Brief Customer Service Stories


I’m a fan of HD, having gotten good service over the past few years, especially in the home improvement section. Having said that, the garden center sometimes disappoints me. About a week ago, with the weather turning ominous in mid-May, a question was posed by a customer (ahead of me in line) to the garden center checker about the weather. The customer essentially wanted to know how resilient her impatients and lobelia would be if the evening temperature dropped to around 35-37 degrees. The associate had no idea. After several exchanges back and forth between the customer and associate, I jumped in. In our region of the Midwest, I said it’s 95% safe to plant after Mother’s Day or May 15th. The customer seemed reassured. I’m thinking the checker should have known that. The customer was not asking the Latin name of begonias or hostas or the genus and species of certain shrubs or ground cover. She was not asking the growth rate between impatients and snowy plants. She just wanted some reassurance on a safe time to plant her annuals. I’m hopeful the associate learned something that could apply to next spring’s growing season.


After my wife paid for her items in the garden center, she realized she was charged three times for one pressure treated 4 by 4. At $11 per, the refund would be around $23.

Unfortunately, my wife had to leave this section and find the returns area to get her refund. My wife arrived at the return item counter and seconds later, a woman came by with much fan-fair and said, “The lines are too long in the garden center, I want you to ring me up” Never mind that my wife was in line, never mind that this area was strictly for returns, and never mind that two of her items didn’t contain price tags, it seemed like an exercise in entitlements. With a strong eastern European accent, my wife was wondering the audacity of such an individual, especially in the Midwest where people are generally considerate of one another – especially in person.

The associate working the returns area was a seasoned veteran. Regardless, he was flabbergasted by this woman’s brazenness and was caught off guard. He caved in and took care of her before my wife’s return. My wife was a little annoyed at waiting and didn’t necessarily blame the HD employee; she was just figuratively shaking her head at such an entitlement attitude.

Regardless, the seasoned veteran at the returns area could have handled it differently. He could have said to that inappropriate request, “Listen, this is typically a return area and I know you’re frustrated with the long lines in he garden center. If you could please wait, I will take care of this other woman who has a return and once finished, I will wait on you. I appreciate your patience.” Perhaps he’ll do that next time. When that approach works, it’s a win-win.

I know associates need to be customer focused and try to meet the needs of their customers whenever possible, however, they also need to assert themselves from time to time. Frankly, part of their responsibility is managing their area and ensuring all customers are treated fairly and equitably. By being customer focused but giving into demands of customers who don’t follow the store rules and guidelines without first asking those customers impacted if they are Ok with this deviation in the process, could potentially alienate these impacted customers in the process.


My daughter was planning her trip to visit friends in Vienna, Austria in early May. To that end, we were doing some shopping to gather some small gifts for her hosts and family members. We stopped into MiInterior_of_Michael's_craft_store,_Springfield,_VA_-_2.jpegchaels to get some magnetic sand for her friend’s brother. My daughter loves to shop at Michaels for craft items. She was also excited knowing she had a 40% discount coupon that would help pay for some of these gifts. After browsing around, we found the magnetic sand — it was a learning experience for me to get acquainted to this unique sand, something I hadn’t known before. Good news about this special sand, it was on sale for $9.99, regular price was $12.50. Quick calculation meant it was 20% off the regular price. Good deal!

At this point, I wondered silently if my daughter would be able to apply her coupon on the sale merchandise. My thought said no although my daughter was so engrossed in so many crafty items in the store, she didn’t give it much thought. As we moved to the checkout area, the cashier said her coupon could not apply to sale items. Too bad.

She did save $2.50 on this item. However, had she applied her coupon on the regularly priced item, her saving would have been $5.00. Not sure if the cashiers are empowered to determine the best deal with the customer. No big deal, no need to escalate things to a manager. Thinking afterward, it would have been nice if the customer would have the option to accept the sale price or to use their coupon off the regular price where they’d save more money. I guess it would have been customer centric. Let’s hope her coupon doesn’t expire in the near future before she can use it on a non-sale item.