Home Depot Accuses You Of Attempting Return Fraud

Here at the Consumerist we realize that return fraud is a very serious problem for retailers. Nevertheless, this story puzzles us. Dana bought a thermostat from Home Depot, but it turned out to be incompatible with her heating and cooling system. When she brought it back, the customer service person accused her of bringing in an empty bag and receipt, shoplifting a thermostat and then trying to return the stolen unit. It’s a common scam…. but…

A thermostat? For real? Read Dana’s email inside.

Dana writes:

Hello… I really enjoy your site and the consumer experiences that are reported through it (even though the customer treatment often makes me mad but it helps me compile a list of businesses I will never do business with.) I’ve also learned several strategies that have helped me resolve several issues with businesses including my cell phone provider.

This past weekend I had the most miserable experience with Home Depot that I have ever had with any company that I have done business with. I see a lot of home depot complaints so this may not come as a surprise but I wanted to pass on the information.

I live in Arizona where the heat is quickly approaching 110f in the day time. Last Friday my thermostat that was installed when my house was built decided it was a good time to go bad. Not knowing much about heating/cooling systems and electricity I went to Home Depot and searched for the employee that was responsible for the heating/cooling area along with the thermostats (finding an employee that I thought could help took over 30 min.) After initially talking to the employee I purchased the thermostat that he recommended to replace my current broken unit. On the plus side it was 7 day programmable energy star unit. On the minus side (I later found out) it was not compatible with my heating/cooling unit (that I brought the manual for.) It was specifically made for a multi stage heat pump unit that I (and most people in Arizona don’t have.) It also turned out to be the second most expensive unit they sold. I took the thermostat home and tried to install it. By the time I figured out it was not compatible Home Depot was already closed and I had to put up with an inside temperature of about 103f until the next day when I decided to go to Lowe’s to see what they had to offer. Lowe’s had several employees that actually approached me and offered to help in the 10 minuets that I was looking at their inventory. It was obvious that the Lowe’s employees had a much better working knowledge of heating and cooling units and they could all discuss the drawbacks and benefits of the different thermostats I was looking at. I wish I had taken down names since the Lowe’s employees went well above and beyond any level of support that I got from Home Depot and also went as far as calling the manufacturers to ensure that the different thermostats would work with my system. After the purchase from Lowe’s I went home and installed the new unit within 10 min and everything is working perfectly.

Shift to the next day. It was now time to return the Home Depot unit that did not work. All the thermostats are packaged in the impenetrable plastic that is practically impossible to open. When returning the unit I just threw all the parts along with the plastic case into the Home Depot bag along with the receipt and went to the return counter. Once at the counter the employee (all of maybe 18 years old) accused me of bringing in an empty bag along with my old receipt and taking a new thermostat off the shelf and trying to return it. Once I told him that was not the case he started scolding me like I was a 10 year old that committed some heinous crime. I explained my case and was yelled at for somewhere around 5 min while the return line was building up behind me. I kept my cool and I finally said that this was ridiculous and that they had to have security cameras all over the store so go pull the tapes. The ‘customer service’ agent said that was not possible. I said ‘call your manager immediately or I will be phoning the police to come sort this out.’ At this point the manager suddenly appeared and said no problem we will take the unit back ‘THIS TIME’. At that point I thanked the manager and noted that I was about to start a ~$5000 landscaping project for my back yard where I was planning to buy exclusively from Home Depot but because of this employees attitude I will never purchase an item at Home Depot again and all purchases will be made through Lowe’s, ACE or local gardening centers. To make my point I continued to say that the bad customer service over a $99 item caused them the loss of sales of over $5000.

Way to go Sherlock, you really busted Dana. Kudos to the manager as well, for only taking Dana’s return “this time.”

If you’ll allow us to get philosophical for a moment, we really don’t understand the small measure of dominance that customer service people feel they need to exert by whipping out the “this time.” Is the moment really that special to you?

Why even say it? Are you such a miserable a human being that you have to remind your customers that you’re in charge by bullying them? Do you twirl your handlebar mustache as you you say it. “Ha! Ha! Ha! We’re only taking your return… THIS TIME!!!!11”—MEGHANN MARCO

(Photo: Hamedog)


Edit Your Comment

  1. vr4z06gt says:

    TIME!!!!11 – Good proofreading consumerist!

  2. jeffj-nj says:

    Re: “THIS TIME!”

    It is to remind us that they are, and forever will be, more powerful than us.

    Okay, more, it’s to remind themselves of that.

    Well, no, really, it’s just to keep that illusion alive in their head.

  3. junkmail says:

    It was on purpose. It’s an intarweb coloquialism that finds its origins in the hacker language, “1337 5p34k”. Way to jump in uninformed sparky.

  4. jeffj-nj says:

    And, vr4z06gt, welcome to the internet. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a typo. It’s a style choice. Specifically, a sarcastic one requiring some general web awareness. Don’t worry; stick around and you’ll get it.

  5. junkmail says:

    dangit, someone snuck in ahead of me… the previous comment was aimed at vr4z06gt. :)

  6. MariSama44 says:


    Home Depot sucks, I always go to Lowes. The idiots in HD have no idea where they are or what products they sell.

