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For the very first time this weekend I had to return something to the local Home Depot.  I hate returning things to the store — the entire process depresses me.  First, for whatever reason, you realize that the item you spent precious time shopping for isn’t going to work.  Then you have to go all the way back to the same store you left not an hour ago.  And finally, after waiting for what seems like forever, you get to the cashier who interrogates you as if you’ve just smuggled something illegal into the country.  It’s a sad series of events most of the time;  however that wasn’t the case this weekend at the Depot.

Not only was there no line on a Saturday afternoon at the return counter, but I was not interrogated, and after the cashier verified that the box was indeed what it said it was, she popped a drawer, gave me my cash back, smiled, and sent me on my way.  I was shocked.  I had prepared for a battle — what I got was service.

It was like getting a scratch-off win:  You don’t really have any more money than you did five minutes ago, but you’re happy.  I’m curious if this was a fluke or a common occurrence for the tool-returning masses. What say you, consumers?  Is the Home Depot return counter a bastion of sanity, or did I just catch the rare upside of a normally Grinch-like system?  Let us know in comments.

Home Depot [Website]


38 Responses to Hot or Not? Home Depot Return Services

  1. Kevin Pace says:

    Rare upside in my opinion. My personal experience is Home Depot is one of the worst as far as returns go. They’ve tried to deny me ones in the past because it “appeared the box had been opened” despite the fact it was still taped shut with factory tape.

    Lowes is usually pretty decent with their returns and Sears generally will take anything back with little to no fuss either. Home Depot I just have some nightmarish experiences with.

  2. DP says:

    Don’t have the Orange Box nearby but I’ve found the Blue Box really good on returns. Usually very pleasant and easy. Even when I was outside their (30 day?) return window and lost my receipt they looked it up using my credit card and took item back with no issues.

  3. Jim German says:

    Lowes has always been great to me on returns, pretty much no questions asked.

  4. fuzzmanmatt says:

    I work in retail, and as long as you have the receipt, that’s the kind of service all my employees and I will give you. Without that piece of paper, oh boy you’re in for a ride.

    I purchased a grill burner recently from Menards. My local store didn’t have it, so I asked a guy if they had any hiding somewhere. He took the SKU, looked it up, said no, but their store up on the north side of town had 17. I went up there, bought one, brought it home, and realized that it wouldn’t work (dang cheap grills!). I had the receipt in my hand from a store up on the north side of town, and they took it back at the original store. This is the kind of service I give, this is the kind of service I expect. If I didn’t have the receipt, I wouldn’t have even tried.

  5. fred says:

    I live about equidistant from a Home Depot and a Lowes . While I don not often buy tools for my businesses at these stores, for what I do buy for my home, I’ve found that both have a fairly good no-nonsense return policy. I’ve observed that most times the lines for returns move along fairly expeditiously even though they are sometimes several customers long (especially when they seem to be negotiating a contentious return.) I’ve been on one recently when the UPC could not be scanned, the register clerk could not otherwise find the SKU in their computer, and finally the customer said that they had bought it several years ago and did not see why they could not return it now. This whole process took about ten minutes. While I’m pretty careful about retaining receipts, resulting in credits being applied to my credit card, I’ve also noted that HD seems to hand out a lot of store-credit cards – presumably for those individuals who have no receipt. I would think this is sensible considering the amount of theft that goes on at these stores – and not wanting to reward thieves nor casting any aspersions on honest customers who just lost their receipts.

  6. marko says:

    The local HDs in my area have been great for returns as long as you’ve got your receipt. When I’ve been in situations where I didn’t know if I’d need the extra bit of material, I’ve got ahead and bought it just in case, since they’ve made it easy on returns (and it’s on the way most of the time).

  7. John says:

    I completely agree that Home Depot is ridiculous with their return policy while Lowes is great. This is the main reason why I choose Lowes of HD whenever I can help it (and I go to the local store over both). When I’m doing a big project I often buy extra materials on purpose with the intention of returning the unused materials/items. This saves me time. Lowes always returns items no question (and often even without a receipt) while HD rarely allows such returns. Even with a receipt HD almost always gives me the run around!

