On February 27 of this year, I placed an online order for a Husky 52” mobile workbench from The Home Depot. I chose to have the product delivered to a local store for pickup to avoid the $79 delivery fee. After the order was complete, I received an expected in-store pickup date of between March 24-29.
Two days after placing my order I receiver confirmation that my order had shipped. Hooray! Everything was going according to schedule.
Three weeks later on March 29, after not receiving any further updates, I contacted my local Home Depot and learned that my order was on a truck and due to be delivered to the store that evening. I was told to expect a text when the product arrived at the store and a second text when it was available for in-store pickup, presumably the following day.
The next day, after not receiving either of the anticipated texts, I called the store to check on the status of my order. The same manager who, the day before, told me the product was on a truck and due to be delivered to the store that evening, now told me to cancel the original order and place a new one. What? I had already waited over a month with no indication of a shipping delay or product availability issue.
After I hung up with the manager, I consulted The Home Depot order tracking website and learned that there had been no updates since the initial order was received. From there, I contacted the customer support 800 number and learned that I could receive a faster response via text and selected that prompt. After my initial reply to the first text message requesting my full name and billing address, I waited 20 minutes for the following (unedited) text conversation to unfurl:
The Home Depot rep: “Thank you Mr. Curtin. Its currently in the finally terminal location. Waiting for approval for delivery window. I’ve sent an email to the transportation manager, to update the delivery immediately”
Me: “I received a notice that the product shipped on 3/1 and that I could expect to pick it up at the Saddle Rock store between 3/24-3/29. If it’s stuck in the Suez Canal or whatever, that’s okay, I get it. There are supply chain issues that are beyond The Home Depot’s control. But I should receive a proactive update before the delivery window expires without having to contact customer support.”
The Home Depot rep: “I wholeheartedly agree with you, Mr. Curtin. While that may be the case. We lack the staff to reach out to every customer that has an issue to reach out proactively. Truly, I am very sorry this issue is taking place”
Me: “Nor do I expect that. It’s 2021. I expect sophisticated companies like The Home Depot to leverage automation – like Amazon or a gazillion other companies. Individual reps from these companies don’t contact me when there’s a delay, machines do. And in doing so, they efficiently reset my expectations without me having to initiate a call to see what’s up.”
Me: “Also, by ‘every customer that has an issue,’ I assume you’re referring to customers like me that have had a delivery window missed. Unless The Home Depot’s inventory algorithm is askew, missed delivery windows should be an exception. If The Home Depot is overwhelmed with missed delivery windows, then that is symptomatic of a larger process issue that needs to be addressed. I know this is likely beyond your role. I am just venting as a customer who is frustrated by not knowing when to expect a product that was ordered over a month ago that I expected to have in my garage by today.”
The Home Depot rep: “In concordantly, absolutely rectifiable your candor and expressive words are most electable and well received in part for us to keep to have a working relationship with our patrons”
Huh? I promise that last text is word-for-word. Anyway, it was clear that I would not get any more reliable information from this particular rep but did receive a commitment that I would be contacted by a store manager. That contact never came, so I called the store again on April 1 and shared my order number with a store rep who said he’d look into it and call me back, although he never did.
The following day, I enlisted The Home Depot customer service chat channel, shared my order number, and repeated my issue. The chat conversation that ensued uncovered no new information, but I now had a case identification number.
Four days later, on April 5, I went old school. Having exhausted the channels of a (brick-and-mortar) store phone call, 800 number customer support call, text, and chat, I wrote a letter to a headquarters executive responsible for store operations. (Due to the number of executives now working virtually due to the pandemic, it may be weeks before hearing back from this individual – assuming I hear back at all.)
My unfortunate customer experience came to an end on April 8 when I received an email from The Home Depot canceling my order. Twenty-five minutes later I received a customer satisfaction survey requesting feedback on my experience. It was addressed, “Dear Unknown.”
Given this post, you may infer that I plan to purchase a Husky mobile workbench elsewhere or that I resolve to “cancel” The Home Depot and shop at a competitor, but neither is true. I generally have a great in-store experience. This was only my second online order and the first one, in December of last year, was seamless.
I’m not unreasonable. I know that, due to a pandemic, severe weather, a lengthy bottleneck in the Suez Canal, and other factors, many related problems are beyond a company’s control. I do not hold The Home Depot responsible for these types of setbacks. The quality of a company’s response to these problems, however, is well within its control. And for this, like most consumers, I do hold them accountable.