Lowes Blows

Dear Consumerist:

So here’s the scoop, I went to my friendly neighborhood Lowes Home Improvement store last night in search of 2 gallons of paint. A seemingly innocuous task that resulted in a situation I’ve never quite experienced before. How does 2 gallons of paint start all this trouble? I’m sure I don’t know, but the letter I’ve written to Lowes via their website is something I wanted to pass along to Consumerist.

Let’s Build Something Together… indeed. Just as long as it’s not an inconvenience for one of us.

We’re sure the sanctimonious anoraks among you will quickly seize Randy’s letter in your sweaty maws and rip it apart, saying he shouldn’t get so upset over the haughty attitude of one Lowe’s employee over two buckets up paint. No doubt, that Ryan picked up the wrong base paint and so deserves mockery will figure prominently in your screeds. Before you do that, read the entire letter, imagine walking into a store you’ve given good money, and then being insulted by one of its employees in front of your family for no good reason.

If after that, you feel not a twinge of empathy, by all means, break out your greasy rapiers and rusty hacksaws.

The fact remains, Ryan was dissed, he’s pissed, and he’s not shopping at Lowes aynmore. His missive, after the jump…

Randy’s letter to Lowe’s is as follows

“I am writing this tonight because I have put up with my last inconsiderate, unhelpful employee that your store has seen fit to offer me since moving into the area only 4 years ago. It’s been a love/hate relationship where for a few moments I can get expert customer service and just when things are looking up I am greeted (or, completely ignored) by someone who would be better off flipping burgers than attempting to answer a home improvement question. Without going into particulars of the past because the past is no longer relevant I will explain the incident that put things over the edge.

Tonight my family ventured into Lowes in search of 2 gallons of Exterior Paint. We walked in the paint aisle and identified the paint base we wanted. Sitting in a wire holder right in front of that paint was a color guide for exterior paint. We identified the color we needed for this very simple project and brought both the paint and the color guide to the paint desk. In year’s past I have done this and the paint employee takes the paint, adds the dye, shakes it, checks it, and I’m on my way.

Tonight I watched what appeared to be the only employee in the area hold a completely non-work relevant conversation with another person for 5 minutes while ignoring us. After 5 minutes a new employee happened upon the desk and asked if we were being helped. We answered that we were not and just needed these 2 gallons of paint in this color. This seemed to be a very simple task. Apparently I do not know enough about paint.

Mr. Employee (sorry I didn’t get his name) let us know that we did not have to get the base paint, simply tell them the color and they would go get it for us. On the surface that appeared to be a very nice offer, until he immediately tacked on that we should take back the base that we had chosen and then come back to the desk. Without pausing for any response the then changed his mind and said he would take it back and get the right base while at the same time telling us and I quote “although it’s a major inconvenience, I will go back and get the right base.” Yes. Those words will be etched in my mind until the day I die.

Your employee, through an act of the most sheer stupidity and ignorance I have ever experienced, managed to cost you a customer for life. Over the past year Lowes hung on by a thread and earned my purchase of a vinyl shed along with accompanying wood to construct the base. No small project. In the near future I have planned a complete flooring upgrade as well as paint and some tile work on the walls. Over 2 gallons of paint, your employee has cost you those sales.

It’s very unfortunate that I was an inconvenience by going into the aisle and picking out the base I needed then grabbed the color chart that was so intelligently placed by the base that I was buying and brought it up to the counter so the employee would not have to go 35 feet to get it. Of course, I’m still confused about the wrong base as I was unaware that a color could not be put into any base.

I believe in the value of customer service over all else. I praise it when it’s needed (as I did when a very exceptional employee saved you a sale on a vinyl shed) and I certainly let everyone know when it’s bad. I’m sure everyone I converse with, both in person and on the Internet, will be happy to hear just exactly how inconvenienced Lowes was over two gallons of paint.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. I feel your pain Randy. Although I have yet to have even a single pleasant shopping experience from any home improvement store, Lowes, Menards, or Home Despot. It always seems that if you can even find an employee who isn’t helping someone else, they are completely dumbfounded by your question or else try to recommend an inferior or more expensive product…sometimes the wrong product entirely.

