The holiday shopping season is just a few weeks away, and there are some important things to talk about before we get lost in all of the tool deals and promotions.
Before buying tools at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or anywhere else, be sure to check the return policy!
I just read a story on Reddit, where someone tried to return Kobalt power tools to Lowe’s, but was turned away because the packaging had been opened.
That’s… not supposed to happen. Right? A Lowe’s store rejecting a return for Kobalt tools in like-new condition, purchased the day before, because they were opened?
Home Depot and Lowe’s stores have been fairly relaxed when it comes to returns, and so I took a look to see their exact terms.
You can find the exact terms on the retailers’ websites, and I believe on their receipts as well. They should have the policy at customer service too.
Below, I’ll quote what I feel are the most relevant parts.
Home Depot Return Policy
Most merchandise can be returned within 90 days with proof of purchase to The Home Depot unless noted below.
Home Depot PRO Return Policy
BE 100% HAPPY WITH YOUR PURCHASE OR WE’LL TAKE IT BACK. NO PROBLEM.
Free, fast and easy returns to any store or online.
Most new, unopened merchandise sold by The Home Depot Pro can be returned within 90 days of purchase, unless noted in our Return Policy Exceptions.
Curious, Home Depot’s website says most products can be returned, while the PRO site – which is the default for anyone logged in with a Pro Xtra account – says that returns must be new and unopened products.
So if you’re not happy, they’ll take a tool back. But only if it’s new and unused?
Regarding damaged products, the PRO website says:
If an order arrives damaged or incomplete or is in need of replacement parts, contact Pro Customer Support within 30 days of delivery for resolution.
Certain equipment, such as gas-powered outdoor tools, have a 30-day return period.
Policies can change and often have exclusions. This is why you need to (re)familiarize yourself with their policies on occasion, to ensure there are no surprises.
Lowe’s Return Policy
If you’re not completely satisfied with your Lowe’s purchase, simply return the merchandise to any Lowe’s store in the US.
Most new, unused merchandise can be refunded or exchanged with receipt within 90 days of the original purchase date, unless noted in our Return Policy Exceptions.
This is similar to the wording in Home Depot’s Pro return policy.
Here’s what Lowe’s says about most outdoor power equipment:
must be returned within 30 days of receiving the product and must be unused and in original, unopened, undamaged, factory-sealed packaging.
That tends to be standard for gas engine outdoor tools, but there’s no differentiation between gas, electric, or battery-powered.
Here is what Lowe’s says for their Kobalt tool brand:
SATISFACTION 90 DAY GUARANTEE
They also say:
If you’re not completely satisfied with your Lowe’s purchase, simply return the
merchandise to any Lowe’s store in the US. Most new, unused merchandise
can be refunded or exchanged with proof of purchase within 90 days of the
original purchase date. Some exceptions to the standard policy exist.
So if you’re not satisfied, “simply” return it. But then they add it has to be new and unused, in most cases, with some exceptions possible. I take this to mean that, even if it’s new and unused, there’s no a guarantee they’ll accept a return.
Here’s what the Redditor said:
I was just turned away from Lowe’s from returning some kobalt 24v batteries since I had opened the pack, same with a kobalt shop vac. Literally bought yesterday. Is it true that like new, but otherwise open items are not accepted? Their return policy seems rather vague here.
So Lowe’s has a 90 Day “satisfaction guarantee” on Kobalt tools, but it only applies to new and unopened tools?
Let’s say you buy a Kobalt cordless power tool battery, open it, and find you’re not happy with the runtime and wish to buy a higher capacity battery.
Does Lowe’s policy mean you’re stuck with it, even if it’s a matter of customer satisfaction and not a product defect? Technically, that’s what it sounds like. If so, wouldn’t rejecting a reasonable refund request go against the spirit of Lowe’s Kobalt tools satisfaction guarantee?
Lowe’s website doesn’t provide details regarding defective tools, other than instructing customers to contact them via phone.
What happens if you buy a Kobalt screwdriver set, open the clamshell packaging – which typically has to be cut through – and immediately determine that you’re deeply unsatisfied with the ergonomics?
Are you stuck with the purchase? Lowe’s Kobalt satisfaction guarantee suggests “no,” but their return policy suggests “yes.”
Which policy applies, Lowe’s 90 day satisfaction guarantee on Kobalt tools, or Lowe’s return policy that says products must be returned in new and unused condition?
It’s also possible for shoppers to run into this with Home Depot’s Pro return policy, but their regular policy seems less rigid.
I’ve heard of egregious return policy abuses, such as where customers essentially treat tool purchases as free rentals. They buy a tool, use it for a project, and then return it for a refund in unsellable condition.
With things like that happening, I can see where Home Depot and Lowe’s “new and unused” clauses come from.
Still, customer abuses doesn’t excuse return policy contradictions (at worse) or murkiness (at best).
Ultimately, it seems to come down to the customer service associates you’re dealing with in-store. It’s also a problem when, as a customer, you can’t point to the website and say something like “see, that’s where it says you have a satisfaction guarantee and hassle-free returns.”
That the Redditor went to a Lowe’s store to return Kobalt tools they purchased the day before, and was turned down, is surprising. They described the tools as opened but “like-new.”
Was the Lowe’s store in the right, or not? Objectively, their written policy does say “new” and “unopened.” Subjectively, given the details the Redditor shared, I think the store should have accepted the return.
Read the Sales Return Policies EVERYWHERE
There’s one knife shop I order from, and I read their policies once. Let’s say an order goes missing in transit. If you take advantage of their free shipping, they’ll handle things with the shipper. If you pay for expedited shipping, or standard shipping if you don’t meet the free shipping threshold, dealing with the insurance claim becomes your responsibility.
Another knife shop has restocking fees. I recently returned an item there, and the policy wasn’t enforced. It’s seemingly there to protect the store against excessive returns, such as when someone buys ten high-priced knives and only intend to keep one.
Some stores – generally smaller niche stores but also some larger ones – won’t refund orders to your credit card. For example, there’s a maternity clothes chain that only provides a store credit for returns, no matter the reason.
A couple of boutique tool and gear shops give customers the opportunity ti pay for “route insurance.” If you decline, they won’t replace an order if it gets lost or destroyed in the mail.
My Personal Stance
Speaking as a tool user, if I seek to return a Kobalt tool to Lowe’s, or something from Husky, Ridgid, or Ryobi to Home Depot, and it’s in like-new condition, I don’t expect to encounter any hassles.
Obviously there are reasonable exclusions, such as with gas generators.
Especially if a brand has a satisfaction guarantee, I expect to be able to hold the tool in my hands and still be allowed to return it, in like-new condition, for a refund.
If Lowe’s turned me away from returning a like-new Kobalt vacuum and battery – presumably in opened clamshell packaging – I’d ask for a manager to make an exception. If they wouldn’t budge, that’s something I would remember for a very long time, and it would influence many future purchasing decisions.
Hopefully the Redditor’s experience at their Lowe’s store is an outlier, and the same wouldn’t happen at most other stores.