  7. protest says:

    sounds like every other loser douche with some iota of authority.

  8. jeffj-nj says:

    FWIW, Home Depot let me return light bulbs. I fully expected them not to, but they did, and let the record state that I appreciated it.

    See, what happened is as follows…

    I bought six of the “True Light” bulbs or whatever. They’re supposed to cast pure white light instead of slightly yellowish light. I put them in my bathroom, flipped ’em on, and almost went blind. They only cost a couple of bucks, so if I had to eat the purchase, I would have, but I also figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. I returned to the Home Depot, receipt in hand, and exchanged every last bulb.

    My bathroom now glows ever-so-slightly yellow.

    I couldn’t be happier. ;)

  9. eross says:

    If I read one more post from someone who goes to shop at a transnational chain and then complains about lousy service, I’ll…
    try suggesting again that you should be going to your neighborhood independent (if you have one). From my experience 3-4 times as many indies have good to excellent customer service as the chains.

  10. dgandy says:

    my ex-gf used to work customer service at home depot during summers and she would tell me stories about people who would pull the return scam. However, she was told to never bust them as it was better to take a loss on one scam than to falsely accuse someone and lose their business.
    Sounds like this kid didn’t get that message.

    A friend who worked at Macy’s said they had the same policy…for what it’s worth.

  11. Hawk07 says:

    Didn’t HD’s CEO take out a full page ad apologizing for poor customer service not too long ago?

  12. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    I wish you had said: Yes. You’re right! This was my plan all along! Buy a thermostat on my credit card, go home, bring back the empty bag with the receipt, go back to the aisle, take another thermostat, tear it out of its packaging, put it in the bag, wait patiently online, and then get a refund while keeping the other thermostat! Yes! Yes! Yes! Free thermostat!

    And then you could have jumped onto the counter and started screaming Free thermostats for everyone!

    Well, anyway, I always want to do that. In those situations.

  13. SOhp101 says:

    It’s called a power trip.

    If they refused the return, dispute purchase with credit card. easy. done. don’t have to listen to bitchy overpaid retail workers (mind you, there are exceptional courteous ones but those are rare in major stores).

  14. cgmaetc says:

    How do you steal something and get a receipt? Seriously, I want to know… I have some home improvements to do myself and I’m on a budget…

  15. plim says:

    i’ve had to return a couple items to home teapot, including opened items, and sometimes without a receipt. they do the same thing as target where they store purchased items per credit card in their database and can process returns w/o a receipt (including refunds directly back to your cc). i found that to be extremely helpful. but of course, if you get a moron manning the returns register, then none of that goodness helps you =(

    does anyone know if blowes does the same thing?

    those are not typos…

  16. matukonyc says:

    @jeffj-nj: Of course they let you exchange your light bulbs for new bulbs. The subject of this post wanted a refund.

  17. rbf2000 says:

    I’ve definitely told customers that I would make an exception for them “this time,” although when I did it was when the customer was not aware of the policy and I was actually making an exception for him or her. I also would reiterate the policy and explain that we were actually making an exception

    I realize the futility of the phrase (what are the chances that you will ever deal with the same customer in a similar situation?), but you have to make sure people know that you are making an exception for you when you are. I’ve had a plethora of customers come in thinking that the exception was the norm because nobody told them otherwise.

    Clearly in a situation such as the one in this article, the manager should have simply apologized and then told the associate to involve him the next time before he accuses somebody of fraud.

  18. alk509 says:

    @vr4z06gt: From Wikipedia’s “Exclamation Mark” article:

    In recent Internet culture, especially where leet is used, an excessive way of expressing exclamation in text is seen as !!!!!!111. This notation originates from the eagerness to add multiple exclamation marks but failing to hit the shift key combination properly. Later this behavior has evolved into a sign of recognition for certain Internet cultures who now intentionally add 1s after their expressions either to ridicule people who do it without purpose or as a sign of recognition towards others who also are familiar with the behavior. As a further pun to this development of linguistics, some add literal ones such as !!!eleventyone!!111one! to explicitly state that their use of 1s was intentionally typed, since eleventyone cannot be typed by accident.

    So… Take THAT!!!!!11oneoneeleventyone!!11!!1!

  19. Fuzz says:

    I bought a bathroom fan from HD, got it home, and just before installing it, realized it was the $30 one instead of the $80 one I payed for, and thought was in the box. Some shady low-life had swapped fans and returned it for a $50 profit. They said it happens all the time.

    Anyway, HD swapped it for me no problem. Except the fan still sucked, so I returned it and went to Totem and got a real one.

  20. r81984 says:

    I have a friend who works at Lowes, he said he would never shop at Lowes because they are a rip off on everything and he would only shop at Home Depot because their prices are much better.

    Anyways, I have worked in retail and everyone knows you cannot accuse a customer of theft unless you know for sure they stole. That is just a bad procedure put in place by a bad manager who probably got yelled at by his district manager for too much theft.

    That manager needs to find a better solution then accusing every customer of theft and refusing to provide refunds.

  21. Shadowman615 says:

    Isn’t this the Home Depot that fires employees for catching shoplifters?


