic, but they probably won’t hold the power to do much. Your best bet is to go to up the chain. Go to the front desk and ask to speak with either the store manager or the manager on duty (the store manager being better). Tell them your story and ask for their help in getting this resolved. Make sure to explain your problems with the installation manager and don’t let them push you back into the installation manager.

    You should be able to get a couple of things: 1. their manager’s name and phone (should be either the store manager or the regional manager depending on who you are talking to), 2. a big discount, 3. their working hours, and 4. a promise to get the work done immediately. If nothing happens quickly, continue to contact the manager. Also note that big managers tend to work Saturdays plus most weekdays, so you should be able to work something out without taking more work time off.

    You could also skip the store and go to the regional manager. Another long shot is to get Lowe’s to refund your price and get another contractor. If everything continues to go South, you might want to consider getting the evidence and going to a small claims court (which doesn’t require an expensive lawyer).

    Sorry that there probably isn’t a really quick and painless way to get this resolved.

    For future reference: As mentioned before, don’t pay 100% up front and use a credit card.

  38. bluetribe says:

    I had a similar experience with Home Depot. Paid with my debit card. When the cashier charged my card twice for the same granite counter tops and the management team denied their company had done anything wrong I disputed the charge with my bank and had the money back in three days. Took me a month to get Home Depot to admit they made a “small” error. Never got an apology. Never shop shop at Home Depot anymore either.

    And after seeing this story I won’t be making any major purchases from Lowes.

  39. dbeahn says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: “Finally: cash is legal tender. I should get the same level of service whether I pay with cash, a check, a debit card, or a credit card. More importantly, I shouldn’t have to change the way I do things so I won’t get blamed for corporate incompetence. Did everyone here miss the part where Lowes screwed up?”

    Yeah, Lowe’s screwed up. And the customer REALLY screwed up by selecting a method of payment that leaves them with ZERO recourse that doesn’t depend on either the people that already have the cash or a lawyer. I mean, why pay with a method that leaves you with options and other avenues of recourse? It’s not like anything could possibly go wrong, right?


    Well, if you want to keep doing things “cash” even after this lesson, because like you said, then I suppose stupid is as stupid does…

  40. IKEA

  41. RokMartian says:

    I’m sure everyone is aware that these installers are not directly employed by Lowes. That doesn’t leave Lowes off the hook, though. I would be calling Lowes everyday asking for status and updates and make sure it is known you are unhappy with the contractor. It looks like from her message she has contacted Lowes once about getting a new installer. I’m not defending Lowes or “blaming” the victim here, but I don’t see where Lowes had the screws put to them.

  42. Nytmare says:

    Lowe’s pays the contractors they hire in full up front?

  43. E-Bell says:

    3 words: SMALL CLAIMS COURT.

    You don’t need a lawyer. You just need a nominal sum for a filing fee and service, which you will get back if you win.

    Get 3 estimates on how much it would take to finish the job from reputable contractors and bring them to court with you.

  44. drdom says:

    Contact the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and file a Home Improvement Contractor complaint form. You can download the complaint for and file via the internet by going to [www.datcp.state.wi.us]

    They will follow up on your complaint and have done a great job helping many people get these types of complaints resolved. Their locations and phone numbers are also on the bottom of the last page if you want to call them or fax your complaint form in.

  45. quinton says:

    NYTMARE

    Lowes does not pay is contractors upfront.

    They pay after the job is finished and they bring back the customers signature (hopefully REAL!) that the job was done do the customers satisfaction.

    And then the contractors have to have the installation manager enter in the computer systems the contractors invoice.

    After that they wait 2-3 days and get paid.

    If things go well its not bad for the contractor.

    FOLLOW sirnukes advice!! GOTO THE STORE MANAGER, NOT ANYONE ELSE!!

  46. quinton says:

    Follow SIRNUKES advice.

    GOTO THE STORE MANAGER, No one else!! The Store manager has all the power at the store.

    LOWE’S OF BUCHANAN, WI (Store #2486)

    Store Manager’s name is Kieffer,James H. (920)636-2782

    If that doesn’t work goto Installed Sales Regional Manager.

    Michael Misner 630-445-6056 Cell 630-995-6926 #1322 Naperville Mike.R.Misner@Lowes.com

    LOWE’S REGION XXII OFFICE (1322)
    1560 WALL STREET, SUITE 207
    NAPERVILLE, IL 60563
    USA
    Phone: (630)445-6054 Fax: (630)445-6080

    Nytmare

    Lowes does not pay its contractors until the customer signs on the dotted line. (at least I hope that is their signature!!)

    They also wait until their installation manager inputs thier invoice into the computer.

    Then they wait for 2-5 days for payment.

  47. MauriceReeves says:

    Yes, call your local media and take a LOT of pictures. Also, post the contractor’s name to Angie’s List as well as Lowes. They tend to take those things seriously. But have your local consumer protection reporter from your local media over to do a story and the manager of Lowes will be over personally to give you to install the laminate himself and give you a footrub.

  48. sam11 says:

    Please dial 1 800 44 Lowes. this team will correct any issues you have with lowe’s.