Part 0: Placing the Order
Two months ago, Lowe’s has said that their website would be updated in 2020. Whatever changes they’re planning, they can’t come soon enough.
I have not placed many online orders with Lowe’s in the past few years, largely because of how a couple of negative experiences have soured me.
I placed two orders earlier this month, one for delivery items and the other for items that would be shipped via ground methods. The delivery order, my second such order with Lowe’s in the past month, went without too much of a hitch.
That ground/regular shipping items order though, it gave me some headaches.
Even when placing the order, it just wouldn’t let my order go through, with an error message being that I should try another payment method or call them up. I did try to call Lowe’s the previous week about something else, but gave up after 15 minutes on hold waiting to talk to someone.
With this order I tried and I tried, and eventually I removed an item from my order and it went through.
Part 1: Contact Us About Your Delayed Item(s)
Today, I received an email with the above message. Basically, several items from my order are delayed, and if I don’t call Lowe’s they’re going to cancel my order in 3 days.
I really don’t want to endure very long waiting times. You can’t email Lowe’s customer service any more, and there’s no chat option. Waiting on hold is the only recourse.
There actually is a way to get to someone via chat, but it turns out that they can’t actually help with orders. They told me to call the phone number or to email an address. That email address doesn’t actually work – I tried emailing it with my last Lowe’s order issue and it bounces back a message about email not being read or monitored at that address anymore.
I would be more than happy to check that for you. However, we don’t have the tools to access any order details from this department. In this case, you just need to contact our customer care department because they are the ones that have all the tools to access the information you need. You can call them at the phone number 1-800-445-6937 or email them at [email protected]lowes.com. If you text them at 84109 they should be able to assist you right away!
Oh, and the items I’m waiting on? There are only 2 SKUs, both of which are currently marked as available for shipping, and with inventory at local stores.
I don’t get it. They’re in stock but backordered?
And although there are 2 SKUs, Lowe’s has it broken down into 4 (of 4 ordered) of one item, and 9 of 10 for the second item, and 1 of 10 of that second item is listed separately.
Ah, so maybe that’s what happened at checkout. I previously wrote about Lowe’s online ordering shopping cart posting an error message that you can only add up to ten unique items per order and to place additional orders for other items.
For whatever reason, Lowe’s split 10 of one item into two different line items of 9 and 1. Why? Who knows. But maybe that created 11 line items for the order behind the scenes, preventing my order from being processed with the 10 unique item maximum in place.
They did this with one of my orders maybe two years ago, and that was the last straw that soured me on shopping via Lowe’s website.
What really bugs me is that right now I can still add those same items to my shopping cart, and it shows in-stock for ordering with shipping. So how are these items on backorder if they’re saying it’s in stock??
To that, Lowe’s agent responded:
We are receiving a lot of customers online and server crashes have been occurring.
I gave them the model numbers of the plumbing fittings I ordered and asked them to check whether the items I was told are backordered are in stock, since I might try to reorder them. Maybe the store I select as “my store” affected the availability somehow?
It is not possible for us to look up orders from here as we are not provided with access to the order system. this chat line is reserved for product sales and stock inquiries only. [email protected]
But as mentioned, do you know what happens if you email that Lowe’s email address? They send you an automatic reply:
Thank you for your e-mail. Please note this is an automated response and this mailbox is not currently being monitored.
Here are a few helpful tips: [removed for brevity]
If you require assistance, please contact us at 1-800-445-6937.
I repeated my request that they check the inventory of the two items I was told were backordered and would be cancelled if I didn’t call up [and endure excruciating waiting times on hold]. Maybe they’d see something different on their end?
[item 1] is currently in stock.
[item 2] is available for shipping.
Do they know of any reasons why I was emailed and told these items are backordered and Lowe’s would be cancelled that part of my order in 3 days if they don’t hear from me?
Unfortunately, we do not handle that type of information online.
I thanked them, expressed my appreciation for their trying to help, and ended the chat.