  8. Trevor D. says:

    Kind of a tangent, but I don’t know what they did to the management or staff at our local Home Depots, but it seems like the courtesy, pleasant attitude, and level of politeness has sky-rocketed. Every HD I walk into now I’m greeted kindly at least 3 or 4 times, just walking around. There are more staff available, and they don’t hide or avoid customers. They’re actually very on-hand, which nice even if you don’t always need their help.

    I thought it was totally bizarre, but a very welcome change just the same. Anybody else happen to notice this change, or is it just me??

  9. fred says:


    I’ve noticed the same thing – chalked it up to a word coming down from corporate that employees need to work on customer satisfaction and retention – especially in a time of recession.

  10. Wow. You guys can actually find a human in Home Depot or Lowes? I can never find an employee there when I need one.

  11. dave says:

    I returned two items to home depot during my lunch break today. No complaints. The hd’s in my area will even let you return items with-out the receipt and issue store credit. I’d guess their return policy may depend on how far the closest Lowe’s is…

  12. Steveb says:

    yeah, they have great return service, but have you noticed how half the crap they sell is returned stuff? I always end up trying to sort through things I buy there just to find an unopened new product.

    Sometimes I’ll buy something, and it’s all scratched up from some jerk who couldn’t get it to work and just returned it, where they’re promptly just shoved right back on the shelves.

    I mean, if I’m going to pay the crazy high prices Home Depot charges, I might as well get a brand new unopened product.

  13. Like fuzzmanmatt, I have had excellent return service at Menards. They’ve let me return open packages of things like wainscoting, bolts, etc… Once I returned the entire order of laminate flooring (we took it home and the color was wrong) for cash not even store credit some of the boxes were open too.

    They’ve even done the return a product and repurchase it to get the latest deal thing, at their suggestion, I was just going to forget about it but they insisted.

    Never tried returning anything at Home Depot or Lowes though.

  14. Jeff says:

    A couple years ago I bought a water heater from Home Depot. After I got it home, opened the box and starting putting it together. It was only then that I realized I had a Natural Gas model, when I needed LP.


    I was freaked. The box was trashed and I was expecting to be out $400. But I taped/tied things up as good as I could and took it back…still looked like hell.

    I told them what happened and all they did was check to make sure there was still a water heater in the box. I couldn’t exchange it because they didnt have any LP models. No issues getting a full refund.

  15. Mike Yancey says:

    I’ve never been denied or questioned a return at Home Depot.

    Not had to return anything (yet) to Lowes.

  16. Stan says:

    Never a problem at my local HD. If I don’t have the receipt they check my CC to see if I charged the item on it.

    If you want intimidation and brow beating, even with a receipt, try returning something to Fry’s.

    • Justin says:

      Totally agree. I have never had a problem returning anything to HD with or without a receipt. However, returning something to Fry’s is like trying to requisition a pen in the army. I once had to fill out a two page form to return a usb cable. I only go to Fry’s now to window-shop or if I *know* I will not need to return what I buy. I would never buy a big ticket item from Fry’s.

  17. Toolhearty says:

    Trevor D. Says:
    May 20th, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Kind of a tangent, but I don’t know what they did to the management or staff at our local Home Depots, but it seems like the courtesy, pleasant attitude, and level of politeness has sky-rocketed. Every HD I walk into now I’m greeted kindly at least 3 or 4 times, just walking around.

    I’ve always found this to be a bit spooky. I imagine HD employees coming in to work while a supervisior greets each one at the door with a handful of pills, repeating each time “Take your meds”, “Take your meds”.

  18. Dazrin says:

    I have always had good luck at HD and at Lowe’s.

    Of course it helps that my local stores are right next door to each other, share the same parking lot even. If they didn’t do a good job, everyone would just go to the other one.

    Here is a Google map of their locations…look at the awnings to see which is which.


    We never did figure out what Lowe’s was thinking by building next to the HD, but it is good for consumers.

  19. FredB says:

    The Home Depot in Fond du Lac, WIsconsin closed last May. I miss them. I’m stilll working through the stockpile of project stuff I bought as they were closing.

