Report: #384125

Complaint Review: Lowe's Home Improvement

  • Submitted: Thu, October 23, 2008
  • Updated: Thu, January 13, 2011
  • Reported By: Canton North Carolina
  • Lowe's Home Improvement
    Waynesville, North Carolina

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A member of my family made a purchase of a small portable heater at Lowe's Home Improvement. She paid with a personal check. The heater did not work and she went to return it 5 days later. The check had not cleared yet, so she was given a merchandise credit card. She used the card to purchase a new heater.

Seventeen days later, after the check used to make the original purchase had cleared, she had to return the 2nd heater as well, because it did not work well with the older wiring in her house. It kept tripping the circuit breaker because the circuit can only handle 1200 watts and the heater was a 1500 watt heater. Even though the check used on the original purchase had now most definitely cleared, the clerks at the store and the store manager refused to give her anything but ANOTHER merchandise credit card back. She had no use for such a card now. She can't purchase another heater, because all they had were 1500 watt models. She did not need to or want to buy anything else at Lowe's. The heater was returned in perfect working condition, the check had cleared, so there was no reason NOT to give her cash back.

This policy is totally wrong. I can understand giving her the merchandise credit card the first time, when the check had not cleared yet. But 17 days later, there was no excuse for it. They said because the 2nd heater was purchased with a merchandise credit card, they could not give her anything but another merchandise credit card back.

In other words, no matter what she does now, Lowe's gets her money. If she doesn't use the card, they have the money. If she ever does use it, which is highly unlikely, they will still get the money. This is money she will never be able to use for anything else but Lowe's purchases. Effectively, Lowe's is holding her money hostage and forcing her to use it there whether she wants to or not.

The heater is returned, the check is cleared, the money rightfully belongs to her. But instead it is staying in Lowe's pocket no matter what she does with it. This is the 3rd time in the past 6 months that my family has had problems with our local Lowe's and it's three strikes and you're out. We will take our business elsewhere from now on and I advise everyone else to do so as well. If you choose to continue using Lowe's, NEVER pay by check if you think you might need to return an item. Once you pay Lowe's by check, the money is theirs forever.

Canton, North Carolina

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 10/23/2008 11:15 AM and is a permanent record located here: The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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#1 Consumer Comment

I haven't had great Lowe's experiences...

AUTHOR: Just a normal guy - (United States of America)

...but in this case, the second heater was associated with the store credit not the check. There was probably no way computer-wise to process a refund.

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#2 UPDATE Employee

Merchandise Credit Cards/Check Policy -- Why.

AUTHOR: Retail Worker - (USA)

First of all, when you pay with check, a message with our check policy is printed on the receipt.

You must wait 15 days to get CASH back for a check. During that 15 days, the check goes through the banks and waiting time is needed for verification that the check was not fraudulent.

If you return merchandise even 14 days after paying for it with a check, you have an option. Wait one day for the check to completely clear and get cash back, OR take a merchandise credit card.

Merchandise credit cards cannot be cashed out.... EVER. This defeats the purpose of our company having the merchandise credit card. You will never see that money again if it is refunded to a merchandise credit card.

As long as receipted items are linked to that merchandise credit card, when you ask for a refund for items you purchase with a merchandise credit card, you will be issued another one.

The good thing about them is that they never expire. I've seen cards from years ago. They are still good and they still work.

My advice would be to use the card to purchase something you need, but will never have to return.

Lowe's has a fairly decent policy when it comes to checks. I've known of other companies who will give you the money back for a check, but what happens if you don't have the money in your account to cover the check for some reason?

You would end up in court and they would want their money back.

At least with Lowe's, you have the MC at your disposal. Yes, the money still belongs to Lowe's, but you don't have to miss a day of work and go to court because your check bounced.

