Why It's Not Called Web Depot


By Samuel Greengard

It's not difficult to spot minor glitches and shortcomings at almost any e-commerce site. But it's shocking to visit a major retailer's site and experience functionality that works more like 1996 than 2012.

Welcome to Home Depot online.

Recently, I clicked to Home Depot to buy an electronic touchpad lock for my house. I found the item, added it to my shopping cart and headed to check out. I entered my credit card information and submitted the order. The purchase went flawlessly.

That's when the trouble began. When I received an order confirmation at the website, it included a notification that the item was on backorder. Why wasn't I notified of this before the purchase? I went to Lowe's, saw that the same item was in stock and placed an order there.

About 20 minutes later, I went back to the Home Depot website to cancel the original order. However, there seemed to be no option to cancel online. So, I dialed Home Depot. A rep informed me that she couldn't cancel the order because it hadn't entered the system yet. I'd have to wait for an e-mail confirmation.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Another 45 minutes passed. Finally, after receiving an order confirmation I called Home Depot again. The rep told me that she would submit a cancellation request. However, she could not guarantee that the item wouldn't ship and my credit card wouldn't be charged. It would take 24 hours or more for the Resolution Department to officially cancel the order, she explained.

Apparently, Home Depot lacks real-time inventory visibility and functionality at its website. This is perplexing.

Worse, there seems to be no way to cancel an order at the website, and placing a prompt call to a customer service rep doesn't provide any assurance that the order won't ship. This type of experience doesn't engender any trust in the retailer. At this point, it's safe to say that I won't think of Home Depot as my first online choice.

I'm not sure why Home Depot's e-commerce capabilities are operating in the digital equivalent of the Stone Age. I like the company and its stores but there are a couple of lessons to be learned here: 1) Reputations are often made and broken based on exceptions--and it doesn't matter how efficient your processes are if you can't handle non-standard situations; 2) Offer a customer experience that's clunky and difficult and, over time, the problems go away...because customers go away.

Oh, and three days after I spoke to the customer service rep and received a confirmed cancellation number...the item shipped.


4 Comments for "Why It's Not Called Web Depot"

  • Jim February 02, 2012 7:07 am

    At least you found the item on their site, which is amazing giving that the site search is pathetic. The search on the Lowe's site isn't any better, just to mention that. Luckily, both are not far from where I live and across bargain outlet stores for home improvement goods. Say, electronic lock for your house? Is it the Schlage lock with the keypad? I worked with the engineers who designed that lock and the electronics. And no, IR closed that site a year ago and the engineers went to competitors. They still make the lock, but probably in their factories in Mexico.

  • Brian Javeline January 26, 2012 10:15 pm

    I run www.MyOnlineToolbox.com, a platform for contractors in home repair and remodeling. I have spent many years attempting to offer innovative opportunities to have the more tech savvy contractor (Yes, there are more out there than one may imagine) better communicate with the big box retailers. The problem (in my opinion) is that these stores have grown so large and they still see themselves more from the direct retail perspective, as opposed to what is really happening at the consumer level (consumers consisting of homeowners and business customers consisting of contractors). Another problem is that many managers (but not all) are at a stage in their life that they really do not embrace the many technologies that are out there. They may claim they do becuase it is a requirement, but they do not have to embrace them. So while they may push for change, they do not necessarily unconditionally believe in change. Of course this is not for all, but you could bet there are many adminstrative assistants doing the work on behalf of their bosses. If you are a contractor, then I encourage you to come join the MyOnlineToolbox (for Free, for a limited number of transactions). And you are a homeowner, then I am sorry since I have no opinions on what you can do differently with the big box guys at this time. And if you happen to be a manager at one of the stores we are referencing, then please reach out to us since we have been trying to introduce innovative tools that can easily allow contractors to better collaborate and order from you. Best wishes, Brian MyOnlineToolbox.com

  • daustins January 26, 2012 11:55 am

    I just commented, and after that, got an email from CDW in which a man had noticed that I had ordered a larger drive after the smaller one, and he asked if he could cancel the first. Well, that means that the order system could be improved, but the personnel are paying attention. My comments are therefore a nullity. Sorry.

  • daustins January 26, 2012 11:45 am

    CDW is like that too, of all places. CDW! Perhaps I pressed the wrong button but I thought I had ordered a 1TB drive and found, having checked out, it was 500GB. I tried to cancel, but could not. An email to CDW was answered telling me it was at the warehouse. In other words, abandon all hope. I am not entirely sure that this is not a convenient thing for some of them. Like a rebate. How many people will take the trouble to pursue it? Lowes for you, another computer source for me.

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