  22. Shadowman615 says:
  23. ARPRINCE says:

    @alk509: C’mon give the NOOB a break! ;)

  24. rg says:

    This is just another bs stunt by the big-box haters. When will those maroons realize that everyone is still going to shop at the big stores no matter what crap they try to spread about them. Some folks don’t have a choice but a big-box store, others like the one stop shopping they offer. It’s the same folks that think people will stop buying big SUVs because they are “bad for the economy”. get a life haters.

  25. rcostanza says:

    Wait a minute. Didn’t we just recently hear that HD employees are not allowed to accuse customers of shoplifting, and in fact have been fired for doing so? Sounds like that store didn’t get the memo. If you feel you need vindication, escalate to the district manager.

  26. Timewalker says:

    @cgmaetc: You buy something, keep it, and then use the receipt to return an item you pick up off the shelf. Say you buy a new DVD player, take it home and enjoy it. Then you take the receipt and go back to the store, pick up the same model off the shelf, take it to customer service and return it. Now you have a free DVD player. Of course, at Wal-Mart, they put a nice little sticker on your returned item as soon as you walk in the door to avoid that problem.

  27. JustAGuy2 says:


    “How do you steal something and get a receipt?”

    You don’t. You buy the thermostat, take it home, and then come back with the bag and receipt, grab another unit off the shelf, and then “return” the unit.

    You end up with the thermostat (which is at home) and your money back = free thermostat.

  28. B says:

    Didn’t a Home Depot employee get fired for trying to bust a shoplifter? Talk about mixed messages, do they want us to steal from their stores or not?

  29. bowersst says:

    Please keep in mind that the starting pay for a ‘returns associate’ is very close to minimum wage.

    The Home Depot generally has the best prices and that is why people will shop there. If you want better service, you will have to go to ACE and pay more.

  30. JRuiz47 says:

    Since it’s been many years since I worked at Best Buy and had to deal with situations like this, I wonder if we can get a post from The Consumerist about how to properly deal with situations like this.

    When I worked in Hell, we had a rash of people returning boxes with a brick or rocks or some sort (which had been re-sealed) and us not finding out until somebody else tried to return it after thinking they purchased it “new.”

    Granted, I never accused any customers of stealing (I worked in PCHO), but it’d be nice to have a post about ways to protect your integrity and the proper channels to follow if unfairly accused of something.

  31. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @Seth_Went_to_the_Bank: I once got a jacket at Kohl’s that had the security tag still on. After 5 hours, I finally figured out how to remove it. I took the innards out and decided to try an experiment. I placed the guts into a old keyless entry unit. It’s funny how I’ll beep going in, but not out.

    But whenever people give me the eye coming in, I raise my hands and go “Ya caught me, I’m bringing stuff into the store. I’m a shop-placer.” OK, I lead a semi-lonely life.

  32. bnet41 says:

    I agree about your neighborhood hardware store and using it when you can. The one problem I have, and I have this issue with a lot of mom & pop shops, is their hours are horrible.

    Often when I end up at HD or Lowe’s on some random Wednesday at 8pm, its because the local store is closed.

  33. mopar_man says:

    I have a friend who works at Lowes, he said he would never shop at Lowes because they are a rip off on everything and he would only shop at Home Depot because their prices are much better.

    That makes about as much sense as shopping at Wal-Mart for the same reason. You pay more at Lowe’s, you get people who know what they’re doing and you get customer service. You pay less and you get idiots who don’t know their ass from a whole in the ground (same goes for both Home Depot and Wal-Mart). But at least you got the wrong thing for cheaper. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll last for a few months before breaking and you’ll have to go back and buy another one.

  34. jeffj-nj says:

    @matukonyc: Fair enough… but they were light bulbs.

  35. vr4z06gt says:

    r u even serious…i’ve been on the internet since before it was available to the ‘public’ when it was restricted to the government and universities…when you had to pay fees just to be considered a part of the ‘internet’….

  36. Buran says:

    @bnet41: Ditto. All the best customer service in the world won’t stop the customer from being stopped by a CLOSED sign and going to someone else who WILL sell them what they need.

  37. vr4z06gt says:

    and im not talking about dial up access fees, im talking about fees inorder to use the WWW protocols.

  38. infinitysnake says:

    @cgmaetc: I actually know the answer to this one, as my miscreant brother used to do it..iut’s a common junky trick and Walmart and Home Depot are the usual targets. They look for discarded receipts, grab a matching item,m and head for the return counter. Iirc, a Bush cabinet member went to jail for a variation of the scam.

  39. Major-General says:


    Stealing something and having a receipt? Easy, get a printer, steal/buy some register tape (depends on the target), and print you own off a laptop. Go into the store, get you’re expensive item, go to another store and return it. It does require a little work to fake it right.

    When I was with Wal-Mart this was in the Tales Of Loss Prevention in the in-house magazine.

  40. wonderlic says:

    I used to work at HD back in the day. We would get retruns all the time of stuff that people had bought but that had a used item in them that someone else had taken apart and returned. Grills were pretty common like that – people would take apart their used grill seal the box and return it. Nice.

