Don’t stand between a guy and his grill

Growing up in a small town, going to “the hardware store” meant traveling a couple of miles across the Flint River from little ol’ Oglethorpe, Ga., into the metropolis of Montezuma, Ga., population 5,000 or so back then.

It might have cost a little more, but we knew the names of all the folks behind the counter. They knew what we were doing and exactly what materials we needed. Heck, they knew our pets’ names and whether we’d gone to church the previous Sunday.

Times have changed, and I’m guilty like most city folks of instinctively going to the big box chain hardware stores to get what I need. I found them generally cheaper, but my recent experiences with one of these stores — namely Lowe’s in Kathleen, Ga. — involving anything more complicated than a box of screws have left a little to be desired in the area of customer service, an oxymoron to them.

I needed a grill. Simple, huh? I went to the Lowe’s closest to my house because I’ve gotten used to the convenient location and have been too forgiving of their growing incompetence. After all, I just needed to point at a grill, tell them to go get that grill, I would pay for the grill, I would bring the grill home and I would grill on the grill. End of story.

Or so I mistakenly thought.

It was a Sunday. I pressed the button for help in the “seasonal department.” Grilling season, I guess. No one came. I pressed again a little while later. Nothing. Again. Nothing. And so on. Then I began pressing it with the fury that I’d once pressed the button on a morphine drip after a car wreck. Similar results.

Eventually, I got a little help. They said they could have it assembled on Monday, and I could pick it up Tuesday. Cool. Of course, call Tuesday morning, get transferred to infinity the first call, hung up on the second call, cut off on the third call, and on the fourth call they tell they don’t know why no one in “seasonal” is responding but to come that night and pick up the grill. Fine, whatever.

Of course, I get there that night and after a long wait behind all of one person in line at customer service get the, “We don’t know anything about that grill” speech and they can’t assemble one until Thursday. I need it Wednesday. Finally, the manager-ish person on duty says, “I’ll tell you what — we can give you the one on display.”

“Um, the one without the ignition? No thanks,” I say.

“Yeah,” chimes in a store associate, “it is missing a few parts.”

After getting laser eyes from my wife — fairly intimidating weaponry with which I’m quite familiar — they agree to call the grill assembly dude in on his day off to assemble it Wednesday morning. On the way out, I explain to them, “Just so I’m very clear, I’m coming here on my lunch break tomorrow and I’m leaving with a grill, one way or another.”

I was right. The next day, I went on my lunch break and customer service called “seasonal” up to the front counter. They never came, and the customer service didn’t care, so I went back to get a person to retrieve a grill. Sure enough, one had been assembled. We loaded it onto my truck, and I explained to the fella that helped me that they have a massive communication problem at their store. He acknowledged it.

I drove home carefully, unloaded it alone and set it up in my grilling facility, also known as Margaritahill. I sent a picture to my wife. “Um, that’s not the grill we bought.”

I’d indeed brought home a grill, not the grill, but it was the only one they’d assembled that morning. It was very close to the right grill, but a $50 cheaper model. Fortunately my wife had pointed out their price match guarantee on the grill we were supposed to get that was $50 cheaper at Home Depot. So, ultimately, I wound up with the wrong grill but paid what it was worth and listed for. So I didn’t pay too much or too little — I just didn’t get what I asked for.

I called three times to speak to the manager that day. Busy. Hang up. Permanent hold. Same ol’ Lowe’s “customer service.” I heard Seal sing “Fly Like an Eagle” at least 10 times. Based on their efficiency, he should have sang, “Fly Like a Penguin.” Then I was going to really show them by going to Lowes.com/Survey and really giving them what-for. I went there, and the site crashed. I don’t know to whom I should complain if the place I was going to complain about the lack of recognition of previous complaints doesn’t work.

In the end, I have a new grill. It required the mediation skills of people who’ve been working on Mideast peace for that past few decades, but it works quite well. I’m happy with it.

But Lowe’s left me feeling, again, as if they could not care less and lost my business. And they lost it over simple customer service. I pay for it, you give it to me. I pay, you give. Pay, give. Whether it’s the hot mustard sauce with my chicken nuggets, no mayo on my burger or the grill I actually paid for, just give me what I purchased. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

I’ve had similar experiences before at this very store. A lot of folks have. In fact, one person I chatted with in the parking lot noted that Lowe’s was apparently trying to become the next Sears, a once-proud and now disappearing retailer.

They are well on their way.

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