Do I personally like Merchandise Credits? NO! I think we should do away with them and start taking customers to court. It will be interesting to see the kinds of complaints we get then. :)
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#3 UPDATE Employee

Return Policy

AUTHOR: HughJass19 - (USA)

I am currently an employee for Lowe's and I know exactly the situation you are dealing with. I am currently a cashier at a Lowe's in my city and I deal with my fair share of returns any given day. You can return any item you purchased (except outdoor power equipment which has a 30 day return policy) with the receipt within 90 of the original purchase. If you do not have your receipt, merchandise credit is given. Usually you will be refunded your money the way you paid for it, with the exception being checks and credit cards. Credit cards have the option of either being credited back to the card (takes up to 15 days) or merchandise credit. Checks on the other hand, have a 15 wait period on them so if you decide to return an item before the 15 days, a merchandise credit is issued.

Whenever I have a customer come back to return an item that was paid for with a check, I look and see if it has been 15 days since the purchase. If it has I proceed with the refund as normal. If not, I let the customer know that since it has not been 15 days, the refund will be in a store credit. I then explain to them that if they DO NOT wish to get store credit, come back when the 15 days are up and get a cash refund. I have done this in plain view of managers and have never been reprimanded for it. The returns cashier should have let you know that you would receive store credit and that if you had any problems with that, you could come back later to return your item for a cash refund.

Once you are issued store credit, there is usually no way of getting cash from it. I haven't seen a manager cash a store credit card in all my 3 years of working there. Just like the other rebuttal said, the 2nd purchase was an entirely different purchase and since store credit paid for it, store credit is refunded. The way refunds work is that the compute reads the way it was paid for and automatically shows how you are to be refunded. This is when I say, "it's going to be X dollars and cents on a store credit card/cash/credited back to your card, is that all right with you?" This way if they have any questions about why they are getting a store credit, it's not too late to back out and tell them to come back in X days to get cash.

Many a time has a customer been angry with me because it wasn't until after the store credit had been issued and a manager had told him he couldn't get it cashed out. So I have learned from that mistake and now I tell them BEFORE anything is actually refunded to wait the remaining days and come back. The whole "don't pay with a check" is crazy! If you think you might return something and you paid with a check, wait the 15 days. It's stated right on the RETURNS POLICY board right in plain view at the returns desk.

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#4 Consumer Suggestion

You brought back a used heater that had no defects.

AUTHOR: Lee - (U.S.A.)

You are lucky that they would even take it back. It wasn't Lowes fault that your electric breaker wouldn't even handle a 15 amp load. Put in a bigger breaker.
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#5 Author of original report

Refund Received

AUTHOR: Dmwc - (U.S.A.)

Only one day after the ripoff I described took place, a refund has been received in CASH. I e-mailed Lowe's customer service through their website at and received a response last night asking for more information. This morning, we received a phone call and were told by the manager of the local store to bring the merchandise credit card back to the store and they would give us a cash refund.

So Lowe's has made this one good, but there really should not have been a problem in the first place. I thought the woman we spoke to yesterday who refused to give us cash was the store manager. Apparently she was only an assistant manager. But this incident proves that they CAN give cash back for merchandise credit cards under certain circumstances, but only the store manager can (or knows how to) do it. However, there was no reason for the employees to be rude about it and they should have put us in touch with the store manager to begin with rather than making us jump through hoops.
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#6 Consumer Comment

Here is what happened...

AUTHOR: Robert - (U.S.A.)

A check was written for a purchase and returned an item 5 days later. The policy states that if it is within a certain period of time you need to get a Merchandise Card. This can actually be a better policy than other stores that won't do anything until 10-14 days when they will only send you a check from the corporate office.

She bought a new item on the Merchandise Card. This is now a NEW transaction and is no longer linked to the transaction with the Check. The policy is that you will be refunded back the same way you paid. Since she paid for the transaction with a Merchandise Card she gets another merchandise card back. It does not matter how she originally got the Merchanise card.

You can really thank the people who write bad checks and try to defraud stores for some of these policies rather than the store trying to protect itself.

You are correct though that you should not write a check on an item you may return. This is one case where a Debit Card can come in handy. It is linked to your checking account and since most checks are processed electronically it would have hit the account at the same time. But during the return they would have placed it back on the card rather than issue a store credit.
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