    Alternatively, I’d like to give a shout out to the Konan chain in Japan as an excellent place for home improvement shopping and extremely helpful service…if you are ever in Japan…

  2. non-meat-stick says:

    It sounds as if you had something else on your mind and this flipped it over. If you were so upset, stand up for yourself at the store. Don’t go home and write a letter to Lowes, like they care, they have NASCAR. nothing will stop them. Probably should have got the name of the employee…

  3. Das Ubergeek says:

    Definitely with non-meat-stick on this one. I’d probably have said something like, “I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you. Why don’t you call the manager over and I’ll inconvenience her instead.” And always get their name. If they won’t give it to you or won’t fetch the manager, start kickin’ up a ruckus, ’cause nothing kills sales in a store like a loud, angry customer.

  4. Ben says:

    That employee was a dick. C’mon, you’re working the paint counter, you have to walk and get various paints a billion times a shift. Suck it up, don’t take it out on the customer.

    That said – are hacksaws still on isle 12? Mine’s all rusty.

  5. Brian D says:

    I *always* pick the wrong base when I get paint at Home Depot. But the employees there seem to realize that it’s confusing and just go and grab the correct one for me, no hassles. Sorry Lowes isn’t the same.

  6. limiter says:

    While that employee was an asshole, I don’t know that it constitutes never shopping at Lowes again. If an employee being an asshole to me was reason for never shopping at a store again I would have a very limited number of stores to shop at. On the other hand it is also possible I would have considered running down said employee with Lowes very own rent-a-pickup truck once employee got off work.

  7. LTS! says:

    Well, in my defense of not sticking around. My two year old son was getting a little annoyed at having to sit in one area for a long time. So I was distracted by that.

    There’s more, I suppose I’ll add it here. I received the following response from Lowes.


    All information in and attached to the e-mail(s) below may be proprietary, confidential, privileged and otherwise protected from improper or erroneous disclosure. If you are not the sender’s intended recipient, you are not authorized to intercept, read, print, retain, copy, forward, or disseminate this message. If you have erroneously received this communication, please notify the sender immediately by phone (704-758-1000) or by e-mail and destroy all copies of this message (electronic, paper, or otherwise). Thank you.

    Replied On 5/2/2006 12:25:33 PM—————————————-

    Dear Mr. XXXXX,

    Thank you for visiting http://www.lowes.com and submitting your comments. Lowe’s was founded on Customer Service and we make every effort to satisfy our customers.

    Please accept my apologies for the poor service you have experienced in our Henrietta, NY location. Certainly this is not the level of service that Lowe’s would be proud of presenting to you.

    I have forwarded your concerns to the management team responsible for immediate attention and response. You will receive follow-up within 24 hours.

    Again, thank you for visiting http://www.lowes.com and making us aware of this situation.

    Lowe’s Customer Care
    A very nice response. Of course that was May 2. It is now May 5 and I have not heard anything from “management”. It appears that customer service attitude is mandated at the corporate level.

    I’ve even responded to that message with multiple means of contacting me and have heard nothing. I felt bad originally sending this in without allowing Lowes to respond. Who knew they wouldn’t?

    PS. We had a good Home Improvement store in the area, too bad they were forced out by Lowes.

  8. Smoking Pope says:

    Coupla thoughts…

    1) Is it possible the guy was joking and didn’t phrase it well?

    2) If not, yeah, the guy is a dick. You should’ve rung him up on the spot, or at least gotten his name.

    3) Although it can sometimes be difficult to find someone who isn’t busy with customers, I’ve had nothing but good experiences at Home Depot.

    4) You want hyper-friendly service, try ACE Hardware, although it doesn’t do you a lot of good considering they have 1/10 the inventory of Home Depot/Lowes/Menards.

