Thursday, March 27, 2008

Home Depot: “You Can Do It. We Can Help.” Actually, make that just “You Can Do It.”

About a week ago, I went to the new Home Depot in Dripping Springs to purchase off-the-shelf blinds. When I can, I still shop at Ace in the Hills where the customer service is fantastic, but when, unfortunately, they don’t have a certain item I need, like these blinds, I must turn to the orange box. As I walked up and down the aisle looking for a particular blind, several Home Depot employees passed me. Not one offering a “can I help you find something?” Eventually, I found the blinds and checked out, after skipping by one cashier who was very busy chatting with her friend. Important stuff, I’m sure.

As it turned out, I purchased two too many blinds (I had purchased 43 blinds, when I only needed 41 blinds), so back up to Home Depot for returns. Since the store opened in early March, reports of poor customer service have already begun floating around Dripping Springs and my experience has been the typical level of ignore-the-customer found at the Sunset Valley store, so no big surprise. When I go to a Home Depot I consider it a necessary evil and expect to be ignored and agitated by the time I leave. Thusly, my standards are very low and this new location has certainly hovered right at those standards, but I think we all hoped that they would step up their customer service game in our “small town”. Dripping Springs is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever lived and I’ve lived East Coast, West Coast, and Europe. Even if you’re not outgoing and friendly by nature, Dripping gets into you and before you know it, you can’t help yourself, you’re doing the steering wheel “howdy”. And, in any event, I would think they would step up their customer service game in every location. Home Depot’s reputation for customer service (or lack thereof) has been tied to the miserable performance of their stock (even before the housing slump took its toll).

But I would think wrong, which brings me back to my return of two blinds.

As soon as I enter the new Dripping Springs Home Depot, I see there is a counter just for “Returns”. However, posted at the shiny new Returns counter is a handwritten sign that says “Go to Customer Service for Returns”. So, I round the corner and go to Customer Service where a woman, with a large, sweating Coke from Sonic sitting on the counter where the customer would presumably place their items, is acting very busy punching on a computer. Here is what transpired as I stood at the Customer Service counter:

Customer Service Lady (CSL): Oh, I don’t do returns.
Me: Okay…
CSL: Hmmm…let me get someone who does.
CSL (shouting to woman on a checkout lane): Brenda Sue (that’s what I’ll call her -- BS, for short), I need you to do this return.
BS (who had just been leaning against a checkout stand is suddenly busy with another project and dismissively waves her hand): I’ve got to handle something, I’ll be back.

BS walks by me and disappears down an aisle.

CSL (seeing another woman approaching, shouts out to her): Fannie Ursula (that’s what I’ll call her – FU, for short), I need you to do this return.

FU approaches, talking on a walkie-talkie. Very important stuff, no doubt.

FU (into walkie-talkie): I’ll have to call you back, I’ve got to do this return.

FU never actually looks or speaks to me. I hand her my receipt and place the blinds on the counter next to the sweating Coke. She and CSL speak to each. Certainly discussing very important things. FU, without actually looking in my general direction, does ask if there is anything wrong with blinds.

ME: No, just bought too many.

FU scans this and scans that and a receipt is printed, and, again, without ever actually looking at me or speaking to me, while still chatting with CSL, holds her arm out in my general direction. I grab my credit receipt dangling from her hand and depart.

As it turns out, a Dripping Springs Home Depot is still just a Home Depot.