  20. Bill says:

    I use a Home Depot ALLOT (and I think that is an understatement). I have noticed that as of recently they are very courteous and anguious to help. I recently, with in the last month purchased a framing tool belt. The nylon waist belt kept coming apart and I had to return it 4 times before I was able to get one that was able to work for me. I the first time that I used the belt I got it in the morning and I returned it dirty and broken for another one in the afternoon. I had no problems returning / exchanging the belt. I also have been able to return excess material that I purchased over two years ago. I unfortunately did not have a recipe so they gave me store credit but it was still no problem. A friend of mine recently purchased a pancake compressor from them over 2.5 months ago and the fill hose broke off the motor. They are returning the compressor to Porter Cable and getting it rebuilt under warranty. All in all I have had no problems returning things at all to Home Depot.

  21. BC says:

    (Former HD employee here…) The three stores that I worked in (all in Minnesota) were all very good about returns – we’d take back damn near anything.

    The big reason people get crap about returns is that there are some dishonest ones – like the ones who will return a can of PVA primer, except it’s full of water – or the guy who tried to return a weed eater, except there was a log in the box instead of the original contents.

    Stores have gotten screwed so much on returns that they are more careful about the stuff they do take back. If you’re on the up-and-up, and you have a problem at a HD, please, for god’s sake, talk to the manager – and if he gives you crap, take it to the district manager. It’s pretty easy to tell an honest customer from a dishonest one, and there’s no reason to treat the honest ones like shit.

    When I used to pull extra shifts at the returns desk, the customers that took the longest were the dishonest ones, or people that don’t understand you can’t put down half a gallon of paint, decide you don’t like the color, and try to take it back.

  22. paganwonder says:

    HD has gotten alot more customer friendly since their stock tanked- no worries with returns. But, my favorite is the neighborhood hardware store- I might pay about 5% more for somethings but they know me when I walk thru the door and they don’t even blink when something must be returned- for me that’s usually plumbing parts (they also stock plumbing and hardware for the vintage houses in our part of town, a double plus for maintenance chores)

  23. Coach James says:

    I asked employees at two different HD stores about the recent improvement in customer service. At both stores the reason given was the return of the old CEO and his demand for better customer service. I was in the HD in Greensboro NC recently and every employee that walked within 30 feet of me said hello and asked if I needed help.

  24. Kurt says:

    I just had a Home Depot open relatively close to me (20 miles), in Auburn, California. In the past I have avoided them like the plague, but I like the tools sold there – the Rigid line is pretty good, so I checked it out. I was shocked at the level of pleasant customer service. When I lived in the SF Bay Area, I would drive an extra 10 miles to avoid the one in Daly City, but I find myself stopping by the new store when I am in the area just to explore and shop. Customer Service – who would have expected that? Good for whoever (CEO, local store manager?) that made that happen.

  25. fjr says:

    I always buy more supplies for my projects than I need (will I need this or this? I’ll get both(its better than coming back). So I’ve made NUMEROUS returns to Home Depot and Lowes, and Ace.

    I’ve had pleasant experiences with all three stores.

    Home Depot is my personal favorite among the three though (for returns). Ace is great for getting human help promptly and finding offbeat things you need. I try not to goto lowes (no 1x1s what?).

    Also my Home Depot recently extended thier hours, now open till 10pm!!

  26. bidwell says:

    I have never had a problem. They even took back my exterior Christmas lights after Christmas. I had used them for a month and half and they had started to fail because the leads one the LED bulbs where rusting because they were made out of metal(steal?), not copper. They could have easily said they wouldn’t take them back but they did take them.

  27. Sarah says:

    Hi Sean – I work at The Home Depot and am pleased to hear you had a good experience with your return. We have made many improvements in our stores by focusing on customer service at all levels. Feedback from our customers is taken seriously and helps us understand where more resources are needed. I would invite any of your readers with a question, concern or feedback to contact me at information (at) homedepot (dot) com.
    Home Depot Communications
    Atlanta Ga
    information (at) homedepot (dot) com

  28. Dan says:

    @Trevor et al — same here, just recently there always seems to be enough people around to find someone to help me, and as an added bonus, they _can_ help me.

    I needed a particular sort of washer for a sink repair — asked an orange aproned guy in the plumbing aisle, he took me right to what I needed.

    (downside: without help, finding anything remains a frustrating ordeal, as always).