Yes, I know that I could and should have just called Lowe’s customer service instead of trying to see what could be done via chat, but I wanted to avoid lengthy hold times if I could help it.
It seems I’d have to call anyway.
*On hold, waiting.*
Here’s the thing – one of what I ordered can be purchased from Home Depot and elsewhere, so I do have alternate sourcing. The other item though, that’s trickier. Home Depot has it in-stock but only for in-store pickup or fee-based express delivery. There are other suppliers, but mainly wholesale.
Update: I visited the local Home Depot store shortly after the first draft of this post, and while the pipe fitting I needed was listed as in-stock, there were no placements for it on the shelf. It’s possible there was an unopened box on a higher shelf, but I wasn’t going to trouble an associate to get it down for me. I’ll end up ordering it from an industrial supplier.
Some other retailers, such as Ace Hardware, have a “we’ll hold your place and call you back” system. Waiting on hold is frustrating for everyone, but I’d like to be able to hang up my phone and not hear “we’re still assisting other customers…” message twice a minute in between hold music.
*On hold for 15 minutes.*
I’m trying to be more understanding. There’s a global pandemic. A lot of people are out of work right now. Those who are still working are working from home.
A lot of retailers are warning about enormous waiting times. I worry that my issue isn’t important enough to bother an associate about.
The issue itself though, that doesn’t seem to be related to the current state of things. I had a similar online shopping experience with Lowe’s in the past, back when life was “normal” and not drastically different as it is now.
Meaning, this issue probably would have happened anyway, COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-at-home orders or not.
With my other recent Lowe’s order, my first online order with the retailer in a long time, my initial shipment was missing 4 items. Why didn’t they ship? When would they arrive? Would they arrive? That’s when I tried to call Lowe’s and gave up due to long hold times. The items showed up about a week later. Those are the same parts I reordered and received the “delayed items” notice about.
I suppose the “we’ll cancel your items in 3 days” policy helps to avoid lengthy waits for backordered items? It can give people an opportunity to search for an alternate supplier? I don’t quite know if that’s the case.
With Amazon, if an ordered item is delayed for a very long time, such as for a preordered or backordered item, they’ll email customers and a click of a digital button will express their interest to keep the order active. That’s why I find Lowe’s policy surprising. I have 3 days to tell them not to cancel the delayed parts of my order?
These items are shown to be in stock for new ordering, but they can’t actually ship them? I’m really hoping for insights.
* On hold for 25 minutes.*
I’m feeling terribly frustrated and quite frankly terrible that I feel frustrated. In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, I should suck it up and just be happy that I’m able to order and receive anything I ordered from Lowe’s website right now.
But if I put all that aside for a moment, these problems with Lowe’s ordering and fulfillment process are nearly exactly what happened last time I gave them a chance. I ordered work gloves and they cancelled half the order while still showing the items as in stock.
I can’t say whether the current COVID-19 situation is making things worse, but my gut feeling is that it isn’t.
While frustrated with Lowe’s online shopping experience, I am definitely appreciative that they’re accepting and fulfilled web orders at all.
The associate said the items are not actually backordered but they’re waiting for inventory from a different warehouse. They want to double check on the availability.
Basically, as I understand it, she said that fulfillment is being delayed by the local store that this part of the order was sent to, and it’s scheduled to be sent out at the end of the month.
In trying to figure out what to do, it was suggested that my options were to 1) cancel and try to order the same items from a different store (location?), or 2) wait and see what happens and call back if I need to cancel.
The phone associate was pleasant and helpful, but this whole experience was still a mess. They cancelled the delayed items from my order.
I don’t quite understand what happened though. The store that Lowe’s handed that part of the order to can’t fulfill the order? Is a box of inventory missing? The other items in my order – plumbing fittings of similar nature – will ship out. What’s the difference, when everything is shown to be in stock locally and for shipping?
I don’t understand it – everything is in stock locally, and the website says it’s available for shipping.