  9. Ben Popken says:

    Brian writes:

    “Let’s assume for a moment that this clerk really did say what LTS claims he heard him say, … No, wait. Let’s first examine this for a moment. What are the odds that a clerk at a large-chain store with absolutely no provocation first comes up to a customer and helpfully asks if the customer was being helped, then when he identifies the fact that the customer had the wrong paint offers to take the paint back and then “without waiting for a response” actually uddered these sarcastic words? No way this happened like this: A clerk doesn’t make an offer to do something nice and then go Jekyll and Hyde and immedately jeopardize his job with a sarcastic comment. Let’s get back to reality. There is at the very least a 99% chance that either 1) the clerk said something and LTS misheard him; or 2) (and this is the most likely) LTS was snotty, rude, and/or sarcastic to the clerk first.

    This is the scenario as I believe it happens: This guy admits already having a hard-on against Lowe’s — rightly or wrongly — he went in with an attitude. Then, he was pissed that a clerk ignored him. Then, his 2-year old starts getting antsy, which further angers him. Then Clerk #2 happens to tell him that he has picked the wrong paint. LTS than projects his anger/frustration at Lowe’s, Clerk #1, his 2-year old, and the paint industry because he now sees a further delay. When told about the wrong paint, LTS copped an attitude, said something nasty to the clerk, and/or made a rude face.

    Okay, now let’s assume this all went down like LTS claims. This guy felt dissed by a low-level clerk. Holy testosterone, Batman. My manhood has been challenged. Gee, big boo-frickin’-hoo. What is up with people? This is the same as the Time-Warner guy this week. Look, just suck it up. It’s really not that big of thing. And what’s with LTS anyway? He gets dissed by the clerk and its the final straw. So he 1) doesn’t get the clerk’s name and 2) he still buys the frickin’ paint. What a loser. That is, a loser and a liar.


  10. konstantConsumer says:

    i have to say that i always get shitty service at places like this. i think they see some fey skinny guy and assume that i have no idea what a hammer is. it really pisses me off. lots of places have an attitude like everyone should be a god of home improvement, and if you aren’t, then you are functionally retarded. sorry i don’t know how to build my own house. all i need is paint, rollers, and some drop clothes. get off my back.

  11. limiter says:

    Brian sounds like an asshole, maybe he works in the paint department.

  12. Jesse says:

    Funny, I did the same thing at the Home Depot in DC just last week. My wife and I grabbed a bunch of paint and took it to the counter, and the person told us we had chosen the wrong paint. But she was very pleasant about it, and returned the paint herself and got the right stuff.

  13. Witty Username says:

    “sanctimonious anoraks”? isn’t an anorak a jacket? Seriously, your writing is hilarious. I hope you’re really some kind of deaf mute in person, though because that would complete my mental picture.

  14. Das Ubergeek says:


    Your post is only excusable if it gave you a hard-on to write it.

    That is all.

  15. Ben Popken says:

    Anoraks are hooded jackets.

  16. clever epithet says:

    Forget the meaning of anoraks, I’m more concerned about the use of the word sanctimonious to describe those who think the customer can get it wrong sometimes. (That is who you were referring to, right Ben?) Hypocritical? Pious? Mmmm, not quite. This blog is sounding awfully defensive lately. Verrrryyyy interesting.

  17. AcidReign says:

    …..It can be tough to get waited on at Lowe’s. We wanted new kitchen counters (a big sale, you would think…) and it took three trips to get the deal set up, including one appointment where the proper person to see called in sick. I’ve been given some crazy plumbing advice at Lowe’s, also.

    …..Still, the store is very organized, and has a lot of great stuff at great prices. And those counters? My architect brother set up a counter replacement for my parents around the same time. And the professional Lowe’s installation simply blows away what bro contracted. In and out in a couple of hours, and a flawless job for Lowe’s. My parents’ kitchen now features separating laminate, and peeling paint where a backsplash should have been installed. And it took three days.

