Let me preface this by saying I spent many years in retail for a variety of big box and specialty retailers. So, this is not some purely reflexive consumer complaint. But, one bore out of both frustration and matched to real-world experience.
My wife, who is fighting cancer, wanted to get out of the house. Who could blame her? She’s been mostly homebound (or surgically masked)while out of the house briefly due to her compromised immune system and the rampant spread of influenza. But, she wanted to get out of the house and do some shopping. We figured a quick trip to Lowes Home Improvement and Badcock Furniture would be just the thing for her shopping “fix” and a good match for her lowered energy level.
Our first stop was at Lowes Home Improvement and I have to say, it was a very underwhelming store experience. Sure, we found what we wanted but, there were too many instances of employees not taking the lead in helping us. We stop in the patio furniture department and find something we like. We grab a brochure with the items in it that we want. I add the items to my Lowes.com shopping cart on my smartphone to figure out the total and find out what the delivery costs. Not an employee is in sight. Well, there was one, but she was talking intently to a male visitor I think I overheard something about evening plans.
Our next stop was to find a wire pantry we wanted. After looking down several aisles we decided to ask an employee working in Hardware. From her ladder, she tells us “if we have it, it will be on an endcap on aisle 10”. We head off to look down aisle 10. I and my wife (both retail veterans) know better but, we look at the endcaps of the aisle and our item (nor any wire items are there). However, we do see some wire items near the end of the aisle. Hidden behind a POP display at the very end of the aisle, on the bottom shelf, is the wire pantry in a box. Every wire pantry we’ve ever purchased before was one solid unit. Surprised to see the 76″ unit in a box. Weird.
We head to the cash register to purchase the patio furniture (delivered), wire pantry and a gift card. We wait to be rung up and wait some more. By this time my wife is beginning to tire, but she persists. The cashier rings us up and then informs us that she can’t schedule a delivery. She cancels the order and directs us to Customer Service. Frustrated, we walk over to customer service. The Head Cashier rings us up and informs us the delivery of the patio items can’t be scheduled for a week. “A week?”, I reply. “Can it be scheduled any sooner?” She attempts to access scheduling at a second Point of Sale terminal in the Customer Service area and tells us that she will have to call another member of the team to help with scheduling. The Lead Cashier disappears.
By now my wife is tired and I send her and my daughter to the car to wait. While they make their way to my car, I wait for this other mythical team member to appear. Five minutes goes by and nobody shows up. It feels like forever. More time goes by. Frustrated and with no update on when this employee might show up, I take the items from Customer Service and get back in line for a cashier. Now, the lines on this weekday, have gotten 3 -4 customers deep. I strike up a conversation with another customer in line. He refers to this store as “Slows”. I quickly agree. I finally get checked out and leave.
Irritated we move on to our next stop, Badcock Furniture. As we enter the store, I pull up my Lowes.com shopping cart on my phone. We look at some furniture at the store. As we walk out, I check out on Lowes.com. A few clicks and it’s ordered for pickup. We decided we could get some help from a family member with pickup rather than wait a week and $65 for delivery.
From here on out, it really is a friction-less experience. I receive an order confirmation email and then, an hour or two later a “ready for pickup” email. The next day we pick up, load up and head home.
So, What’s the Fix for Lowes Broken In-Store Experience?
With quite a few things broken at the store level, here are some suggestions:
- Empower cashiers to be more autonomous. Couldn’t they handle a deliver setup?
- Give Head Cashiers greater authority/access in your delivery system. No reason personnel at Customer Service shouldn’t be able to make some delivery adjustments.
- Insist floor employees do more than just tell customers where the item “might” be, walk with them and help them find it.
- Ensure that employees are focused on customers while “on the floor” not on their social lives.
- Proactively call for backup cashiers when the lines get deep. No reason for lines to get 4 – 5 deep.
At a bit more macro level, maybe the “fix” for this Lowes would be a Home Depot.
We had a bad Lowes experience last week. My oldest daughter had a Pinterest craft that required 3/4″ PVC pipe which they sold in 10′ lengths. We had her car and would’ve bought two if they simply would’ve cut them in half for us so we could get them home. After searching for an employee who then called someone who “worked” in the plumbing area were told they couldn’t do it. I even offered to pay a little for the cuts but the answer was still no. I kicked myself for not bringing my saw from home as I could’ve cut them in the parking lot in a minute or less. We left empty-handed and did what we should’ve done in the first place. We went to our local, family owned hardware store where they gladly cut exactly what she needed (which was 16 ten inch pieces) and didn’t charge us for any of the cuts.