Why Small Businesses Trump Big Box Stores

disclosure

In this “Kim’s Opinion Piece”, I address why small businesses trump big box stores. And it has all to do with customer service. 

We recently built a new home and have been upgrading our furnishings. Back in late November/early December 2023, I ordered a hall tree for our mud room from a big box store and new desk for my home office from an online small(er) business.

Both orders arrived around the same time, and I hired a young gentleman looking for work to put both of the “assembly required” pieces of furniture together. He attempted the hall tree first only to find damaged pieces.

After the young gentleman let Miss Kim know about the broken pieces (he didn’t actually call me “Miss Kim”, it just sounded like a good story line), he ventured on to put the desk together. Wouldn’t you know it, the desk was missing the hardware needed to put it together?!

So, which company do you think handled the situation better? The big box store or the small business? The title of this article gives my opinion away, but I’m going to share the details with you so you have all the facts to decide for yourself. 

Big Box Store Purchase

If you’ve read my “About Me” page, you’ll know that I’ve always been a frugal shopper. I’ve been refunding, couponing and comparison shopping since the last century. So, when I say I researched for hours finding the perfect hall tree that would fit our mud room perfectly and then found the best price, I mean it.

Hall Tree From Lowe’s

FUFU&GAGA Modern 63-in White Composite Hall Tree

I ended up buying this FUFU&GAGA Modern 63-in White Composite Hall Tree from Lowes.com for $244. Plus Lowe’s accepts PayPal for payment which I like as several affiliate marketing companies pay me commission via PayPal. 

Unfortunately, when we went to put the hall tree together, we discovered three broken boards as shown below. I would’ve been content with being sent new boards or even returning the whole item for a replacement, but all I got was the runaround. 

broken boards

I first emailed the email address – feedbackstation@163.com – that was shown on the instruction manual as I prefer email to talking on the phone. The email bounced. Lovely. 

I tried to do a return online hoping I could print a return pickup label, but it said returns could only be done in-store, and mind you, we live over 100 miles away from the nearest Lowe’s store.

I even contacted FUFU&GAGA (the supposed manufacturer) at support@fufugaga.com who simply replied in broken English that “there are no parts you need in our library”. 

Next up, I tried Lowe’s chat. Once I got past Leo, Lowe’s virtual chat assistant, the “real” person chatting said I had to call the 1-800 phone number as they couldn’t help me. So I make the dreaded phone call only to be placed on hold numerous times being transferred around to no one that could help me. 

The last person I talked to tried to see if they could over-ride the option to return in-store so it could just be picked up by UPS or Fedex. Nope, that didn’t work.  Another told me I needed to call the closest store to me which is actually in the next state over (Sioux City, Iowa). That was the most I’d been on the phone in eons. And for nothing.

One of the customer service people (by this time I don’t remember from where or what department) told me to email this outrageous email address – tim2021lowes@timechee.com – that isn’t even a working domain name.

But I emailed them (I don’t want to presume that Tim is a “he”) anyway. They replied again in broken English “there are no parts you need in our library” but also added “board #11 is too much big so that we have to ship on the sea, the whole process needs around 2 months.”

Two months?! This thing has been taking up our whole new garage space, and I hated the thought of having to park outside in the cold/snow/sleet/rain for another two months. Having to scrape car windows in the cold is the worst. 

Two months roll around, and still no new boards. I email Tim again to which they respond, “It is true that this board has been immediately reposted on the system at that time (you could see the time 1-11 for the parcel). When we had to enquire we found that the plate was already in the claim process due to damage.”

broken board journey

Then they said I’d have to wait until April. To say I was frustrated was an understatement. When a package arrived this week, I was excited that it was actually two months early, only to open it to find they sent the wrong boards!

Ted, bless his heart, loaded up the whole mess, a half put together hall tree with broken parts, and went to return it to Lowe’s today. The time and gas alone to get the refund is probably not worth the 200-mile round-trip, but Ted was going to make it an excuse to go visit Scheel’s

Antoinetta Hall Tree 63'' Wide with Bench and Shoe Storageby Wade Logan®
Wade Logan Antoinetta Hall Tree 63” Wide with Bench and Shoe Storage in my mud room off of the garage. 