  18. Roadgeek says:

    I work at a major home supply retailer. I can tell you this; payroll is the absolute largest non-fixed expense in these sort of big-box stores. It actually accounts for about 80% of non-fixed expense. Retailers are constantly trying to hack away at this expense, as it is one of the few they have any real control over. Given that this is the case, HD and Lowe’s both end up hiring many, many teenagers and other folks who have no clue but don’t care anyhow as they see the work as a McJob. To get good workers and specialists who know the product inside and out would require the corporation to compensate them; that simply isn’t going to happen in a department like paint.
    After the time I have spent in a big-box, I have come to understand that the typical customer wants Sherwin-Williams service at a Lowe’s price. Sorry……that just isn’t going to happen, except in certain rare cases.
    To get HD or Lowe’s prices….expect to give up a certain level of customer service and support. Fundamentally, you are buying your paint at a hardware supermarket; how much expert attention do you expect from your local supermarket?
    Except for specialty departments, the chains stated goal is to make the stores as close to self-service as possible. My own personal view is that to get really good service you have to pay for it, and I am cheerfully willing to do so.
    Paint=Sherwin-Williams; for me, at least. All they do is paint, so they do it really well and with a high level of competence. IF HD or Lowe’s provided that level of service, you wouldn’t shop there because you would perceive the prices as being too high. Good service costs…

  19. Special K says:

    Roadgeek, excellent point.

    I’m starting to get to the point where I’ve read each story with a lot of interest initially, but by the time I get to the end of the article, I’m left wondering how much of said incident is really customer’s fault vs store’s fault. I dont think I’m less inclined to shop at any of these featured stores, unless I later personally have a bad experience at one of them. And that is one of the greatest weaknesses of this site. Part of this is because I’ve had good experiences with a number of the stores that have been knocked by this website; threadless, apple, etc being a couple.

    No doubt every major retailer that conducts thousands of transactions per day will have a few sour ones here and there; what’s really a shame is that news of exceptional service doesnt travel nearly as fast as an account of poor service.

    I’m thinking that the only stories that will really sway me at a consumer-level are those where company policy raises my ire and changes my shopping habits. For example, the internal Bestbuy memo about wanting to get rid of shoppers getting in on good deals (about 6m to 1yr ago).

  20. OkiMike says:

    I would have just walked over to the manager’s office and said something.

  21. Bubba Barney says:

    Who grabs your own base? Everytime I get paint, I just give them the color chip and make them do all the work.


  22. Bubba Barney says:

    Oh, and that is why you should support your local mom and pop stand or Ace Hardware. The one in my neighborhood rocks!

    It’s teeny tiny and doesn’t always have everything, but it’s like having a small town general store close by. And this is in the central urban core of Denver.

  23. mooloo27 says:

    I first want to say that I am very sorry for your horrible experience at a Lowe’s store. I have just started at a Lowe’s which is currently being built in Indiana. I have watched and built this store from an empty building into one of the largest and most beautiful stores I have been in. One thing that our store manager has instilled in all of us is that customer service is our #1 goal. Our store is stocked with very kind and friendly people! I have worked in retail all my life and I have to say these people were all hand picked. Each one of us had to go through 3 interviews with different managers and the final interview was with the store manager. We do not have teenagers in our store. The ages as of now range from 22 to 50.

    I would hope that this would never happen in one of our stores and I invite you to come in and visit us. Funny thing is I work in the wall coverings and blinds. So I will make sure that your experience with us would be a good one.
    Most importantly, in reading the commants of some that have posted I want to say, if he said the clerk was rude then I believe him and I appologize. No one deserves to be treated that way not even if the customer is rude to the clerk. As my mother told me, “always kill them with kindness”.

    Again I am not anything but a sales associate, I am not in management nor am I in the corporate office. I want to extend my appologies from the bottom of my heart and I would love for you to visit us in the South Bend Lowe’s. You deserve better then the treatement you recieved!

