I’ve always considered myself as a savvy online shopper. I do thorough research to not only find the best deals, but to ensure that the website from which I’m ordering is safe, secure and legitimate. However, when it comes to ordering from a well known and reputable online store, we tend to let our guard down a bit. Having done a lot of business in the past with home improvement giant Lowes.com, I figured I could do just that. Unfortunately, it ended up costing me double the money and a lot of extra hassle.
After 12 years of faithful service, my trusty washing machine finally decided to call it quits. Leaving me with baskets full of dirty duds and a flooded washroom floor, my day had not gotten off to the best start. As with most things, the timing of having to purchase a major appliance was not the best, but it was undeniable that this particular purchase would be a necessity in my household.
Determined not to stress over this unavoidable disaster, I quickly jumped online and did some research. Comparing between Lowes.com and another major competitor, I found an “in stock” washing machine that was not only an ideal upgrade, but listed at an ideal price. I scoured the page and carefully read all of the specifications. I made sure that the washing machine was “in stock” at my nearest store location for immediate delivery. With a hectic schedule and loads of laundry in demand, I needed this machine ASAP. Content with what I had found online at Lowe’s, I confidently filled out my customer and credit card information and clicked “place order.
“In Stock,” Does Not Necessarily Mean In Stock “Now”
Within seconds of processing my order, a screen popped up with my order confirmation. Considering that I had double checked “online” the availability of my selection, I was excited about the prospect that my new washer would soon be on its way. To my dismay, the confirmation read that the “estimated arrival time” would be more than TWO WEEKS away. I soon learned that just because a website states that an item is “in stock” does not necessarily mean “in stock now.” Had I known this tiny pearl of information beforehand, I would not have placed the order.
Scrambling to get a live person on the phone, I quickly called the customer service number listed on my receipt. I explained to the representative about the misinformation online and that I needed to find something as soon as possible. I further explained that I simply wanted to add any difference in cost to my existing order. Initially, the representative (Sheila) was very sympathetic to my situation and made it seem like an easy fix. She kindly transferred me to the exact store location from which I would be receiving my order and informed me that my order could be changed through them. Seemed simple, right…? WRONG.
How Many Reps to Fix a Problem
By this time I found myself on the phone with a friendly gentleman named Carlos at the nearest store location (which was only about 30 miles west.) He confirmed my order and shipping location and informed me the unit I ordered would not arrive at his store for another few weeks and that it was rarely in stock. Considering that the website showed the unit as “currently” in stock, I further reiterated my confusion and dilemma. Carlos seemed to understand my situation and quickly found me a better washing machine that was in stock and on sale, at only a fraction of the price. Satisfied by his suggestion, I agreed to purchase the other unit. Again it all seemed like a quick and easy fix, right…? Wrong again.
The alternative washing machine was only about $30 more, so I asked the store representative if he could just add the difference to my existing order. He informed me that I would have to cancel the first order and place the new one with him. That sounded easy enough until he added that canceling my order would have to be with yet another department. Becoming increasingly frustrated, I realized that to get my washing machine within a reasonable amount of time, a fiasco would soon ensue with my credit card. So basically,” I asked Carlos, “both orders will be charged to my credit card and then I will have to wait for a credit for the cancelled order?” “Yep,” he said with a slight chuckle – I didn’t particularly see the humor but decided to place the order.
Having finalized my new order with Carlos, he transferred me to another customer service line. I was now feeling the full stress of trying to ensure that my money was not going to be lost in cyber limbo because of all of the confusion. I explained my situation in its entirety to the new representative (Misty), and her solution was to ship me off to another person. Wrong department, pass the buck.
With yet another person, a seemingly bothered young lady named Crystal, my frustrations were beginning to boil over. Having had to explain my conundrum for the fourth time without receiving any solid solutions to my credit card charges, Crystal spent most of her time silently hammering away at her keyboard. I further explained to her my only concern was that my credit card be appropriately credited as soon as possible. With a curt tone she told me that she was going to transfer me to yet another person, but I refused. I advised her that the last two people had passed me back and forth already and that all I needed from her was a confirmation that I would receive a prompt refund.
All of a sudden, I guess she had no other choice but to do her own job, because she miraculously started to key in the order cancellation. I’m not sure why she couldn’t have done this in the first place. Midway through the conversation, I received an incoming call from the Lowe’s store number. I put Crystal on hold, only to have another young lady (Anna) from the same department call to confirm my order cancellation. Confused yet again, I told her that I was on the phone with someone already doing the same thing. Anna giggled as if she had no idea what I was talking about, completed her pitch and we ended our call. Once I clicked back over to Crystal, I told her about my recent conversation with Anna. Crystal then yelled out, “Anna, I’m on the phone right now with the lady you just called about the credit card refund.” Apparently, “Anna” was sitting right beside her – brilliant. With a sigh, Crystal advised me that my credit card would be refunded in three to five business days and rudely ended our conversation. Customer service, no. Three-ring circus, yes.
Confirm before you Click
One of the most important things I learned from this experience is you should always call and confirm information before placing an order online. In the case of Lowes.com, the online version of “in stock” means something completely different to the actual location that is shipping the merchandise. If you need something in a hurry, make sure the item is available at the store.
It is also important to note that if you are like most people, you don’t want any surprises when it comes to charges on your checking account or credit card. In the cyber world, once you click the button, the charge is instantaneous. However, it’s not as quick and easy to get your money back. In most cases, refunds can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on payment method used.
Lowes.com in a Nutshell
In defense of Lowe’s stores, I have typically been quite satisfied by their quality of inventory, competitive pricing and customer service. I have shopped both in person and ordered online without incident until recently. With this recent exchange, most of the customer service reps were friendly and seemingly eager to assist. I was incredibly pleased by the recommendation of Carlos from my local store. In the end, my full refund was credited the next day and my washing machine arrived the day after.
However, consumers want the facts when shopping online. Any item listed as “in stock” should be just that, in stock – not “in stock when we get it.” This information should be quickly updated by the business as it changes. If a business cannot back up information posted on its website, then that is not saying much for the integrity of the business. In a customer service oriented world, management would have gotten involved and seamlessly solved my problem. It should not have taken three departments and five different people to resolve my issue.
In addition, I emailed my concerns to Lowes.com. The initial response was less than impressive, a simple apology for the confusion. I responded via email again reiterating the fiasco and poor customer service on the part of Crystal and was then advised that “my business was truly appreciated and that I should receive a call to discuss my situation within 24 hours.” Needless to say, I never received the call. A step up is in order, Lowe’s.