This is always a challenging time of year for online retailers, due to the surge in order volume.
With COVID and social distancing restrictions still in place, and higher than usual online sales volume even before the holiday shopping season started, retailers were under exceptionally high burdens.
So, let’s talk about how some of our go-to tool retailers handled order fulfillment and customer service inquiries.
I didn’t think it was appropriate to “test” customer service departments with simulated requests, and so I only contacted retailers with requests for information pertaining to my orders or when it was necessary to resolve problems that came up.
What I am hoping is for some of you to chime in about your experiences at these and other retailers.
Problem 1: A backordered item delayed an entire order without explanation, seemingly from a computer glitch.
Remedy 1: Fast customer service set things straight.
Problem 2: Milwaukee Packout organizer arrived without dividers.
Remedy 2: Customer service sent a prompt replacement.
Problem 3: My Powermatic jointer order is delayed until February 2021. I was informed of this 8 days after I placed my order, and after I asked I was told they let me know as soon as Powermatic provided the update.
Overall: Shipping speed was fast, and customer service was capable and didn’t keep me waiting. Excellent communications via email and phone.
I am very satisfied with my Acme Tools experiences.
Amazon was pretty on-target as far as on-time delivery goes.
So far, they’ve been doing an exemplary job.
The same goes for Amazon UK, Amazon DE, and Amazon Japan. Amazon Japan has the BEST packaging practices I’ve seen. All three international stores use boxes too flimsy for international shipping, but everything seems to have arrived intact.
I ordered a camera lens the other day, and it was supposed to have free overnight shipping. Something happened and it still isn’t here, and tracking shows it’s still waiting to be picked up by FedEx.
B&H has a somewhat sophisticated CHAT system and it shows your place in the virtual queue.
I’m told the reship will take time – it’ll probably be next week until I see my order.
Other sellers have many of the same products at the same pricing, but 1) B&H usually ensures proper packaging, 2) I don’t have to worry as much about counterfeits as with other sellers, 3) they have decent customer service year-round, and 4) I have that credit card that discounts every order by the tax amount, which can amount to sizable savings over the course of the year.
My orders shipped out fast.
They forgot to fulfill the free Mora knife that was supposed to be included with my order. A note said it would ship separately, but it never arrived. After a couple of emails, it should be on its way now.
BladeHQ usually has great customer service, and this is what I’ve seen thus far.
I only placed one order with CPO Tools this holiday season. It shipped fast and arrived quickly.
My GPKnives shipped quickly, although via snail-mail. I have not had to contact their customer service yet.
My one order arrived fairly quick, and a little banged-up but the contents seemed to be in perfect condition.
My orders shipped relatively quickly. One item (new mailbox) arrived a bit later than expected, but all of my other orders were on-time and without any issues.
My order shipped very quickly and was received quickly.
Problem 1: I received a Milwaukee non-Packout organizer instead of the Packout I ordered.
Remedy: Quick issue of return label.
Problem 2: The product I ordered and was supposed to receive became backordered at multiple retailers, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t get my replacement quickly. Multiple requests for status on the replacement went unanswered.
I emailed my International Tool contacts to see what’s going on, as I wasn’t hearing from anyone through email and my phone call attempts weren’t being answered.
I was assured that they were taking steps to remedy the situation and bolster their customer service efforts.
International Tool has been recommended by readers in the past, and unless a trend appears, I consider this a fluke occurrence due to COVID restrictions and conditions.
I placed two orders, one in early November, and another on Black Friday.
Shipping speed was a little slow, but understandable given the time of year. Backordered items were slow.
Communications were excellent. They were proactive about informing me about unanticipated delays on items they expected to be available sooner.
Overall: We continue to highly recommend KC Tool.
Fast shipping, no problems.
The local store showed inventory on the Kobalt 40V motorized car, but my order was cancelled. I was contacted by the local store via email where they explained this. I asked if they could change the order from pickup to delivery at no extra charge, and they replied that they weren’t seeing it in stock and so they couldn’t do that.