I feel guilty for having to trouble customer service over this, but the fact of the matter is that, based on past experiences, this type of issue/order confusion would happen anytime, and not just in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Part 2: Nothing Shipped Out Yet
I’ve been sitting on this post for nearly two weeks, waiting for the rest of the order to arrive and provide closure for the story. I thought that perhaps my order was sent to a store instead of being fulfilled online and then “pickers” couldn’t find some of the items, marking them backordered while preparing to send the rest of the order. But, it’s been 12 days since I placed my order, and no parts of the rest of the order appear to have shipped out yet.
Is this because I hadn’t accepted the delay on the other items? Is my order stuck in limbo?
Stores, warehouses, customer service – everyone is over-burdened with either heavy in-store foot-traffic or online order volume. I know that, and am grateful we can still order supplies online rather than having to venture to stores where social distancing should be (but isn’t always) observed.
My order is for needed but not essential items, and so I figured ordering online was the less burdensome option for everyone. Maybe I was wrong.
I know that order fulfillment and shipping might be taking a lot longer these days, but there haven’t been any communications about the rest of my order besides the initial “these items are backordered and will be cancelled if you don’t call us” email.
Lowe’s really needs to be better about their online order communications. An ETA would be nice – anything to suggest that I’ll eventually get the items I ordered.
As mentioned, their promised website overhaul cannot come soon enough. With COVID-19 pandemic “stay at home unless you must go out” orders in place, online retailers are going to have to adjust and adapt, and perhaps make rolling improvements. That task is easier said than done, with corporate associates most likely working from home.
My frustration here is not so much that my order is delayed so much, but that I’m completely in the dark about why.
Part 3: I Called Customer Service Again
Nervous that my order is somehow stuck in limbo, I called up Lowe’s customer service.
GOOD NEWS: There was only an 11 minute expected hold time, and Lowe’s has implemented a “we can call you back at your number” feature!! This is great!
I recorded my name and received a call shortly after.
Here’s the gist of it – one of the items is reported as being “delayed indefinitely,” but the model number matches the delayed items the rest of this post is about, and it has already been cancelled.
Most of the order is said to be expected to be delivered by today, and although it hasn’t shipped out yet, there’s a shipment number – not a tracking number – which means that it’s in the process.
One item is said to be expected by Lowe’s by 4/29. I asked if cancelling it will help the rest of the order move along and was told that it’s a good idea to try, and if can’t be cancelled, it means it’ll likely ship separately. They couldn’t cancel it, which they tried two different ways, including adding a line item to get into the order. Because that item couldn’t be cancelled, Lowe’s customer service associate said it’s not holding up the rest of the order.
It was also said suggested a few times that my calling in and asking about the order might help to move things along with their computer system, and so I could/should do that if I’m not seeing any changes on my end.
They also mentioned that their computer system can no longer handle everything in real-time due to the immense volume of orders, and so I might not see order updates or status information as fast as they can see it when looking up my order.
At this point I’m a bit confused, but I suppose this is kind of like what the online chat associate said, about “server crashes.”
The associate told me they’re trying to make changes when necessary, such as not allowing online orders of chest freezers. They received so many orders for freezers and can’t allow any more until manufacturers and suppliers catch up and Lowe’s knows they’re receiving inventory. Looking online, I do see that all chest freezers are either out of stock or marked as “purchase in-store only.”
Basically, Lowe’s online ordering system is as overwhelmed as I’ve assumed their associates – and anyone else working in online order fulfillment these days – have been.
This associate really took the time to investigate my order, and made me feel really good about Lowe’s customer service. They told me a survey would follow the call, and I looked forward to leaving the highest ratings, but after the associate disconnected the call was terminated and I couldn’t take that survey.
Lowe’s IS trying to adapt, or at least I believe they are. Their call system now has a “we’ll call you back” feature whereas they didn’t have this 10 days ago.
Part 4: Suggested Lowe’s Order Volume
We’re in the midst of a pandemic right now, and it seems the online order volume and reduced fulfillment center staff (presumably due to social distancing requirements) are far more significant than anyone could have predicted.
