Unlawfully Detained At Home Depot For Not Showing Receipt

Reader Matt has launched the dreaded EECB (Executive Email Carpet Bomb) on Home Depot—attaching a copy of a formal complaint that he filed with the Metropolitan Police in Washington, D.C..

In addition to poor customer service and an inadequately maintained and stocked store, Matt says he was illegally detained by the Metropolitan Police and forced to return to the store to show his receipt to a Home Depot employee.

According to his police report, the officer stopped Matt without reasonable cause and forced him to comply with “store policy.” Matt feels that this was a violation of his 4th amendment rights.

Why are the Washington D.C. police enforcing Home Depot’s “store policies” as if they were laws? Nothing better to do?

Here’s Matt’s letter to Home Depot’s CEO Frank “Li’l Frankie” Blake:

Dear Mr. Blake,

Since purchasing my home in March 2007, I’ve spent nearly $10,000 on various projects around my home; most of that was spent at my local Home Depot in Washington, DC. Despite the poor inventory, poor customer service, long check out lines, disorganization of the store, rummaged-through/opened/broken/incomplete items sold, and many other problems with the store, I’ve shopped there because it’s local and has a good-sized lumber/drywall supply. After a recent incident, however, I’ll likely not return and instead will probably drive a few miles further to a Lowe’s in Maryland or Virginia in the future.

Long story short, I refused to show my receipt to exit the store, and was detained illegally (albeit briefly) by a uniformed Washington, DC Metropolitan Police officer in the 5th District on February 21, 2008. I’ve submitted a formal complaint to the police department, which is attached. I refuse to be treated like a criminal and be held at your store illegally in the future. As you probably know, most retail shrinkage/loss occurs as a result of internal theft by employees, not customers, so the store “requiring” customers to display receipts at exits likely isn’t doing much good anyway (not to mention that customers are not legally required to display receipts).

In addition to this incident, I’ve experienced the below within the past few months:

-Lack of knowledgeable sales staff

-Discourteous sales staff

-Inattentive sales staff

-Trouble receiving replacement parts missing from a ceiling fan kit; the local Home Depot associate actually opened up a new box for a different fan, gave me parts he assured would work, and sent me on my way. The parts didn’t fit my fan at all, and now the local Home Depot has yet another opened and incomplete item; the Chinese manufacturer was more efficient and shipped the parts to me as a courtesy.

-Saw used for cutting/ripping plywood and other lumber has been out of service for some time (forcing me to go elsewhere)

-Initial refusal by a cashier to allow an exchange of a Commercial Electric brand item; she claimed that the item was not purchased at a Home Depot, even though this brand is sold exclusively by Home Depot (after wasting 30 minutes of my time, a manager overrode the decision)

-Inaccurate inventory numbers, resulting in perpetually out-of-stock items (e.g.: one time, the store’s inventory system indicated to a sales rep that the store had hundreds of an item in stock, yet no associate could find the large, oddly-shaped item, forcing me to go to a competing store out-of-state, which has helpful staff and plenty of the item readily available)

-A store security guard grabbing my person and my purchased items and not allowing me to leave the store; my father had the receipt and already left the immediate area (Again, this type of action is unlawful; store employees or contractors have no legal right to touch/assault customers or prevent them from leaving, even if no receipt is shown. After purchasing the items, a customer’s obligation to the store ends.)

-Common items out of stock (one more than one occasion, I couldn’t find a CPVC 1/2″ elbow; this is a very common part, and it’s frustrating to have to rig several components together to complete a project)

-A 40-minute wait to even speak to someone about ordering a sheet of laminate countertop material (I recently built my own kitchen cabinets and counters); three other associates were present and available in the department, but claimed that the one busy associate was the single person in the store who could give me a rough guesstimate of price (I gave up and drove a few miles out-of-town to Lowe’s, which had a handful of popular styles of laminate sheets in stock, unlike Home Depot).

When I first arrived to DC, I was happy to hear that there was a Home Depot in town, as I was familiar with the “You can do it, we can help” attitude portrayed in advertisements. My experiences (only some are list above) have proven, however, that the Home Depot is most certainly not in a position to help as advertised. In fact, I wish I would have spend the thousands of dollars at Lowe’s or other stores. Even with a further distance to travel and possibly higher prices, I wouldn’t have left the store stressed out or frustrated nearly every time.

Mr. Blake, I realize this is a long e-mail, but I hope you– as Home Depot’s CEO– will consider what I’ve said and work to institute changes at the Home Depot in our nation’s capital; until then, though, I’ll likely find a store that’s well-organized and staffed with persons who are helpful.

In addition, I read today that Home Depot recently posted its first-ever annual sales decline, with a 27% drop in the fourth quarter of 2007. With those losses, I’m surprised that Home Depot hasn’t gotten back to basics like having good customer service, sensible policies, and treating customers as they should be treated.

Please feel free to contact me via e-mail or telephone at [redacted] should you have any questions.




UPDATE: Home Depot’s CEO Has Responded To This Complaint