    Since the cost cutting days the Depot has cut back on the skilled workers – the guys and gals from the local hardware stores that they put out of business who knew what they were talking about – and replaced them with people who don’t know the difference between a screw and a nail. Last time I went there I ended up cutting my own blinds becasue they couldn’t find anyone who could opperate the machine. My best advice is avoid the place like the plague unless you know something about what you’re buying. If you have a question about something do NOT trust the average HD store associate. Iether go to Lowes or better yet a local place. If you want to be cheap get the advice there, don’t pay for it and then go buy the item from the Depot. Either that or research online. Its truly caveat emptor at the king od home improvement retailers.

    All that said nothing excusese the behavior in the original post. Again, back in the day that never would have happened.

  41. mopar_man says:


    I try to shop during “normal” hours like everybody used to before all these big box stores opened up. I’ve never had a problem.

  42. Major-General says:

    One thing I forgot, it was for computers, tv’s, et cetera. The guy got caught when one of the loss prevention guys saw him sit in his van, then head in, come out with something, and do it again later.

  43. gamble says:

    @rg: Maroons? And surely you mean “bad for the environment.” I’ve never heard anyone say that SUVs are bad for the economy, especially since they usually cost more and hence more money will be flowing in the economy. Not to mention additional expenses due to gas. Maybe “bad for the environment” eventually leads to “bad for the economy?”

    Anyway, at the retail stores I’ve worked at, we were never allowed to accuse anyone of stealing. At the most we were told to contact loss prevention or a manager.

  44. gamble says:

    @vr4z06gt: Well that just makes your lack of knowledge even more embarassing, doesn’t it?

  45. E-Bell says:

    My wife had a similar experience at the Hyattsville, MD Home Depot, except she was trying to buy something.

    She was buying some pieces of wood trim for a project. One of them, as is often the case, didn’t have a sticker with a SKU that the cashier could scan. My wife remembered the price, but the cashier insisted on getting the SKU, so she paged some other worker to go back to the lumber department and get the number.

    Anyway, the worker comes back with the wrong number. My wife points this out and the cashier accused her of trying to scam Home Depot.

    Needless to say, we no longer shop at that Home Depot location. We go to Lowe’s or to another Home Depot in the area, even though it takes us a lot longer to get there.

  46. swalve says:

    Home Depot, for most things, is a place you go when you already know what you need, not to learn how to fix your HVAC system. Failing that, BRING THE OLD PART.

    Of course, that really applies to everything. But no, the salesman is your friend and just wants to help.

  47. r81984 says:


    He also said the people at Lowes are not trained and that they know nothing.
    He said he gets better service and more knowledgeable people at Home Depot. He actually works at Lowes so I trust his judgement over yours.

  48. eross says:

    True, the indies usually have shorter hours, but if you want service from people with extensive experience and knowledge of the store’s products, they usually have families and don’t want to work nights.

  49. sp3nc3 says:

    @r81984: I don’t give a rat’s hind parts if I can get a slightly better deal at a place that treats me like what comes out of the rat’s hind parts. Every time I’ve been to Lowe’s, their staff has been both courteous and helpful, without exception. This is exactly why I drive 8 miles to give my money to Lowe’s instead of the Home Depot that’s 2 blocks away.

  50. mckeb753 says:

    oooh, driving across town to the other location….you really burned them, E-Bell.

  51. r81984 says:


    That is your fault, everyone knows to write down the SKU number off the tag when you are buying cases or something without a tag.
    If you do not see a label, how will they ring it up???
    You save time by writing it down and not making a worker go and try to look for that item for you.

    Also, just because you know the price does nothing. They need it to be taken out of inventory, so they need the SKU #.

    For you to say you will not shop somewhere because of your own stupidity is not right.

  52. acambras says:

    God, please tell me you’re kidding.

  53. eightfifteen says:

    It was nice of Consumerist to post her story this time.

    Does anyone ever contact the nice companies, like Lowe’s in this sample, to tell them that they are winning customers via this site and their great customer service? Just curious.

  54. spanky says:


    I think the point of his story was that the clerk was a little too eager to accuse his wife of trying to scam them. That was in no way her fault. (Or his.)

    Anyway, I can’t imagine how accusing customers of things like that is good policy.

    If I saw another customer being treated like that, I don’t think I’d ever go back to that store again.

  55. Uriel says:

    haha, ya. When home depot people try to tell you that they “need” to see your receipt at the door, it always makes me chuckle when I tell them “no thanks” and look at their reactions. What a bunch of non-educated vermin they are.

  56. Toast442 says:

    Customer service at all these home improvement stores is really hit or miss. Just last weekend, a cashier at Lowe’s (and her supervisor) refused to sell me some planters that were all marked $25.95. The cashier claimed that the UPC was wrong and they were really $39.95. Showing her and her supervisor the sign and that all the planters were marked that way resulted in the sign being immediately taken down and them asking me if I still wanted to buy the planters for $40 each. I was pretty pissed about their attitude and just walked out – without all the other stuff I was trying to buy and had spent two hours shopping for. Nice waste of a Saturday morning.

    In contrast, last Fall I returned a ladder to Home Depot that I bought by mistake (all my careful measurements about useable height, etc., were for crap) and they took it back, torn up, muddy packaging and all. Never batted an eye.