  24. Donaldhere says:

    If you think rude employees are a problem, let me tell you about management! At Mesa store #714, the store manager cut all of the employee’s hours to 32 during the week of Christmas to avoid any employee from receiving Christmas Holiday Pay! Is this the most rotten scrooge action you have ever heard of? Now, if you wonder why Lowe’s employees are rude and pert, it’s because management treats them like dogs! I am a Lowe’s employee and after being beaten like a dog for 5 stinking years, quite frankly, I don’t give a shit about your petty little problems! Switch positions in life with me, enjoy my chincy, stinking, cheap ass 10 fucking cent annual raises! If I even get 10 fucking cents. One year I got 8cents. Lucky me! So if you wonder why we don’t smile enough, it’s because of our cheap ass fucking management! There, I feel better now. I wish all of you except you Lowe’s management cock suckers a happy holiday! Steal my children’s Christmas money, you scrooge mother fuckers!

  25. planetdaddy says:

    I just said something nice about lowes in another post, damnit. Someone should stick something is this guys eye.

  26. sickcape says:

    Hi, Talking about customer service. Half of the employees of Lowes in Cape Coral are sleeping with each other in the Cape Coral store in Florida . Im getting a divorce cause my wife whos in upper management is sleeping with a inventory clerk. Dont do business with a store that has no moral code for employees, Thank you.It destroyed my family and 2 kids.

  27. jonmako says:

    @Roadgeek: I am an employee at a Lowes store in New York. My store has been open a year and has roughly a 70% turn over from our opening. The part time help is hopeless and the full timers are abused.Always short staffed and asked to cover areas of the store that they are not trained in.The upper management is well paid,over staffed and never get thier hands dirty. Friends of regional managers are placed in these positions and offer nothing.Now we are getting the Home Depot people coming in to our upper management positions along with the arrogance from that store.Moral is low ,health benefits were just cut without any notice to the staff and good people are leaving. When we complain we are told this store is driven by the stock holders and it is out of the stores hands.When someone leaves your department they take up to six months to replace them .Thanks for letting me vent and yes my resumes are out and I am interviewing.

  28. doubleclutch says:

    As for the customer who was dissed because he was told ” this is a major inconvenience” … he should have looked the clerk directly in the eye, and told him : “I am sorry that your mother had too many children and not enough time to teach you manners. Now go do your job!” If that didn’t work I’d have gone and found the manager, chewed his ass out for hiring people who’s parents didn’t have time to teach them manners, and made “him’ mix the damn paint.

    As for you people that are whining about Lowe’s cutting your hours, dropping your bennies, etc. WTF did you expect? That is the retail world for crying out loud. Management in retail get bonuses. They get bonuses by doing more business with the least amount of overhead. And, what is any business’s largest overhead entity????
    PAYROLL! You people should have known that before going in. So consider yourself all the wiser now, as you’re not getting any cheese & crackers to go with that whine of your’s from me.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I had a terrible experience at my local Lowe’s as well. I wrote a letter of complaint via the Lowe’s website & received the same “form” email that the original poster received. Only the local management DID call me back. They apologized & even said that if I came to the store, they could apologize in person. It was nice that they apologized for how I was treated, but I will say that the manager seemed pretty unenthused & not very genuine & more or less just wanted to cross me off of his list of things to do. In retrospect, I wish I had just complained to management at the time of the incident, but I suppose I’m like a lot of people that just don’t like to complain face to face. I just get too frazzled!! I think if I had experienced the Lowe’s paint employee telling me that I was an inconvenience, I would’ve just walked away & gone somewhere else!!