It seems that Lowe’s online ordering and fulfillment system might not be scalable up to modern standards, which is also why they promised investors big changes for 2020.
For the items included in this order, I still need them, and I can wait.
I have been avoiding unnecessary orders, and will try to expand on that to avoid adding to the burden being placed on warehouse workers and online fulfillment systems right now.
This experience with Lowe’s has been messier than I’d like, and certainly confusing, but I feel even more appreciative now – still a bit frustrated though – at knowing they are actively trying to improve their response.
Changes like the new “callback” feature for phone customer service won’t help with the computer slow-downs they seem to be having, but they can’t overhaul their online ordering infrastructure at a time like this.
If Lowe’s online order numbers are linear/chronological, and a look at my order history suggests they are (except for a backwards jump between a November 2017 order and my following order in June 2018), the differences would indicate the number of orders between my own.
- 3/27/20 – starting point
- 4/10/20 – order number difference of >2,500,000
- 4/19/20 – order number difference of >1,400,000
(The first and second shippable orders were for plumbing fittings, and the last for air filters.)
If the order numbers are doled out in chronological order, this would mean more than 2.5 million orders in the 2 weeks between my first and second orders, and then another 1.4 million orders in the next 9 days after that.
I don’t know how realistic that is.
I placed two orders on 4/10, one for delivery-only items, and the other for shipping, with order numbers ~3300 values apart. It now seems possible for Lowe’s to have racked up another 3000+ orders in that time.
If we look at my order numbers between 3/27 and 4/19, there’s a difference of a little more than 3,960,000, which over 24 days would mean Lowe’s is receiving ~165,000 orders each day. Some of those orders, like mine, might have to ship at separate times, or come from different places.
I don’t know how accurate these numbers relate to orders placed, but it’s at least certain that a lot more people who normally shop at Lowe’s stores and other home centers’s retail locations are instead ordering their supplies online.
Part 5: Summary
Here’s the “too long, didn’t read” summary:
- I ordered in-stock items from Lowe’s 12 days ago
- Lowe’s sent a notice that some items are delayed
- I cancelled the delayed items
- Lowe’s added a callback feature to their customer service phone system!
- I called for order status and was told the cancelled items were “indefinitely delayed” despite being in-stock on the website
- I’m told Lowe’s has seen a huge uptick in online orders
- I’m told by customer service that their computers are way behind
- Thank you to all Lowe’s associates for keeping things going!
While I’m frustrated that I won’t be receiving the “delayed indefinitely” parts of my order that Lowe’s website even now still says are “available” for shipping and delivery, and it’s taking a long time for my actually in-stock items to ship out to me, I’m grateful that Lowe’s warehouse fulfillment workers are still able to get things out at all, and I appreciate that Lowe’s is at least trying to adapt to the current situation and make much-needed changes to their online shopping and support experience.
Two weeks ago, I was on hold for more than a half hour and with no insights as to how long it might be before I could speak to a customer service agent.
Today, I was informed of an 11 minute wait time and took advantage of the “call-back” feature where I was called back as promised and connected to customer service when my number in the queue was (figuratively) called.
There are more changes to be made, and I’m hopeful that they’ll work on gradual implementations and adaptations behind the scenes, at least as much as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, and there’s no telling how long it will be until it’s normal to make a casual supply run to the local home center or hardware supply again.
Some readers have yelled at me for daring to place online orders in the midst of a pandemic, others have criticizing me for not going to the store to buy what I need.
Right now, authorities are making the rules when it comes to travel recommendations, and retailers are making the rules when it comes to online ordering.
Some independent retailers have increased their minimum order amounts, others increased the minimum order amount for paid local deliveries.
Retailers are all making adaptations to the current situation, and it’s unclear as to how Lowe’s might further adapt, aside from their “10 unique items per order” policy.
Have you guys had any notable hiccups in your online shopping experiences?
Many retailers have slow order fulfillment rates right now, but have you noticed any other changes?