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)