Survey of Local Chain Stores

aezarien(7b)June 15, 2008

After returning to Lowe's today for the first time since March I was quickly reminded of why we don't go there. The customer service at this store is usually extremely poor and the plants, well they leave much to be desired. Very rarely are there people who work there that know much about the plants. This is the second location that we have lived by where we have had this experience. I have found that Wal-mart is about the same and K-Mart's crispy plants can be seen from the road. I stopped in briefly just to see if the outside reflected what the inside looked like and it all actually looks worse up close and all their plants are in much worse shape than Lowe's plants which is something I thought was impossible. We don't have a Home Depot close to us. What is worse is that they seem to actually be more expensive than local nurseries that have absolutely beautiful plants and excellent customer service.

Although I have had some pretty awful experiences in this area I have to wonder if it is just that way here or do others have similar experiences at these chain stores?

The reason I am asking is because I am a big believer in letting the market take care of financial institutions. If they don't have good business ethics I don't complain, I find another place to shop. It's hard to tell with chain stores sometimes though. Sometimes it is just those particular stores. This area could benefit from a store that sells healthy plants and has decent customer service. We have a very small local nursery that is nice but the variety is limited and they only set up shop during the planting season. I am considering calling corporate regarding my incidents with this Lowe's but if this is a consistent problem across the board I am not even going to bother.

I apologize if I sound like I am complaining. I mean, I sort of am but not just to be heard. I would really be interested in hearing other people's opinions.



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Dibbit(z7b SC)

All 4 of the "local" Lowe's - Spartanburg, SC; Hendersonville, NC; Greenville, SC; Greer, SC - seem to have good plant dep't managers and decent workers. Not to say they are as good or knowledgeable as a GOOD nursery, but they are decent. Home Depot, now, I rarely bother as the plants, unless straight off the truck, look awful in both S'burg and H'ville - I don't even stop at the other 2! I don't say that there aren't mis-handled plants - I do my share of copping bargains off the "sale" area - but over all, it's not bad. WalMart, unless straight off the truck, I also rarely bother with - I do make an exception for their Amaryllis bulbs, come the fall.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 12:00AM
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According to what we have been told, both Lowe's and Home Depot allow the individual store managers to order from lists provided, so the store on the southside, for example, has better quality and more interesting plants (diverse selection) than the one on the northside. The managers are also the ones who control the post delivery care, so my friend, who finds excellent plants, always goes on the day of delivery or the very next day. Since there is great turnover with personnel, even the manager cannot always compensate for what the employees do. On my side of town the HD had wonderful ferns, which the employees left out in the full sun, so they had to be marked down because, in two days, they looked so bad. This was great for me. With some care at home, they all turned into fantastic bargains.

Speak to the general manager at your local stores if you want to try to improve service and plant care. It may not do any good, but I do hate to see potentially good plants turn into compost. Oh, my daughter, years ago, did dumpster diving at a local big box and got many great plants that ended up there because no care was given.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 8:53AM
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I've sort of made it a policy to buy shrubs and trees at local nurseries and perennials and annuals at a local chain. But that's not to say you can't find a good plant at these big stores--after all, some of them do get stock from quality nurseries. Especially in March I found some fairly reasonable prices at Home Depot for some nice plants, and I've done the same at all three other stores you mention. And sadly, at this point I frequent them most often for their soil amendments and mulch. I find a bag with a tear in it--they're everywhere--and Lowe's will take half off for you! They do this with everything from Black Kow to those big bags of Miracle Gro potting mix.

My mentality is that we have to support local nurseries, and so I visit them whenever possible (and I'm trying to do more and more of that). But when you stop in to Lowe's for that one bag of mulch and some tomato stretch tie, and you see that new shipment of pentas....well, it's only a few extra dollars, right?...

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 9:05AM
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I think around the Raleigh area the big box retailers have good plants and good selection only during the best part of spring. Once the buying frenzy dies down the staff is shifted to other areas and the quality goes way down. It helps to know when the delivery dates are so that you can pick the best right off the truck instead of waiting for a few days of neglect to harm them. It really helps if you do your homework before you go shopping. They aren't going to know everything about every plant (and neither is the staff at every good nursery - there are just too many plants out there).

Not every store has a discount rack. Not every store takes off for damaged goods - its an individual store's manager decision. Some do, some don't.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 9:21AM
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My experiences pretty much echo what was said above. As far as Lowes, their customer service, selection and overall careof plants is at best, OK. I find better plants with better customer service and the plants look healthier at the HD up the road.

I do of course visit my local greeneries/nurseries for more interesting varieties and species.

I would more or less usually only get annuals from the big box stores since they carry a fair selection and the prices of those are usually lower than the nursery. Perennials and other more fanciful plants I get at the nursery as I can usually be assured of their survival. Sometimes I will buy bulbs and other wintering plants thru select online vendors.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 10:01AM
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Thanks for all of the useful feedback.