The local store tried their best. I could have requested the bare tool version at discounted prices and maybe at a discount, but I was not interested in doing so.
Ohio Power Tool
My order went smoothly. The items were backordered, which I knew when I placed the order, but Ohio Power Tool still took the time to email me with an ETA.
This was a good shopping and customer service experience.
I had a problem during their flash sale, and email communications were quick and effective.
I inquired about an order that was delayed and partially delivered but with all parts being marked as shipped and delivered, and received prompt reassurances that the delayed items would soon be on their way.
Overall, this was a good experience.
Is anyone still buying tools at Sears these days?
My first order did not ship out after 16 days. I found a better deal on some of the items elsewhere, and so I requested cancellation. Tool Nut replied the next morning and cancelled the order for me.
I placed an order on 11/30 for a Powermatic jointer base. I emailed on 12/16, because after 16 days I had not received any shipping notifications or updates. I was told that the item was delayed and backordered until “mid to late January 2021.” At this time, they are still showing the item as “in stock.”
I ordered from Tool Nut because they know how to ship tools with proper packaging, and their customer service has proved to be very good in the past.
While not as proactive about communicating delays to the customer, they answered my inquiries very quickly.
I think that Tool Nut has been hit hard by COVID restrictions and higher sales volume. At this time I still recommend them.
If my jointer wasn’t also delayed, I would have cancelled my order for the mobile base and ordered from Amazon. Amazon had the mobile base at similar pricing at the time, but I generally have more trust in Tool Nut when it comes to shipping something like this, although in this case it seems like it might be drop-shipped.
I ordered some smaller products and tote bags that they suggest are capable of hauling tools around.
Their Black Friday deal was separated into 50% inventory available in the morning, and 50% availability in the afternoon. I took too long to place my first order and half of what I wanted sold out.
I later contacted them via chat about combining orders to save on shipping fees and materials. They said this would likely be done automatically. I received a shipping notification and return credit for shipping fees on the second order.
Tom Bihn has excellent customer service, even now during a challenging holiday season.
Zoro has had great customer service over the past few months.
How’d they do during the holiday season? I couldn’t tell you – they didn’t have the typical promos and coupon codes I expected, and so I still haven’t ordered my shopping list of nonessential parts and supplies.
Walmart cancelled one of my orders without explanation. I placed a duplicate order after this happened, and it shipped out without problem.
I placed a preorder for several items. My credit card number changed, due to fraud charges, and nobody at Walmart was able to change the payment information that was to be applied to this order. I couldn’t “cancel and reorder” since the items were no longer available. I eventually found a different seller to order from.
I placed an order for 3 items. 1 of 3 shipped out, and 2 of 3 did not due to it being out of stock. My credit card company sent me an “did you authorize this?” notice when they were ready to ship. Walmart customer service first told me they did charge me, then told me they didn’t, then said they saw there were new payment attempts. I told my bank the charges were authorized, and asked customer service to ensure my order would be processed. I was told that they would request a repeated payment attempt. The website continued to show me a “change your credit card number if you want these items” error, but didn’t actually allow me to do this. I eventually cancelled, but was told I had been charged, and so I asked for a refund.
Overall, I have found Walmart’s customer service to be less capable at resolving uncommon issues compared to other online retailers. I will only order from Walmart’s website if there’s a significant pricing advantage or product exclusivity.
They are not holding up well to the holiday surge, with orders delayed and one (B&H) inexplicably missing.
So far, UPS has been stellar with items being on-time and with detailed tracking. I shipped a box last Tuesday and it arrived at its destination on Thursday as expected.
The post office is experiencing massive delays.
For example, my sister sent me a package via Priority. That item should have arrived in one day. Two weeks later, it’s still not here.
What have your recent tool shopping experiences been like?