Update: I saw that Wayfair carries the near, if not exact, same item for only $229.99 (at the time of this writing). I presume this item is a private label item as I’ve seen the same item for sale under various brand names. So I ordered it as I’ve had good luck with shopping at (and doing returns) with Wayfair.com  (they also accept PayPal), and it arrived with all pieces intact. Yay!

Small Business Purchase

Being a small business owner of a liquidation boutique, I understand how important customer service is. One unhappy customer has the power to disrupt your reputation, especially in the age of social media where a single negative review can spread rapidly.

Desk from Bison Office

Just like I spent hours researching the best hall tree for my mud room, I spent an equal amount of time searching for the perfect desk for my home office. I wanted a U-Shaped desk in a wood grain that matches the rest of my cabinets. 

I found the Bestar Logan U-Shaped Desk in Bark Gray at the best price at BisonOffice.com (I actually paid less; I can’t remember if it was on sale or I used a coupon code). Bison Office also allows customers to use PayPal at checkout. 

Upon opening the boxes, we realized it was missing the hardware needed to put the desk together. I simply responded to the order confirmation email on a Friday afternoon, and they responded (in perfect English) within the hour!

Dear Kim, 

Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconveniences caused.

We would like to send out either replacement parts or a full unit replacement to have this issue resolved as soon as possible.

We will immediately check with our warehouse if we do have parts available. If the parts are unavailable, we will proceed with the full unit replacement

Please kindly let us know if that sounds acceptable to you.

We would really appreciate if you could inspect the entire item to make sure that we have a complete list of parts that need to be replaced. If it is possible, please kindly reference them using the assembly manual. If the assembly manual did not arrive along with the shipment, please kindly let us know, and we will be more than happy to provide you with one

Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Best Regards,
Daria
Customer Support Specialist

They shipped out the needed parts the next week (as well as emailed me the assembly manual) and even sent a follow-up email:

Dear Kim,

It seems like your replacement has arrived!

Maybe you already took a peek inside and have any comments for us?

We really hope that the product was worth waiting, but in case you discover any type of imperfections, simply reply directly to this message.

I wanted to personally thank you for choosing our service. It was a pleasure to assist a valued customer like yourself and we hope everything met your expectations.

We would love to hear your feedback on the Sitejabber platform. Your opinion is incredibly important to us and helps us improve our services.

If you ever have any questions, suggestions or concerns, please reach out to us.

We are always here to help you. Thank you again for choosing our service.

Have a nice day!

Best Regards,
Daria
Customer Support Specialist

If that’s not good customer service, I don’t know what is!? Daria gets 5 stars in my book. This is also a reminder that I need to leave them a good review as it seems more people take the time to make a bad review instead of a good review. And I know this well being an Amazon FBA seller and reviewing feedback. 

Once I have my desk completely put together (yes, I’ve been procrastinating), I’ll add a photograph of it to the post.

Menards Rant/Rave

I really wanted to be able to find a hall tree and/or an office desk that I liked from a Menards store so I could use some of my Menards rebates, but alas I could not. 

Once upon time, Menards was a small business that I presume had better customer service back in the day. They have now grown into a Midwest big box chain store. Unfortunately, they more they grow, the worse the customer service gets. 

Believe it or not, I am actually a Menards fan and take advantage of a lot of their free after rebate deals. In fact, I selfishly started a facebook group for Menards deals as a way to get others to share their finds so I didn’t have to work so hard looking for the deals!

The Menards Deals Facebook Group has now grown to over 22,000 members! And as I wrote this very post, I realize I need to admit that I may have overstepped my boundaries as the administrator of the group to go off on my own rant about Menard’s customer service (or lack of at my local store).

menards rant

But had I not posted that, I probably wouldn’t have been refunded the money to which I was owed. Although this may seem like a “negative review”, if you look at all of the posts I have made on the group, 99% are indeed positive.

Why Small Businesses Trump Big Box Stores

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that customer service offered by small businesses often surpasses that of big box stores. They do this by providing a personalized, caring, and authentic experience that not only fosters strong community ties but also proves that in the realm of customer satisfaction, small businesses truly hold the winning hand.

Kim Rowley Lohrberg
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