  57. Chicago7 says:

    At that point you say “Arrest me. I will call police for you, if you are accusing me of theft.” It’s ridiculous. Then when they back down, say “Maybe I should call the police so you can repeat what you said to them”

    I have something similar happen to me all the time in the past at Best Buy and CompUSA. The security wants to check you bag on the way out. It’s surprising how just saying “If you are accusing me of theft, call the police” shuts them down.

  58. DJFelix says:

    I have to agree with the comments about HD. They have the most ignorant, uncaring, and unprofessional staff of all the DIY shops. My wife and I have abandoned any thought of walking into an HD. I don’t know what is driving it, but the people at Lowe’s are always friendly, know what they are talking about, and if they can’t specifically sort you out, they find someone who can. Period. It’s really that simple. I don’t even know if their prices are lower, but I really don’t care. I am willing to pay a little more for better service. Something I wish the airlines would figure out …

  59. sp3nc3 says:

    @Toast442: Is it just business ethics, or is there actually a law that says that a store is required to sell an item at the price marked, no matter if the price marked is a gross error?

  60. sp3nc3 says:

    And how gallant of the Home Depot manager to honor the return “THIS TIME.” Does that mean that he’s going to turn her away the next time she has to make a legitimate return?

  61. Asvetic says:

    Weird, I live on the East coast and my experience with Home Depot and Lowe’s are exactly the same as poor Dana. Walk into a Home Depot and you spend more time finding an associate to help and it would take to find it yourself, or you go across the street to Lowe’s and get bombarded with associates who at least appear to show some interest in you as a customer and know what they’re talking about.

    I wish the consumerist had a wall of shame and a wall of fame so we can keep a running tally of poor experiences to positive ones. 1 for Lowes, 0 for Home Depot…

  62. QuirkyRachel says:

    This reminds me fo when I worked for Kohl’s. The customer service people were way overworked and never set foot on the floors. I remember putting away a bunch of return clothing, to find clothes form brands we didn’t even carry!

  63. mikecolione says:

    I used to work at Home Depot many years ago. There was actually a scam where people came in and grabbed circuit breakers off the shelf and a. tried to return them, b. toss them over/under the garden center fence (to return them later).

    We tracked them about 4 or 5 times then confronted them.

    We were never supposed to confront someone without either security or a manager giving approval (and them being present and speaking for us).

    Not saying she did what they claimed, but maybe they have a problem with people doing this same thing in that store..

  64. oldhat says:

    @Chicago7: I think they check your bag to audit what the cashier gave you. In other words, they are suspicious of the cashier as much as you. Scared of inside jobs.

    Otherwise, what asshole steals something from the cashier to the exit, which is usually a few feet away?

    Anyway, nice moral victory…empty and time wasting but if everyone stood up for their rights the world would be a better place.

    What kind of store policy is that, assuming all your customers are thieves?

  65. infinitysnake says:

    @gamble: I’m not sure I’d call being up on internet slang a “lack of knowledge.”

  66. MercuryPDX says:

    @oldhat: That’s exactly it. Same as at Costco. A cashier “on the inside” will pass the item over the scanner so it DOESN’T get rung up.

  67. gamble says:

    @sp3nc3: I believe there is actually a law prohibiting false advertising.

  68. ID-voice-of-reason says:

    I think you may have got the people from Best Buy now working at Home Depot.

  69. juri squared says:

    @eross: THANK YOU. My family’s local hardware store (which had been operating in the same location since before WWII) was shut down by a Menards and a Home Depot moving in and stealing all the traffic.

    People wrote to the local paper to protest when we closed, but all the letters in the world mean nothing if people don’t put their money where their mouths are.

    The part that stings the worst is that my dad with his 35+ years of experience in hardware is now working at Menards – and being horribly mistreated by upper management.

    Bitter? Me? Never!

  70. Toast442 says:

    @sp3nc3: Not sure if the false advertising law applied here. The price was clearly marked on the shelf AND on the product as being $25. It even rang up at that price. The cashier was the one who caught the “error.” There was no way for me to tell the supposedly real price.

    I was more upset at the attitude of the cashier and her supervisor (the cashier especially – she more or less implied I had switched UPC labels, which is why I asked for her manager.) Heck, if they would have been a little more polite, I probably would have just eaten the difference.

  71. Televiper says:


    I’ve been in a few arguments with people who claim that Home Depot and other big box retailers “limit consumer choice.” I find it dumb founding that people who grow up in a capitalist society don’t understand how they work. To think that the independent is supposed to exist for their convenience or that the big box halts people from going to the independents seems insane to me. It’s not like Home Depot eats up all the independents. It’s not like Wal*Mart has a fleet of dragons that devour the main street of whatever town they just set up in.

    The community is much more responsible for a lack of choice than Home Depot. It’s time to start holding the Community responsible.

  72. Type-E says:

    The manager will go “big deal, it’s not me who would pocket that $5000”. I don’t think he’ll regret a second when you throw that line at him.

    I was going to spend $5billion on that homedepot that you go to, now that I read your story, I am not going to do that. My move should do the trick and it is 1 million times more effective than yours.