    Even though management apologized to me, I have no intentions of shopping at Lowe’s again either. I’ve received the same shoddy service and rude, unhelpful employees that other posters have mentioned nearly every time I’ve been in the store (yes, I realize that the kids that work at Lowe’s don’t make much money, but I’m not sure that’s an excuse for bad customer service ). The problem I had that prompted me to write a letter of complaint was that I ordered a custom vanity & was told I would be called the day before it was to be delivered. I was called Sunday, then stayed home from work the next morning to wait on the delivery. The delivery never came because the vanity hadn’t been delivered to them yet!!! Yet they had no explanation as to why they called to schedule delivery for the next day! So I missed 4 hours of work that I won’t get paid for, and then they called later that same morning to tell me the vanity just arrived. I naively thought they would deliver it that morning still since the original delivery was to take place that morning. Not so! And then for the next 3 days we were jerked around by them with the delivery schedules & it was a very aggravating process, one that could probably happen at other chain stores as well. But I suppose I’ll take my chances with Home Depot or Anderson’s next time I have a home improvement project & we’ll see how that turns out!

  30. ebhernandez7 says:

    I work at Lowe’s in Missouri City,Tx (Houston,Tx area) . I do get customers that grab their color and their paint and bring it to me. I never try to make the customer feel dumb. I gladly take their paint and bring it to my station and also their card. I scan their card first and ask whether they want Flat,eggshell, satin , semi-gloss etc.. If it’s Valspar, I ask if they want the one with primer or without the primer. When the customer does not know, I ask what color is the wall you are painting on now. If they say red or dark brown or orange and they are getting like a tan or light beige, that is when I recommend the one with the primer in it. If they say white I sell them the one without the primer. I’m always asking questions to the customer and listening. Now, Before adding tint I verify they can to make sure the base is the same the computer tells me. Keep in mind the customer brought me the paint If it’s wrong , I simply take the paint back and grab the correct one. If they ask me why I went to exchange their paint, I simply tell them it was the wrong base and I explain to them if I don’t grab the correct base the paint will not come out the same color according to their card. Now if the base is correct, then wow the customer made my job easier. It’s true that we walk back and forth getting the paint off the shelf. The next time let that lowe’s associate know how you feel. Let me know because my intentions are not to piss you off. I love my customers because When I’m off the clock…guess what..I’m a customer too somewhere else for lunch or just shopping. The lowe’s commercial says we are experts but we are not. I will give you as much knowledge as I know and even get another employee to help you solve your situation or help you with your project. I actually have conversations with my customers. I make them laugh. I love my job. If the employee is rude I don’t think they love their job. So people out there Not every Lowe’s is the same. oh one more thing. At my Lowe’s , there is always someone around. If not , press the help button…I’m 20-30 seconds away…Here I come running from helping another customer in another aisle…
    My name is Efrain and thank you for shopping at Lowe’s. Come back and see us.

  31. donutdunker says:

    Ya man u shoulda got his name and a mngr. I work at lowes and I know some employees are real ass holes and unfortanatly they are the ones that seem to move up. But to referance ur base for future in any store (not just lowes) but a base determins how much paint is in the can so darker colors don’t over fill the can I don’t even work paint but get put over there all the time and getting the right base is just part of my job. U shoulda took that up with a mngr I know I’ve been wrote up befor for that

  32. Unhappy Lowes Customer says:

    We bought a GE profile refrigerator at Lowes 2 years ago. It has had to be repaired 4 times, since then. Four times in 2 years, we have had spoiled food, water all over the floor, and an average of a week without a refrigerator. In researching it I find that GE has had something like 2 recalls on their refrigerators, so I shouldn’t be surprised I suppose, and yes we should have done our homework better. The real disappointment has been Lowes. We have shopped at Lowes a lot because we thought they had good customer service. With the refrigerator, it has been an ordeal. First they delivered a refrigerator that didn’t work, had cut wires inside, and had stains on the shelves. The repairman said “Oh yes, this is the refrigerator that those other people sent back”. We returned it. Then they delivered our current refrigerator, which of course has died 4 times. The good news is that we bought the service plan, which includes a “lemon law”. The bad news is that lemon law doesn’t seem to mean anything, in reality.