Many readers have been commenting, emailing, and messaging me with questions about the Home Depot deal “hack” they saw hinted about on the internet.
Home Depot often partners with cordless power tool brands to offer free bonuses with select purchases. You will often see this with Dewalt 20V Max and FlexVolt cordless power tools, Milwaukee M12 and M18, Makita 18V, Ridgid, and Ryobi.
For years, tool deal and bargain hunters have been “hacking” these promotions by returning part of the package they don’t want.
This isn’t a “hack,” it’s simply a part of Home Depot’s return policy, and how they treat the value of “free with purchase” tool and battery gifts as prorated discounts.
The Home Depot Deal “Hack” Explained with Math
The best way to explain things is with an example.
At the time of this posting, Home Depot has a Milwaukee promo – buy the M12 Fuel oscillating multi-tool kit for $169, and get your choice of free tool or battery.
When you select the free XC battery, it says “you have qualified for a free item and save $119.”
For this particular promotion, the Milwaukee cordless power tool kit and free battery gift are treated as two separate items that you are purchasing.
The way Home Depot effectively treats this promotional purchase, you are buying the tool kit at $169, the battery at $119, and a $119 discount is applied to your entire order.
Let’s do some math.
Tool = Cost of eligible item, in this case the Milwaukee cordless tool kit
Gift = Value of free gift, in this case the M12 battery
Sticker = the assigned sticker value of the item you wish to keep
This assumes that you are buying one item, such as a cordless power tool, and receiving one free gift, such as a free tool or battery gift.
Note: This ONLY applies where a retailer might treat a “free gift with purchase” promotion as the purchase of two separate SKUs.
So, let’s say you wish to keep the OMT combo and need to return the battery for whatever reason. What’s the final price of the cordless kit after the “Home Depot deal hack?”
The prorated cost or return value of the OMT kit would then be $99.17
What if you need to return the OMT tool kit and keep the battery?
The prorated cost or return value of the battery would then be $69.83.
$99.17 + $69.83 = $169, the price you pay for both the OMT kit and free battery.
I should add that in this case, the Milwaukee cordless power tool kit is discounted from its regular price ($219), with the free gift on top of that. Often, this is not the case, with eligible tools and free gift items typically assigned their full list prices.
Does my math work out? Here’s a screenshot showing what I see when adding both items to my Home Depot online shopping cart:
It’s in agreement. According to this, you’re buying the tool kit for $99.17 and the battery for $69.83, for a total of $169.
Why Home Depot Does This
As mentioned, this isn’t a “deal hack,” it’s simply how Home Depot processes many of their “free gift with purchase” promotions.
Let’s say you buy a cordless power tool and get a free battery with it, but the battery is defective and doesn’t work. Stores have sold out of the tool, and you cannot part with it, as you need it for work.
What can you do? Return everything and suffer the loss of a tool you need for work? Go through a lengthy warranty replacement process even though you’re still with everything’s return period? Just deal with it?
With the free gift value prorated, you can return or exchange any part of your order.
Home Depot and other retailers know this tactic, and I assume this is why certain promotions will feature single-SKU tool bundles that must be purchased or returned as a single package.
I don’t like to encourage or even discuss this “deal hack, but there are sometimes legitimate reasons one might want to return only part of an order. Given the frequency I’ve been asked about this recently, now seems like a good time to discuss it.
I should point out that the way Home Depot applies discounts across all of the items in a purchase is not at all unusual. Retailers will often apply a discount across all of the items in an order. For instance, if you use a $20 off $100 discount at a store (as opposed to a percent-off coupon), or receive a free gift that’s not bundled within the primary purchase’s packaging, the savings will usually be proportionally distributed in case you return only part of the order.
A More Recent “Deal Hack”
I would assume that Home Depot and partnering cordless power tool brands generally anticipate that customers taking advantages of “free tool or battery with purchase” promotions will keep the bonus item(s).
There are ways Home Depot easily defeats “deal hacking,” such as by combining bundles into single-SKU purchases. If their itemized return policy is exploited beyond what they can or are willing to tolerate, they might do this more.
There has been increasing chatter online about a new ordering “hack”, where shoppers have been separating their order fulfillment options.
They would set one part of a “free gift with purchase” order to be delivered to their home, and the other part for in-store pickup. They would quickly cancel part of the order, saving themselves a trip to the store to return an unwanted item.
Home Depot caught on, and now requires the same fulfillment method for all parts of a “free gift with purchase” order. So if purchasing a cordless power tool kit is bundled with a separate free tool or battery (as opposed to being a single-SKU bundle), you must select both for home delivery or in-store pickup. It seems that Home Depot’s system no longer allows otherwise at checkout.
The Ethics of it
Is this a “deal hack,” or misuse of a store’s return policy?
To be frank, it doesn’t matter to me how you see it. I’ve steered away from this topic for years, as it’s too easily abused (especially by resellers), and I didn’t want to give anyone ideas.
But given how often I am now asked about “deal hacking,” I figured it was time to post about it..
The practice has been so prevalent that Home Depot and other retailers must be clued in by now. Maybe they don’t mind as much as one would think, especially if a return brings you back to the store. But, I would guarantee they’re watching sales and returns data, as well as inventory numbers.
Should the “tool deal return hack” practice become more the norm than the exception, Home Depot could easily defeat it, by switching to more single-SKU bundles, changing the return policy, or any number of other ways.
But, I suppose there are other things they would and should deal with first. At least when someone returns a “free gift” item for the sole purpose of getting an extra discount applied to the other part of a purchase, it’s usually in new and sellable condition.