  73. FromThisSoil says:

    I worked at Home Depot for about 3 years and worked in Returns for about 2 of those years. I can tell you that thermostats are one of the top five items stolen to be returned for cash (store credit now). Basically, thieves go for the smallest, most expensive items.

    I have thwarted hundreds of shoplifters trying to return stolen items. First of all, what this cashier did was wrong. If he suspected her of shop lifting, he should have suspended her transaction for manager’s approval. Telling a customer that it needs manager approval will almost always result in a thief leaving the item on the counter and walking out.

    Besides the fact that thermostats are locked up in a cage in the plumbing department…

  74. vr4z06gt says:


    April 30th, 1993 look it up retard!!!!!11

  75. RebekahSue says:

    I love how Dana wrote this email: she defined the problem, and compared the customer service between Lowe’s and Home Depot for Consumerist readers. I’m also delighted that she let Home Depot know how much business they lost.

    If it were me, I’d follow up with comments to Home Depot’s customer service. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to do it online.

    I have a feeling that Dana will be keeping track of the help she gets at Lowe’s and will let them know. I’m a big fan of, “If I have a complaint, the store will damn well know it! so if I have a compliment, the store deserves the same amount of time I’d give for a complaint.”

    I’ve been using Planet Feedback since the early 2000s. I much prefer the commentary here; Consumerist was the very first site I’d added to my RSS feed.

  76. Crazytree says:


    accusing you of a crime is DEFAMATION PER SE.

    from Wikipedia:

    “All states except Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee recognize some categories of statements are considered to be defamatory per se, such that people making a defamation claim for these statements do not need to prove that the statement was defamatory. In the common law tradition, damages for such statements are presumed and do not have to be proven. Traditionally, these per se defamatory statements include:

    * Allegations or imputations “injurious to another in their trade, business, or profession”
    * Allegations or imputations “of loathsome disease” (historically leprosy and sexually transmitted disease, now also including mental illness)
    * Allegations or imputations of “unchastity” (usually only in unmarried people and sometimes only in women)
    * Allegations or imputations of criminal activity (sometimes only crimes of moral turpitude)”

  77. TechnoDestructo says:

    Why are they painting a home depot logo on the lumber?

    If I’m doing something where I’m going to leave it unpainted, I don’t want their damn logo on it, WTF?

  78. Ponygirl says:


    I have always been told that legally you must be able to purchase a product at the lowest posted price. If your planters said 25.99 than even if that was a mistake they have to sell them to you for that. The same with products bearing 2 different sales tags. They have to sell it to you at the lowest price. Finally if they have shelf tags listing the price and do not tag their products (like Target, etc.) and the product rings up at a higher price they must legally give you that product for free (this is the case in Michigan and Pennsylvania at least).

  79. allthatsevil says:

    @bowersst: “Please keep in mind that the starting pay for a ‘returns associate’ is very close to minimum wage.”

    That’s not true at HD. The returns people are actually part of the “front end” department, which includes all cashiers. They get paid very well, for a retail store. When I was working there I started at $8/hour. That was about 8 years ago, so they probably make more than that now. Even if they pay their employees less than they used to, I can guarantee they’re making well over minimum wage. HD employees get paid well to be jackasses.

  80. lestat730 says:

    The only way to get great service out of a retail employee is if he’s new to the industry and hasn’t been ruined yet. After a year or two on the job (sometimes even less), you can forget about anyone caring about how well they do their job. By that point they hate every customer who walks through the door. I’ve been there and I’m happy to have escaped to a good career, anyone who’s worked in retail knows what I mean.

  81. ArizonaIsHot says:

    The pick up the receipt from ‘wherever’ like the parking lot and going in and grabbing the item and doing a return is quite common of a scam.

    The return desk cashier was an idiot; never accuse!

    Oh, if you want to prevent something like this from happening at either store ask for a sticker or for the person at or near the entrance to mark your product. Here at Lowe’s we have these stupid little stickers (at my store we ran out so I would put my initials somewhere where they wouldn’t care on that product with a sharpie). Otherwise I would tell them to have the cashier call me if there was a problem.

    Theft is a major problem but saying so is a big no no like everyone has mentioned.

    Home Depot versus Lowe’s?
    Ehh… I think it all depends on the people who work there. You can get good and bad people at both areas. I’ve seen people at Lowe’s act like asses and otherwise do a disservice to customers and I’ve also shopped at Home Depot before my stint at Lowe’s and I’ve had good and indifferent customer service as well. I sometimes here the “I’m going to Home Depot or You guys are getting as bad as Home Depot” comments but I’m pretty sure my equivalent over there hears the same thing.

    Oh, on the returning a different item; I hate those people, so if you see someone pop open your pancake air compressor or a vacuum cleaner at Lowe’s then don’t take offense; I’ve had both items come in; the scammer had packaged it very well to return it saying it was unopened; he had a cash receipt but I thought the tape at the bottom was odd so I opened it (he had an old pancake compressor in there) and the story popped up. He left but on the vacuum I actually believed this guy since when he got home he opened the box to use it and he found a pot and a 2X4 with the piece of protective plastic foam stuff up top. Me and the ops manager had a quiet moment of the sheer audacity of the previous returner getting us with that scam.

