Home Depot Shareholders Ask For Better Customer Service

Home Depot’s shareholder’s meeting was filled with investors requesting that the big orange home improvement giant improve its notoriously crappy customer service. Suggestions included improving employee pay to lure back quality workers who defected to Lowe’s, and hiring more “aprons.”

From Reuters:

At the company’s annual meeting in Atlanta, investors complained that efforts to improve the shopping environment have not fully trickled down to all stores. Finding goods on the shelf and helpful workers who make eye contact with customers is difficult, they said.

“I want you to know how badly we need more aprons on the floor,” said Gary Patton, a 16-year Home Depot employee from South Carolina. “I just long for the days back in the beginning when we were the destination store. Now we’re just one of the other stores.”

Shareholder Ken Kaplan said he hoped a move to boost the bottom line would not keep the retailer from spending money to attract knowledgeable workers.

“Pay what it takes to get the ones who defected, the good ones, back from (rival) Lowe’s.

In the past year, Home Depot’s stock has fallen about 30%.

Improve Service Home Depot Shareholders Say [Reuters]
(Photo: cmorran123 )

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  1. Coder4Life says:

    The CEO last year didn’t get paid enough $220 Million or so… I think he deserves a raise, for all that you are asking him to do….

  2. axiomatic says:

    I could care less about the help. Just stock anything (pick whatever item you like) for more than one week at a time.

    My most recent complaint is “wood trim”. Finding more than two strips/boards with the same grain/stain is impossible even in the same day.

    Lowes is much further from my house but they seem to buy enough stock that similar things are not too hard to find.

    Oh and no Home Depot CEO will ever deserve a $220 Million anything…..

  3. satoru says:

    Lowes tends to have better merchandise on average than Home Depot, but the quality of staff seems to be more or less equal. I think the main source of complaints for Home Depot is probably their contractor division. Since all that is sub-contracted out it might be hard to really control customer perceptions there.

  4. dregina says:

    Lowes would have to just absolutely self-destruct before I’d go back to Home Depot. I have had so many fantastic customer service experiences at Lowes, I actually enjoy spending my money there. Once one of their staff gave me – for free – a glass lampshade from their lighting display so I wouldn’t have to buy an entire new track lighting set just to replace one shade. Lowes is one of the very, very few big box stores I feel loyalty towards. They know what they’re doing.

  5. m1k3g says:

    Home Depot’s approach to refunds has always puzzled me. They seem to be trying to make up for the morons that they hire to work the on the floor by allowing returns/refunds when you get something that doesn’t work or isn’t what you need (although it sometimes takes getting the store manager on the phone). We have purchased several large items from HD & had them installed, then found that the item didin’t work as expected. HD has sent some to uninstall and a truck to pick up the items, PLUS given us a full refund in most cases. That’s pretty good service. It doesn’t, however, make up for the fact that 50% of the time they don’t have what you need in stock (mosquito dunks are a necessity where we live) and the floor people never know when they will get things (“Just call us next week” – yea right!).

  6. audreyhorne says:

    “”I want you to know how badly we need more aprons on the floor,” said Gary Patton”. referring to your fellow employees as “aprons” may be the start of all these problems…

  7. MrGrimes says:

    I just bought a house, so I have made at least 7 or 8 trips to The Home Depot in the last few weeks. Its a convenient location on my commute route. My only gripe would be that it is either hard to track a floor person down, or I feel bad bothering them because they are either on their way somewhere or busy. And sometimes, an entire department won’t even have a sales associate there (last night in paints). How does the paint dept of a Home Depot not have an associate on duty?? haha….on that note…

    once I have been able to track an associate down, the service has been great. I have always had my questions answered and the staff has been knowledgeable. Carpet in particular went as smooth as I could have asked and they even worked around my schedule and showed up early as promised. If it wasnt so hard to track down help on the floor, I’d give my Depot an A.

  8. trk182 says:

    I’d be happy if they’d just hire people who speak English as a first language. In Houston if I go to Home Depot I have to ask about 3 or 4 people who work there before I can find someone who knows what I’m talking about, and usually I just get blank stares. I thought the Illegals where supposed to be on the outside of Home Depot.

  9. MrGrimes says:

    Home Depot’s approach to refunds has always puzzled me. They seem to be trying to make up for the morons that they hire to work the on the floor by allowing returns/refunds when you get something that doesn’t work or isn’t what you need

    Same here. I called a location up to confirm 400sq feet of flooring, they said it was in…i went, picked it up and realized 7 cases were wrong floor (they looked ridiculously close to each other). Went back, got a store credit for exactly 7 cases and picked it up at home depot a few towns over. What i thought would be a returns nightmare went pretty smooth.

  10. John Whorfin says:

    I will always pick Lowes over Home Depot. It just seems that the shevles at HD are cramped. Too much inventory for small amount of square feet.