Dibbit - The other Lowe's one city over is good for bargains, I will say that.

Rescue - We plan to speak to the general manager at least. We called yesterday and he was not in. He is supposed to call back today.

Buck - I believe the home depot in the next city over gets their plants from my favorite local nursery. The Lowe's here gets plants from some of the same companies the local nursery does. Granted, the local nursery grows their own mostly they do carry a few other brands occasionally. I am fortunate to have a place that sells bulk products within a few miles of me so I haven't purchased bags of mulch, sand, or topsoil in a long time. It's a LOT cheaper if you have a truck to haul it in.

John - I usually go with plan in hand but you know how it is. Sometimes you see something that catches your eye that isn't on the list. It's nice to have someone knowledgeable on hand that can give you a little info. I suppose I am fortunate on that end however because the place I shop at the most has an outstanding staff. Most of them can tell you anything about any plant you ask about. So maybe therein lies the problem lol. Maybe this place just has me spoiled so I am expecting too much of the other places I visit.

Lyle - I get super bells for my window boxes at Lowe's every year and they always turn out fantastic. The window boxes are the marker for spring around here as they are the first thing to go out.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 12:44PM
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I've not checked out our closest Lowes here for plants but I frequent my local Home Depot. It's the closest thing to a greenhouse or nusery around here without an hour plus drive. The quality has been pretty good there, I actually like the ladies there in the garden department, they are gardners too and we chat every visit. My only complaint is their selection is pretty routine. Other than that, I'm pretty happy with them, but I do wish I could find a decent local nursery around here.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 5:58PM
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I'll have to defend my local Lowes. The Knightdale (NC)Store takes pretty good care of the plants and the buyer brings in many plants that I am surprised to see at a Lowes. Last week I found Japanese Forest Grass, which is very hard to find at a decent price. I can buy wholesale and even at that price it was $12. for a gallon container. Lowes had it for $6.99. I bought 4. Especially with their one year warrantee. I waited all winter for a new plant called 'midnight rose'. I was excited to find it. It was very small but I didn't care. Price was good ($5.99 ??) and I was delighted. Guess what??? Lowes got in a gallon plant, very mature, basically full grown at $10. The buyer at each store is different and the management of each Garden department also manages differently. I just moved here from MD and I use to go across town to a certain HD and Lowes due to the buyers. It drives me crazy when the only requirment is WATER and they don't even do that.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2008 at 1:30PM
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paulacat(Z8 Coastal SC)

I am a merchandiser for Hines Horticulture which supplies (mostly) shrubs to Home Depot. It is my responsibility to get the plants on the shelves, make sure they are attractively displayed and keep them that way. The live goods manager at my store is very interested in plants, has lots of knowledge and orders "different" things as well as the tried and true. (I'm sure that that is not the case at every store.) Perennials are supplied by another company, also with its own merchandisers, and annuals are handled and taken care of by yet another company. For the most part, at Home Depot, it is the merchandisers who keep the plants healthy and looking their best.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 1:15PM
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Oh, I'm very excited to hear that the Lowe's in Knightdale is pretty good. I used to drive down 64 quite a bit, but once 540 opened up, I haven't travelled that road very much at all. I have some birthday money burning in my pocket, I may have to mosey on over!!!

The Lowes in Smithfield, of course my closest one, is simply dreadful. The garden center is very small, and mundane. The one that's in Clayton, used to be pretty good, but I don't travel that way very often. It's about the same ride to Knightdale as it is to the Clayton Lowes.

I go to Home Depot in Garner sometimes, but I was just there this weekend, that birthday money talking to me, and I couldn't find anything to buy!!! Sigh.

While I browse all the time when I'm in Walmart, I rarely buy anything but the bulbs when they're on clearance and a few years ago, I bought some annuals, that are still reseeding themselves now. I do look every time I'm there, but I think it's just a habit at this point. I do it so I have a calm moment even though I'm grocery shopping in crazy Walmart land!!!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 7:41PM
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We shop at the Lowe's in Pittsboro and Chapel Hill. I don't buy that many plants from them, but the stock usually looks pretty good unless something like a late spring frost hits.

I know this isn't about plants, but it's a great example of Lowe's. The Lowe's in Pittsboro is fantastic for their customer service in the appliance and outdoor equipment areas. When we were looking for a new washer/dryer last year, I was looking at the Bosch Nexxt 500 front loader (energy savings). The manager walked up to me and told me that they were on sale (unadvertised 10% off) and then gave me a 10% additional discount and free delivery/installation. That put the 500 less expensive than the usually less expensive model. They've also given us discounts with 10% off coupons on some major brands that were supposed to be excluded from the discount. In the paint department, they have mixed up a gallon of deck stain for me just to show me the color without any obligation to buy the stain (I didn't -- it was the wrong color). When my husband bought a JD mower, the salesperson used to work in the JD factory and could tell him everything about it down to the nuts and bolts.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 9:17AM
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