  82. Lee2706 says:

    @r81984: Yeah, Lowe’s prices can be a bit higher, but not by too much. Bag of wood screws at Home Despot = ¢88, at Lowe’s ¢99. Whoa, that’ll break the bank.

    Where I currently live, there is a Lowe’s right across the street (well, more like down the road about 200 feet). Without fail, it takes forever to find someone at the Orange Store who is not on their way to a break, on their cell phone, or just generally avoiding customers. Granted, the Lowe’s just opened, so perhaps they are just being nice for the first few months. But, they don’t seem as busy as HD, which is a good thing – better parking!

    Last week, I bought some 2x4s from Lowe’s for a work project. Since my employer is reluctant to buy me the table saw I want to produce these fine work projects, I had to get the wood cut at Lowe’s. Not only did they have a call button to page a saw operator, but they cut the wood for free! At HD, you get one cut free, then I think it’s ¢50 pet cut. With all the cuts I wanted to get (that I was willing to pay for) I thought it would be pricey. I knew I was asking for too much, but the Lowe’s guy was super helpful and willing to do backflips. Awesomeness….

  83. bnissan97 says:

    I worked at Home Depot several years ago for about a month or less. A) They pay worth shit. I was in the lower 8 dollar an hour range. I know it is horrible to say but or that, do you think I am gonna give a damn? B) I was opening a new store and a nice co-worker came to the new store from another store. Before opening she said, “Just wait till you’re the only employee in a 4 department area!” This explains the lack of knowledge by the Home Depot person helping to pick out the thermostat. The employee may not have been assigned to that department and trained as the employee would have been trained on another department 4 departments away!! C) Shortly after starting I came home to a flooded basement because my water heater burst. That was a Friday. On Saturday I called and explained the situation and they said all would be well for me calling in to clean my basement, i.e. no penalties as long as I bought my new water heater there. I did so. A few days later the supervisor told me that he was to tell me that I was not to call in on a Saturday again and doing so would be a write up. All for hardly a bloody farthing. A few days later, I just walked out the door.

    Also remember the one CEO didn’t show up and or allow questions at the shareholders meeting because his pay did not reflect gains in the stock value so he did not show to dodge the shareholders. This is the environment at Home Depot.

  84. ReverendDrGladhands says:

    I worked at Home Depot years ago, and we would accept ANY return. We actually took back an entire privacy fence that had been purchased a full year before the return, and INSTALLED. The 40 or so fence panels were still muddy on the bottom.

  85. Red_Eye says:

    I can sympathize. I blogged about one of HD’s bad return policies last year ( http://www.patentlystupid.com/node/47444 ). Hampton Bay fans.. It’s just ridiculous the hoops you must jump through.

  86. bnet41 says:

    What exactly is normal hours? It varies person to person. In today’s world it’s hard run a business that closes at 6 and isn’t open on Sunday’s. It’s a 24 hour world, and stores have to keep up.

    It’s hard for me to patronize a business that’s closed before I even get home from work.

  87. Kornkob says:

    *shrug* The Home Depot near my house is not only staffed with a fairly high percentage of union laborers (electricians, drywallers, plumbers and the like) but has been great about returns.

    I returned a weed wacker, no reciept, that had burned out the motor. They exchanged it without question.

    I returned 3 packages of laminate flooring. They actually pointed out that the flooring was on sale that day (I didn’t know) and ‘returned’ all 25 boxes of the stuff I had bought orginally (22 of them were installed, 3 left over) at the higher price and sold me 22 back at the new, 15% lower price.

    I returned a CF lightbulb without packaging and without the reciept. They asked exactly one question: what brand is this? (oh– 2nd question: do you have the CC you used for the purchase?)

    Maybe HD is a total ripoff in some places but, frankly, I’ll keep spilting my time and money between my local ACE, Home Depot, Harbor Frieght and Menards— all three treat me well and fill nitches in my needs.

    Ace: finiky parts, small engine parts and specific items

    Home Depot: construction materials, lawn care and the occasional sale items

    Menards: sale items, screws, nails, landscaping stuff and cheap beef jerky

    Harbor Frieght: really, really cheap tools that I only intend to use once or twice a year tops and don’t give a crap if they break. Air tool supplies. Storage organizers.

  88. markwm says:

    You have got to be kidding. At the mom-n-pop stores, you can go up with pricing and such you’ve written down. In fact, they nicely provide pens and paper near the screws, bolts, nails, etc., so you can do so. Or you just walk up and say “4 at 6 cents each” and they’ll ring it up.
    However, at the box stores, if an item is not individually tagged, it’s supposed to be in the big book at each register where they can look it up by description, or in the case of bolts, etc., by placing the item on the picture to make sure they are charging for the correct one. 1) I, as the customer, should not be expected to write down several SKUs for the cashier, with pen and paper I more than likely will not have on me at the time and 2) this would set up for a lot more fraud than is already committed. Sure, I’ll right down the SKU. Let’s see… This $30 sheet of plywood has the SKU for… this $8 sheet! Wow, who’d a thunk it.

  89. tvh2k says:

    Interesting, at the HD by me employees are actually told not to confont shoplifters unless they saw the crime in progress and the customer has not yet left the store (passed on by an employee of said store).