    I’ve actually learned from going to my Lowes so much who to ask and who not to. It’s to the point where I only deal with a particular person. I always get help.

    HD is another story. But this may vary from store to store. But pay is a great motivator.

  11. buckfutt says:

    They’re right. Comparing Home Depot to Lowe’s (and I live in metro Atlanta, where you’d think they’d have their act together) is night and day. Lowe’s is immeasurably better these days. HD’s employees have a bad case of don’t-give-a-shit.

  12. el_smurfo says:

    The downside to that “amazing” return policy is that most of that junk goes right back on the shelves. I routinely open packages to find used items, including lightswitches which were obviously pulled from a wall which was textured and painted…open your packages before you leave…

  13. meeroom says:

    I love my Home Depot near me (Lakewood NJ). I have been to both HD and Lowes and the Lowes is awful. Rude staff, ruder cashiers, everything is difficult to find. Home Depot on the other hand, has nice helpful people.

  14. skc15 says:

    I completely agree. Home Depot seems to be staffed by misanthropes.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back for me (and sent me to Lowe’s) was when I pushed the big orange “I need help here” button, and an apron came over and yelled at me for pushing the button, turned off the alert, and then walked away without helping me.

    This is not saying that Lowe’s is perfect, its just that their success rate is much, much higher.

  15. camman68 says:

    I was at Home Depot in Pueblo, CO last week. While I was at the service desk the CSR answered a call from someone wanting an estimate for chain link fence installation. The CSR told them they didn’t offer installation. When she hung up, I asked her about the sign hanging behind her that said “Ask us about Chain Link Fence Installation”. She said no one ever told her that they had installers so she wasn’t worried about it.

  16. drkkgt says:

    @buckfutt: HD’s employees have a bad case of don’t-give-a-shit.

    Can you blame them? my wife used to work for them and they pulled things like syaing she wasn’t eligible for her 10 year bonus cause she didnt have her original employee handbook she got her first day, or the fact that the store was only allowed to give max 25 cent raises (which translated to maybe 10 – 15 cents max for the best employees) even when changing positions or responsibilities while the former CEO got millions in his little parachute.

  17. Kounji says:

    Home Depot needs to start hiring positive managers and screen people who have an actual committment to customer service. All it takes are a few people in each store who don’t give a damn about you and it starts to paint an image. All it takes is for a specialist in the plumbing department and flooring department to double blink or give you a blank stare to change.

  18. Norcross says:

    It’s got to be a store-to-store issue. Near me, there is a Lowes and Home Depot right across the street from each other. My wife and I have had nothing but awesome service each time (which has been many, since we have an old house), while the people at Lowes were…well…douchebags.

  19. pixiegirl1 says:

    New aprons! Oh they got my business!!!! *shakes head*

  20. Lambasted says:

    In my area I think the problem is Home Depot is trying to saturate the market to drive out Lowes but HD doesn’t have the finances and support to adequately sustain all the stores they have built. It is absurd to have THREE HDs within a 5 mile radius from me. I throw a rock and hit a HD. They are everywhere.

    HDs ends up competing against each other with one taking business away from the other, thereby reducing profit on a per store basis. Instead of 1,000/day shopping at one or two HDs, 1,000/day are spread out over three stores. An unwise business model if you ask me. Home Depots are not grocery stores that are full of people during the week except for contractors. Don’t need one on every corner when heavy traffic is generally limited to the weekends and during warmer months when people are more apt to tackle home improvements projects.

  21. txinfo says:

    I have good and bad experiences at both Home Depot and Lowes. One reason I prefer Home Depot is because how they treated one of my coworkers a couple of months ago. She had had a minor surgery a few days earlier and was on a lot of medication. She had went to Home Depot to pick up some stuff for her home.

    At some point while she was in the store, she passed out because of all the meds she was on and hit her head against one of their shelves. The Home Depot management called the ambulance and even voluntarily paid the hospital bill for her.

  22. Serpephone says:

    I recently visited Home Depot to purchase a couple of boxes of Travertine for a weekend pantry/utility room project. This particular Home Depot was in a very nice, upscale neighborhood in North Dallas. I needed a little assistance with grout options. I had to stand around and wait for about five minutes for an associate to stop gossiping with another co-worker! I was so embarrassed for them.

  23. khiltd says:

    I prefer Lowe’s simply because their stores are well-lit and they don’t put the drill bits up so high you have to track down one of the doddering doofus “aprons” to help you in the first place. If you want useful advice, go to a real hardware store (provided the chains haven’t run them all out of business in your town of course).

  24. erikyoda says:

    Last summer I had to replace my bathroom sink. I found one at Home Depot on 23rd St. in the city. After waiting a week for delivery I noticed that the vanity was broken and the basin was the wrong size. The vanity was also made of cheap particle board. I called them up and had it replaced two more times with a one week wait for each replacement. After the third time I just had them take it back for a full refund. I then went to a local plumbing supply store on McDonald Ave. in Brooklyn, got a nicer sink and vanity of higher quality for about the same price, had it two days later, and had no problems at all.

