Why Not to Shop at Home Depot

OK, so generally I want to shop at locally owned places, anyway. Because I like having local businesses, and they tend to care more about having local people like them. Chain businesses generally don't care if a few people dislike them because they can make it up in the aggregate. Local businesses really do care.

That said, sometimes I will shop at a chain when they have something I can't get elsewhere. We needed 18" flexible duct for the air return, and we did not need that much of it. I'm guessing maybe 10' (Noel thinks more, whatever). Local businesses sell it in boxes with 25' of duct, which seemed like a LOT more than we needed. Home Depot, on the other hand, lists a 12' length on their web site.

You will see shortly why I don't say they sell it.

On October 19, I ordered this product from the Home Depot web site, using the free delivery option. The estimated delivery was October 29-31, which worked fine with our schedule for the heating system changes, although it was a little later than I hoped.

I got a tracking number on October 23, and it was coming from Southern California, so I knew it would only take a couple days. I was psyched because this was faster than I expected from the estimates, and I hoped we could get the return moved soon.

On October 24 UPS's tracking noted the package as delivered. I went outside, and there was no package. I checked the tracking again:

Delivery confirmation

Okey doke. So I called UPS, and they said, Oh yes, this package was delivered, and read me a name and address that were not mine at all. Obviously that is not UPS's fault, so I called Home Depot.

It turned out that the duct is drop-shipped from the manufacturer, and they had mysteriously changed the name and address on the order. A guy on the other side of town was staring at an enormous box full of duct he didn't order. Or everybody else in town is also moving their air return.

Anyway, Home Depot offered me the solution of canceling that order and resubmitting it, so that's what I did. The rep told me the estimated delivery date was November 1-5, which was not too much after the date I expected to get the original duct, so OK.

I got the shipping confirmation for that package on October 31, right on schedule. On November 2, the tracking said the package was in Oakland, delivery scheduled for Monday. Yay!

Monday came and went, no package. The tracking updated to say scheduled delivery was Tuesday.

Tuesday (the end of the delivery estimate) came and went, no package. The tracking updated to say scheduled delivery was Wednesday.

The second package tracking

This morning I called UPS to find out why the package was not arriving, and they were unable to help me, because of course tracking is not really tracking and if a package hasn't been scanned in 24 hours it is considered lost and must be found through a complicated procedure.

I called Home Depot, and they were basically unable to offer me anything useful. UPS could initiate a search, but the time estimate on that is 8-10 days, which is just ridiculous for something we were planning to use for construction. Because the package is drop-shipped, there's just a processing time of 3-4 days, and even with the free next-day shipping they offered me, the soonest the package might be here would be next Tuesday. Assuming it actually arrived, which is not something I could assume at this point.

(The tracking has now updated to say the scheduled delivery is tomorrow. I wonder when they will stop updating that.)

I have no idea why these snafus happened. Was it bad management of suppliers on Home Depot's part? Was it a lowest-bidder situation with the manufacturer? Was it UPS sucking horribly?

What I do know is that Home Depot set up a situation where there is no way they can provide good customer service, where they can pretend not to be responsible for an order they took on their site. There was literally nothing they could offer me as far as customer service because of the business decisions they made when they designed their online store.

I also know that after I canceled that second order, I drove over to Oakland to Rubenstein Supply and paid $15 more for a package containing 25' of flexible duct, and a nice guy loaded it in my car for me.


They're kind of in a funky neighborhood, but they've got parking and Saturday hours and they've got my business now.

posted by ayse on 11/06/13