  90. DeeJayQueue says:

    @r81984: Whatever system a store chooses to keep track of its merchandise and sell it to customers is completely independent of those customers. It’s not a customer’s fault that an item is not labeled correctly to ring up at a register. It is not a customer’s fault that an item does not have a price tag, upc, or other inventory control device on it. It is the store’s fault. In fact there are laws in some places that say anything that is not a store fixture or otherwise labeled as “not for sale” is actually for sale, and has to be able to be sold. That’s why even in stores with sophisticated computerized registers and inventory systems they’re required to have a manual credit card swiper and paper register log, in case the power goes out, or the computer goes down.

    I think the cashier/returns attendant missed the key point that the packaging was cut open and the contents strewn about the bag. Nobody who was trying to pull a return scam would go to the trouble of trying to find a place to hide long enough to cut open a package and take out the stuff and make it look used, then shove it all back in the bag. They get a nice new one off the shelf and try to return that, because they have better odds of the cashier not saying “we don’t return opened packages”.

  91. ccs178 says:

    This all assumes that this customer is being completely honest with his story. I’m not trying to defend Home Depot. They do suck massively. But having worked as a manager at both Wal-Mart and Home Depot I know from first hand experience that not only is the customer not always right, but they are frequently wrong and have a habit of fudging or leaving out important details in their “I’m a victim” stories. Not to say that this person didn’t have a legitimate gripe or is lying though. I’m just saying that it’s good to be skeptical of both sides.

  92. mopar_man says:

    But having worked as a manager at both Wal-Mart and Home Depot

    I feel sorry for you. Get a job at BoA and you’ll have a hat trick for working at the 3 worst companies in the US.

  93. ohlali says:

    What if that worker was one of the many that work for Home Depot?

  94. g4lt says:

    @swalve: then they’ll just accuse you of the scam the first time…

  95. Mojosan says:

    The “this time” would have sent me over the edge.

    I live 20 mins from the nearest HD or Lowes and they are building a HD 5 mins a away so I know I’ll shop there. I feel dirty already.

  96. E-Bell says:


    I know it’s been covered already, but come on, man. It was a piece of wood trim (among many other pieces of lumber). Sometimes, as in this case, the stickers come off and someone – be it the clerk, the customer or another store employee has to go look it up.

    I get it. That’s not the issue.

    The issue is that a Home Depot cashier accused my wife of trying to scam them out of a couple of bucks (when she was buying about $100 worth of other merchandise). Rather than try to resolve the issue in a friendly way, this particular Home Depot lost a good customer.

    In fact, as owners of a fixer-upper home, we’re great customers. Over the last two years, we’ve probably spent over $10,000 at various hardware stores in our area and will spend even more. Just not at the Home Depot on East-West Highway in Hyattsvile, Maryland.

  97. Little Miss Moneybags says:

    I’ve worked in retail and at every place I worked, we were not to confront a customer or accuse them of theft unless we were 100% positive we saw them sticking something in their bag/under their clothes–and even then we were just supposed to keep them from leaving the store and have a manager/security guard confront them.

    This customer service rep was way out of line.

    To those asking about a commenter’s situation–whether something must be sold at the price advertised–this varies by state law. In many states, yes, it is required. This was covered by consumerist a few months ago, I believe.

  98. TheSlate says:

    People expect crappy service. Using “This time” makes a lot of people feel like they are being treated special instead of normally. The norm being treated like scum.

  99. ccs178 says:


    Um…thanks? I don’t need your pity though. I left retail years ago. As for BoA, I won’t even use their ATMs.

  100. Brad2723 says:

    I just love it when employees do their job (read: what they are supposed to be doing anyway) and then pass it off as if they are doing you a favor.

  101. Joe B. Low says:

    The Home Depot returns people in Houston are no better! I tried to return a $20 light bulb and was accused of buying it at Lowe’s and trying to return it at HD. Then, a month later I tried to return some sheet rock and the person immediately accused me of bringing the product from the back of the store and trying to return it (even though I walked in the front door directly in front of her, and had a receipt). They don’t care about the customer, and never will.

  102. treerat says:

    I have returned (or exchanged) several things to Home Depot over the years without problems. I have a friend who is in Loss Prevention at Home Depot and he says stealing items and “returning” them for cash is a common tactic.

    Don’t trash an entire corporation on the action of one employee. He was out of line.

  103. affidavid says:

    Shoplifiting laws are pretty specific when it comes to prosecution and most larger companies know this and train employees accordingly. Basically, if you are accused of shoplifting AN ACTUAL PERSON needs to have seen you take the item in question. If the person making the accusation did not ACTUALLY SEE the customer attempt to take an item or fake its return then it is a FALSE ACCUSATION and subject to civil suit against the person making the claim AND the componay of their employ.

    Once when I was accused of something similar I informed the accusing employee that unless they actually saw me pull the item from the shelf then I was calling the police to file a citizen’s arrest against them. The employee panicked as I pulled out my cell phone and left their job. I explained what happened to the manager, who processed my return and seemed to roll their eyes at the whole affair mumbling something about the quality of employees at their disposal.

    These people don’t have any authority over you unless you give it to them.