Friday, August 29, 2014

Trouble in Paradise

Paradise - 99% of the time!
Arrggh!  There are a few, rare, occasions that living in a foreign country, in a foreign culture and not being fluent in the local language can make us crazy with frustration.

We seldom “bitch” about anything in this blog, preferring instead to keep it upbeat and positive, but this week Home Depot Cancun pushed all of our buttons; the Frustrated Button, the Annoyed Button, and the dreaded Crabby Button.

We have four ceiling fans in our house, one in each bedroom, and two on the downstairs floor that have been working just fine for the last seven years but were getting to the end of their usefulness. Rust, corrosion, and squeaky motors: it was time to replace them all.

The store we love to hate.
Lawrie and I went into Cancun to Home Depot and purchased four matching Hampton Bay fans – made in China and sold exclusively by Home Depot and not available anywhere else. 

The fans were a decent price, dark brown fake palm leaf-shaped blades, exterior quality so they should last for quite awhile, well, until at least one week before ten-year warranty expires that is.

When we got back to the island we called Patricio, our friend who built our home seven years ago, asking him if his electricians could install the fans. Jose, Benito, and a new trainee Juan were at our house within a few minutes. Within an hour or so the guys had all four fans installed, but only three worked.  Jose tested all the circuits and connections still nothing happening with the fourth fan. I said no worries, just take it down and put it back in the box. I'll return it to Home Depot tomorrow.

Three fans installed and working just great.
Jose grinned at me, said something to the other guys making them laugh aloud. He went on to say in Spanish something about Lawrie should have lunch, go to a movie, and doing a bit of shopping while I waited at Home Depot. 

I nodded and laughed in that polite not-quite-understanding-way that everyone uses now and again when you have absolutely no idea what the other person saying.

The following day we headed back to Cancun to exchange the fan. 

Got the original receipt? Check. Fan and all the original parts? Check. Original box? Check. Okay, good to go. We will just pop in and exchange it for an identical one. Easy.

At the Home Depot return counter we explained in Spanglish that the fan was not operating, and we would like to exchange it for a new one. Lawrie went ahead into the store to make sure they had more in stock. He loaded one into a cart and returned to wait patiently with me at the returns counter.

Hanging out at the returns counter - waiting, waiting.
The first clerk looked at the receipt, then she looked at me, looked at the box and re-checked the receipt and huffed indignantly. She took all the parts out of the box to look at them. Well, I was impressed. She must have had the parts list memorized. 

She could tell just by poking and prodding at the various little bags that we hadn't secretly held back any of the parts; that we didn't keep any of the 16 pieces of part AA Blade attachment hardware, or the 3 of part BB wire connecting nuts, or the 5 of part G Blade bracket screws, or the 1 EE a balancing kit, or even the 1 HH pull chain. What an amazing memory she must have.

Another clerk was paged and everyone repeated the process; look at us, the receipt, the box, poke at the parts, and look at us again. Nothing had been said up to this point by any of the staff members. 

The parts list
We are now feeling vaguely sleazy. We were certain the staff thought that we had somehow managed to steal this fan out from under the noses of the cashiers and security guards. 

These are the same security guards who are located ten feet from the cashiers, and consistently check every bag, box and item before stamping the receipt and allowing the customer to exit the store.

We are still waiting at the returns desk and a third clerk is paged. Same routine. Still no one is saying anything. We are now hitting the thirty-minute mark. I asked if there was a problem. No answer, instead a fourth clerk is called via a portable radio. He explains that since I had already been back to the store to return a fan I must have another receipt, that the one I had presented to them was incorrect.

Really? We purchased the fans two days previously. We live on Isla Mujeres. We have not been back to Cancun, or Home Depot to exchange any fans until today. This is the original receipt. All we want to do is exchange one non-working fan for a hopefully working fan. (Can you tell, my Crabby Button has just been pushed?)

The four clerks exchange knowing glances: “Whoa, Crabby Person! Better call in the big boss.” The department head is paged. He tests the motor to be sure that we aren't lying. It will work - if he pushes it with his fingers - but will not start on its own. No problem. He nods, and tells them to go ahead and do the exchange. He then repackages the defunct item and places it back on the shelf with the other fans that are for sale. Problem solved.

Headed home to Isla
At five minutes short of an hour we exit Home Depot with our replacement ceiling fan. Back home on Isla, I sent a text to Jose, and he was there within minutes to install it. 

That's when we read the 10-year warranty fine print: the warranty document must be stamped and signed at the time of purchase at the store where the product was sold. 

Are you kidding me? We were supposed to open the box at the store, read the warranty document, get it stamped and signed before we left the store! 

Double Arrggh!

And just to be clear, Home Depot Cancun is not the only store that teaches their staff to provide poor customer service. 

It is very common. We marvel at our Mexican friends who nonchalantly accept indifferent treatment boarding on rudeness. 

They just shrug their shoulders and laugh: It's Mexico.