  25. JiminyChristmas says:

    My biggest complaint about Home Depot: wayfinding and signage. I don’t go there anymore and one of the main reasons is that it’s f*in’ impossible to find things. Scrawling the vague contents of the aisles on an orange piece of posterboard just doesn’t cut it in a 100,000sf store.
    For basic building materials, I often go to Menard’s, a regional chain in the Midwest. For anything the least bit out of the ordinary I go to an actual lumberyard or specialty (e.g.: lighting) shop.

  26. Stock Holders willing to spend $? Wonderful. All the consumer complaints in the world are meaningless if the Stock Holders are unwilling to fund the efforts.

    Stock Holders have spoken. Long live the Stock Holders.

  27. LordofthePing says:

    Not long ago I had my own bad experience at Home depot. I had arranged to have $1000 of materials set aside and was told I could pick it up the following day at 5:00 pm, I get there at 8:00 pm and rent their van. I go to pickup my stuff but nothing has been set aside. I spent the next hour finding the stuff myself and then waiting a half hour while trying to get an associate to get a forklift to get my tile off the top rack. By this time its 9:30 and the store closes at 10:00 pm, I go to get the key for the rental van and the guy tells me if I’m not back at 10:00 he’ll call the cops. My brother and I loaded the van, rushed home, unloaded it, got $2 gas (we lived closeby) and rushed back. We werent pleased.

  28. lefty_redhead says:

    @drkkgt: @drkkgt: Exactly. My dad works there, and no matter if you get a promotion or not, 25 cent raise is the max. Not much incentive for doing a kick-ass job. You’re more valuable if you quit and reapply.

    Plus, you have to be available at any time the store is open or they won’t hire you. You can work until 10 at night and have to open the next day at 6, and not get your schedule until the day before the new week. I know that’s pretty common with retail, and it shows in the attitude of the employees. Is it really that hard to comprehend that if you pay people like crap they don’t want to devote their entire lives to a company?

    Last year I bought two faucets from HD special order with a 20% off friends and family coupon (thank you, dad), dropping the price to $110 each. After they notified me the shipment arrived, I was in the store almost an hour to pick them up, and had already paid for them. No one knew where deliveries were…delivered. Two months later, I bought 2 more of the same faucet off the shelf at Lowe’s for $75 each.

  29. @drkkgt: Yes, I can blame them. Do the job you’re paid to do, or quit.

  30. edouble says:

    Neither of the Pro-Lowes posters must be visiting any Lowes in the Baltimore area. Everytime I go to Lowes, I decide that it will be my last. At any given time, there are no more than 2 people working the 8+ registers. And the manager does not seem to care that there are 30+ people waiting in line. There have been many times where I just drop my items and leave.

    Screw Lowes!

  31. barty says:

    @khiltd: That’s my major gripe with both HD and Lowe’s. They’ve bullied most of the REAL hardware stores out of business, you know, the ones where they actually stock a decent variety of fasteners and other things you need to actually fix things around the house and not just rig them back together. Of course it doesn’t help when my local hardware store decided to run itself like it is still the 1950s and closed the doors at 5:45 during the week on a regular basis.

    IMHO, a well run and well stocked hardware store that doesn’t try to duplicate everything a big box store carries (plants, lawn equipment, etc) will never go out of business. There are still enough people around that need such a place and realize that HD and Lowe’s ain’t the place to buy hardware.

  32. Hvnsent309 says:

    Ok, as a Home Depot employee I feel the need to respond here. The lack of “aprons” on the floor is an ongoing frustration for us… I can’t count the number of nights that I have gotten stuck covering 4 different departments. And for the above poster who thinks it is crazy that we don’t know when our stock is coming in, it isn’t because we are stupid. I work a report that has all our open orders on it. If an order is overdue, I call and find out why. Sometimes it is because an item goes backorder, or the vendor is having issues dealing with heavy volumes of orders for a product. Some of our vendors support other stores as well, not just Home Depot – so the issue may not be limited to our company. Retail is never a perfect system, and you will find that there are issues in EVERY retail chain. That being said, not every Home Depot store is created equal. Some of us pride ourselves on being 99% in stock ( I don’t think it is ever possible in retail to be 100%) and offering the best customer service possible. Our CEO has vowed that we will be getting back to the roots of what this company was in it’s early years – and I have to trust that we will get there. I know it won’t happen overnight.

  33. Hvnsent309 says:

    @ lefty_redhead: I don’t know what store your dad works at, but $0.25 is NOT the max raise. Your raise depends on the rating that you were given and where you fall on the pay scale already. My last raise I was rated highly and recieved a $0.57 raise. maybe to you that isn’t a big deal, but between annual reviews and a couple of promotions in the last year I have recieved raises that have put me from $10/hr to $15/hr….