Just in case you weren't aware, the Home Depot has been utilizing "The Retail Equation" to analyze their returns and thus, reject anyone their system statistically finds to be unworthy. I found this out the hard way, here's how.
Today, (January 4th, 2013) I decided to return some items to Home Depot that I did not need. They were left over from a large project and I *did* have the receipt. After the cashier rang them up, I was instructed that they could not take them back. I asked why, they said "your DL# is restricted" and said "TRE has blocked you". So despite having a valid receipt, I was rejected. I asked for the manager and he was polite at first, saying "he'll see what he can do". He then printed a receipt and said "call them" (pointing to the TRE #) and brushed me off. Great customer service here (sarcasm implied), so I call TRE and talk to a customer service representative who takes my DL# and pulls up my record. He tells me I'm blocked because there's too many returns - that's all fine and dandy. I ask how I can get it removed he says "there is no way". I discuss the obvious flaw (We'll get to this in a second) and he agrees, either just to be a pacifist or in actual agreement. Either way, he was just the paid ear on the other end of the phone. It was a polite conversation.
Mind you, in all of my purchases, I was never told that the Home Depot could deny my receipted return (within the 90 day policy window that adorns their signs/receipt). I was not once instructed on a return that my DL# was going into a NATIONWIDE database, including all information on the DL#. I was always told it was just to verify identity. Had I known this was going into a database, I would have severed ties with The Home Depot a long time back.
Now, before I go on. I'll give a little preface information. I have a license to do business in NV which I utilized (note the past tense) Home Depot for on numerous occasions, sometimes as much as 3 times a day. I've spent thousands upon thousands of dollars there and never had a problem. But now, a loyal customer, is getting told his business is no longer appreciated, essentially. Sometimes you buy things that don't fit or are the wrong size, or you buy more than one size in case to prevent having to make a quick return trip - so returns are to be expected. Why is this so bad? I understand the need to counter fraud and the like, but shunning good customers is not the way to go about it.
The Retail Equation and the fundamental flaws it brings is the one-sided analysis. One major and I'll repeat MAJOR flaw is that it doesn't track purchases. As a customer, I can spend $10,000 in the store and return $100 worth of merchandise, but to the TRE and their analysis, I'm not a good customer despite only returning 1% of merchandise purchased. So at what point does customer service outway potential fraud? They've lost my business and the business of my company to that of Lowes.
Congrats Home Depot corporate, you just lost another customer. Keep up the good work, your shareholders thank you. You may not think one customer is important, but collectively they add up. Over time, you'll fail just like other companies that had the same out look (Circuit City comes to mind).
Now, I'd like to end this with some suggestions directly to The Home Depot on how they can improve their customer service:
- Recognize that TRE is a huge privacy invasion without notice to their customers. Put up PROPER signage letting all customers know this so that they can make an informed decision.
- Allow managers the ability to override the "denial" for the sake of customer service. If someone is returning without a receipt, go for it, deny it. But rejecting a valid receipted return screams for better manager control.
- Consider moving away from TRE for a more robust purchase/return tracking system that, much like grocery store loyalty cards, tracks a specific CARD and not personal data. Your competitor has this (Lowes). This is quality data.
Btw, if you Google "Home Depot The Retail Equation", you're going to get a lot of reading material.