So, we take a deep breath, pour a glass of wine and sit on our ocean side patio. 
This is the real reason we live in Mexico. We enjoy the climate, we enjoy our island and our waterfront casa, and we truly do enjoy the Mexican culture – most of the time.


Oh, and did we mention the new fan squeaks like a rat caught in a trap? Sigh, looks like we will be visiting our “favourite” store again: Home Depot in Cancun.


Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

A few days later .....

Success! Paradise Reclaimed!

We have another replacement Hampton Bay ceiling fan from Home Depot and so far, fingers-crossed, it is behaving beautifully.

And how did this miraculous event happen you ask? Well I went on the internet and registered my complaint in a much shorter version than the blog article, and left out most of the drama and the Arrgghs! (It wasn't nearly as much fun to write.)

1. The first response was a email acknowledging my complaint:
Shirley A. Mitchell
Resolution Expediter
Customer Care Email Team
The Home Depot - Store Support Center-
2455 Paces Ferry Road / B-3
Atlanta, GA 30339
Phone: (770) 433-8211 or 1-800-654-0688, Ext. 77341
Fax: (678) 556-7614

2. The second response was a follow-up email from Ms. Karen Cortés letting me know that since the complaint originated at a Mexican store she would assist us with any language problems we had:
Karen Cortés
Resolution Expediter
2455 Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30339
Phone: 770-433-8211 or 1-800-654-0688 Ext: 77519
Fax: 678-556-7614

3. The third response was a phone call and a very nice email, in English, from the General Manager of Home Depot Cancun, Seňor Juan Espinosa Silva.Seňor Silva arranged to meet with us on Monday September 1st to exchange the defective squeaky fan. We, of course, had optimistically tossed out all the packaging when we got the first replacement fan, thinking “oh boy, this one will work just fine.”

He said, “don't worry, just bring the fan and the receipt and we will replace it.”

I also asked about 10-year warranty fine print: the warranty document must be stamped and signed at the time of purchase at the store where the product was sold. Seňor Silva advised us to just keep a photo copy of the original purchase receipt with the warranty documents.

When we entered the store, one of the clerks recognized me, smiled and greeted me by name. Oh, rats. I guess I made a really big impression on him last week when I did my Crabby Person rant at him. Rafa was very kind, and accommodating, taking another fan out of stock, un-boxing it, testing it, and re-boxing it.

So it looks like we have the problem solved, and so very much quicker than we anticipated.

Thank you to everyone at Home Depot.


Lynda & Lawrie


Anonymous said...

Make sure you open the new box right in front of them and have them stamp the warranty! Better yet, bring all the warranties from the other fans and see if they will stamp them. Then save the disappearing ink receipt for ten years. Then blog about the return in year nine! ;)

Gailmarie7 said...

I was "Shocked" to see the title of you blog, "Trouble in Paradise" I know your blogs are always upbeat and happy...When I started to read it, I had the "Ah ha moment"....which anyone who has tried to exchange or return anything in Mexico will know! It is not just Home Depot...oh, god, try returning something to Wal-mart! Or Chedraui! Or anywhere!!! PORQUE??? Are the clerks taught to take NOTHING back, no matter what??? I would love to talk to some of these employees outside of work, to find out the story...But, thanks for the chuckle of the day...well, really. not so funny since we have all been there...and so want to pitch a hissy fit...but hard to do effectively unless we are very fluent in Spanish, including all slang!!!

Lynda Lock said...

Good morning Anon-y-mouse! (Brenda) We photocopy and file every receipt for anything with a plug on the end .... but unfortunately I tossed out the original boxes and nothing can be returned without the box. So now I have to head into Cancun, purchase another fan in hopes that this one will work, and then use the box to return (on another trip to Cancun) the squeaky one that we just purchased two days ago. Oh joy! LOL

Lynda Lock said...

Good morning Gail: yep, tongue in cheek humour. Still love living here. Cheers L

TexasEd said...

Sorry to hear about you difficulties with Home Depot but it's somehow reassuring to know that service in their Mexican stores is on a par with Canadian and American stores!

Lynda Lock said...

Good morning Ed. Your comment made me giggle. We thought we had cornered the market on "poor customer service".... Cheers L

Anonymous said...

A month or so ago, I went to the new HomeDepot in Morelia's Tres Marias, armed with printouts from the website, showing prices. They honored the Internet price without argument. The next week, I went to HomeDepot in LaHuerta, armed with fresh printouts. The first clerk told me the sticker price was the price, as if he'd never heard of the Internet. I went to the manager, who looked up the website to make sure I hadn't forged the printouts, debated, and then finally told me, as if he doing me a great favor, that he'd honor the web price, adding that he didn't have to. From now I'll drive the extra distance to the nice HomeDepot instead of the closer-by, mean one.

Lynda Lock said...

Good morning - redshoesarebetterthanbacon! Love the name of your blog! Thanks for the comment. It certainly seems that Home Depot has a few customer service issues, here and the USA and Canada. Cheers Lynda

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