We purchased quite a few items from these major tool and home improvement sources over the past month, and thought to put together a brief Secret Shopper-type report. Opinions are formed from both in-store and online purchase experiences, and ignores things like tool selection, brand availability, and pricing.
Shopping in-store at Lowes is fairly enjoyable. A wrench set we purchased for $25 dropped to $15, and customer service had no problems adjusting the price for us. Returning an order that was purchased online and shipped to us should have been easy, but we got stuck with a less than steller associate that we’ve had issues with several times before. We’ve heard other Lowes associates describe him in less kinder ways. But that’s a complaint about this individual associate at one store; overall our experiences have been great.
It’s also a pleasure to shop at Lowes.com. We ordered an item for in-store pickup, and although it was shown as in-stock, I received a phone call 22 minutes later telling me that it was actually out of stock. We understand that these things happen, and it’s great to know that someone at Lowe’s gets to work on your online order as soon as it’s placed. There’s great integration between Lowes.com and Lowes stores, but we did find that price changes are sometimes reflected sooner in-store than online. Just ask, and they will honor the lowest of the two.
Lowes Stores: A
Lowes Customer Experience Grade: A!
Most of our Home Depot shopping is done in-store, but we placed a few orders were placed online. HD now has a free in-store pickup option for eligible items, but we haven’t tried it out yet. We have no complaints about the in-store shopping experience, everything usually goes quite smoothly.
Home Depot.com, though, could stand a little improvement. Most of the errors we’ve seen were pricing mistakes, usually in favor of the customer. The search engine could also stand to be improved, but the same can be said about Sears.com and Lowes.com. One thing we didn’t like is how little care was put into packaging a shipped order. We ordered a 4-pack promo set of Stanley tape measures, and it arrived with the product packaging banged up and mangled a bit. The products themselves were fine, as tape measures are robust tools, but we would like to see delicate tools or gift items better protected during shipped.
Home Depot Stores: A
Home Depot.com: B
Home Depot Customer Experience Grade: A-
Shopping in-store is a relative breeze. Our local store hired extra staff that are friendly and helpful, and we can usually find what we’re looking for with ease. Ordering online for in-store pickup produced a few snags.
3/4 of the items we ordered on Black Friday were reported as unavailable and not-in-stock, but were found them in abundant supply when we checked the store that Sunday. Without hesitation, the cashier honored the online prices. We picked up 3 orders – one on a Saturday afternoon, one on a Sunday evening, and one on a Monday morning. All three took over 5-minutes, netting us 3X $5 off $5+ coupons..
Price-matching in-store or online is quick and easy, but there’s a 14-day window. Beyond that, you’ll have to do a “return-rebuy” if the difference is worth the hassle to you.
Sears.com, on the other hand, is still frustrating to shop through on occasion. One example – a Craftsman tool box was priced as $21.50 via a mobile device browser window, but $24.99 in a full browser windows. After placing an order, a quick price guarantee form fixed things, but should not have been necessary. A bigger issue – we used a $10 off $100 coupon code on an order. The $10 was deducted from a Craftsman Club sales item (anti-fatigue mat). We were shown one price (with incorrect tax estimate) at checkout, but later the order confirmation showed a higher total. Sears.com customer service got back to us and said that they cannot make the adjustment, so we’ll probably end up having to dispute the $14 unautorized additional charge via the credit card company. We’ve also heard of a few other technical glitches from several readers.
One thing that we didn’t care for were the many, many receipts that print out in-store. When buying tools, do we need coupons off of oil changes and clothing? Does it look like we need $10 off $40+ womens’ fashion boots? But on the other hand, a very welcome $15 off $100 tools coupon printed out after purchasing a pillow. We also like how you can now opt for receipts to be emailed to you – a great way to keep records on big-ticket items.
Another nuissance – we started automatically receiving Kmart emails after browsing at Sears.com. “We noticed you browsing, here are some deals you might like…” A couple of days and repeated settings changes later and the emails still continue.
With Sears.com, our experiences this month have ranged from excellent to downright blood-boiling. As we discussed in a recent post, great prices and selection keep us coming back for more. Also worth noting is that there are so many frequent sales and coupons that we almost never pay full price.
Sears stores: A
Sears.com: C (we’re being generous here)
Sears Customer Experience Grade: B-
As you can see, our in-store experiences have been positive across the board. Perhaps not perfect, but definitely close. So why shop online? With Sears, we’re drawn in with lower prices and better selection, but ease of use and consistency issues with the website drag the score way down. Home Depot.com also offers the occasional coupon code, and we’ve also noticed a subtle but gradual expansion of their online selection. And with Lowes, it’s mainly about convenience since prices and selection seem to be consistent across the board.
We shop at all three retailers for different reasons outside of just the customer experiences they provide. Of the three retailers, we shop at and spend the most at Sears, followed by Lowe’s, and then Home Depot. But if those other factors, such as price and product selection were to be held constant across all three stores, Lowe’s and Home Depot would gain a much larger chunk of my business.