    Oh, and as for returns — like everyone else said, as long as I keep the receipt, it’s no problem. Heck, with the barcode on the receipt, it takes about 20 seconds; they scan the receipt, they scan the product, all done.

  29. foo says:

    I’ve never had a problem returning anything to my local Home Depot, opened or not. I just tell them I want to return it and they give me my money back. Easy stuff.

  30. Davo says:

    My local Home Depots are like ghost towns, right now. No trouble finding more-or-less idle employees to help out…I don’t know if this is new policy, or just a side-effect of the recession, but I have to say customer service at Home Depot used to be an oxymoron…not anymore.

  31. Frank says:

    I have noticed the extra enthusiastic greeting as well. I have never had any problems with returns at Home Depot.

    Unfortunately in my case it seems to end there. Recently I needed a laundry sink and headed to my local Home Depot. There were none available on the floor for me to grab, but they had some in stock about 10 feet up on a shelf just out of my reach of course. There was a plumbing employee in the same aisle already assisting some other customers. Not wanting to interrupt I waited 10 minutes until I spotted 3 idle employees in the next aisle. I asked if one could help me, they stated they did not work in plumbing and went back to just hanging out. After waiting another 10 minutes I headed back to the 3 and asked again for help as the plumbing employee was obviously busy and all I needed was someone to bring down the sink I needed from the shelf 10 feet up, not some technical plumbing advice. Two of them immediately dispersed and the remaining states he doesn’t have his “license”. I finally had it with them and asked him what “license” was needed to wheel over the rolling ladder (that was located no more then 20 feet from him) and climb 3 steps to bring down the sink I needed. He ended up calling the plumbing employee on the phone who then had to leave the customers he was still helping and run over and grab the ladder and bring down the sink himself. In all 30 minutes to get a sink that was 10 feet up. I will stick to shopping at Lowe’s as I usually do unless they don’t carry something Home Depot has.

  32. Mike says:

    Both lowes and home deopt have been extremely easy with returns for me over the last few years. no complaints what so ever.

  33. Zathrus says:

    As with many others, I’ve never had problems with returns at HD or Lowe’s. With or without a receipt.

    If I don’t have the receipt then I’ll generally ask for store credit. The more recent POS systems keep track of what you buy if you use a credit card though, so even if I don’t have the receipt and paid for it by card they’ll just swipe the card and scan it. The system finds it and credits the right amount back to the card.

  34. Eric G. says:

    I too was recently surprised when i returned all the stuff i ended up not using for my project to the local HD. The stuff in question was from three different shopping trips,hence three receipts and i was looking forward to a grueling return process. but nope! 3 quick scans of all of my receipts and scans of my stuff and i was done. very convenient. the lady at the retun counter was nice too.

  35. M.East says:

    I live in the Atlanta area and I too have noticed a BIG shift towards customer service – helpful associates, etc. Obviously a mandate from on high but it’s a welcome change no matter. On returns, I have never had an issue with HD or Lowes. In fact I just bought a large box of screws that were 1/8 of an inch too long for my use and just for laughs took it back to HD to see if they would exchange them for a shorter length. The girl kinda laughed and asked if all the screws were in there and I said yes. Gave me a cash refund no problem at all. Amazing.

  36. Big Rich says:

    I have had no problems returning items whatsoever with or without a receipt in the greater Philly area Home Depots or Lowes with one exception; in Philadelphia city. These stores see a higher rate of theft/scams with people trying to return items, so they are more wary. With a receipt though, I’ve had no problem, 90, 120 or 365 days after the purchase, provided the item wasn’t used and is still stocked. I returned cabinet hardware a full year after I purchased it at Home Depot w/ receipt. I returned a flashlight that didn’t work correctly after 2 months to Lowes, despite it being opened and obviously used w/receipt.

    Save receipts that makes your chances of a refund credit much higher.

  37. CDJ says:

    I had a hard time returning with HD with a light fixture I bought last Sunday with a receipt. Bottom line,their policy is ask all questions why are you returning it and unlike the “blue” competitor with “no question” asked policy.

    Although , I got my money back, it was tougher dealing with them and have to wait for a supervisor to check the stuff I am returning and I have to explain why I am returning it. Its kind of, you better have a good reason.

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