Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping At Lowe's

For the millions of Americans who found themselves with an abundance of extra time in 2020, it was a prime opportunity to tackle long-neglected home improvement projects. From landscaping to full-scale home renovations, people flocked to home improvement centers in droves to grab materials and put their DIY know-how to the test.

When it comes to buying all those home improvement supplies, there's always the local hardware store, but sometimes, you simply need more options. It's at this point that homeowners head to the big-box store, and there really are only two choices: Lowe's or Home Depot.

If you've ever set foot in a Lowe's, you were probably shocked by the overwhelming supply of products or, quite possibly, the prices. Everything from lumber to metal and drywall has surged in price as of late, and if you fail to apply some strategy to a Lowe's shopping trip, you could end up paying more than you need. Do yourself a favor: Before you start your next home project, keep reading to find out the common mistakes everyone makes when shopping at Lowe's. 

Not taking advantage of DIY workshops

Does this scenario sound familiar? You watch a few episodes of "This Old House" and figure installing new kitchen cabinets will be a breeze. After all, the job is completed on TV in just half an hour, so how hard could it be? It's a common mistake of any rookie DIYer to bite off more than they can chew, and that often plays out with a lot of frustration, spending more money than needed, and perhaps easily preventable repairs down the road.

Lucky for you, Lowe's offers lots of DIY workshops where pros show you how to tackle a range of projects and avoid all the mistakes you'd probably make if you went it alone. The workshops available will vary depending on your location but include a range of projects aimed at various skill levels. 

In 2020, the superstore even rolled out a kids' DIY program. "We want to inspire the next generation of do-it-yourselfers and our Kids' Workshops offer a meaningful way for customers and their families to learn new skills together," said Scott Draher, a vice president in Lowe's store operations, in a press release

It never hurts to learn a new skill from an experienced teacher, and these workshops will help set you up for project success. 

Forgetting to check the Lowe's project guide

Just about every novice home repair enthusiast has made the mistake of forgetting to buy everything they need for a project on their first shopping trip to Lowe's. This often recurring headache just results in multiple trips and wasted time. It's easily avoidable, though, by getting into the nitty-gritty of what is really needed to complete whatever job may be on your to-do list.

Thankfully, Lowe's helps take out most of the guesswork with its library of DIY projects and ideas. Want to build an outdoor pizza oven? Lowe's has a guide for that. Perhaps you just need to fix a leaky faucet or do some research on picking out a hood for your oven range? The Lowe's Projects & Ideas library can help with that, too. 

Besides the large variety of projects and instructions available, the store's website provides a list of all the materials you'll need to get the job done correctly. There's even a calculator section so that you'll have an idea of what the supplies will cost before making your trip. Even if you're not well versed when it comes to home improvement, making a list of needed items before shopping is just plain smart, and Lowe's makes this step that much easier.

Ignoring daily and weekly deals at Lowe's

Lowe's almost always has something on sale. The key is knowing to look out for those frequent deals and getting 'em while the getting's good. You're likely to find some of the biggest sales on the weekend, especially holiday weekends like Memorial Day. This isn't to say that good weekday deals don't exist, though. Lowe's runs online-only Monday deals every week. There are also Last Chance deals on items that are about to be pulled from the shelves and are at their lowest sales prices. On any particular day, this could include anything from flooring to power tools. Finally, there are the always popular Daily Deals. Sign up via email to receive deals of the day in your inbox every morning.

Another inside scoop to consider, according to a former Lowe's employee on Reddit, is asking for the Markdown Report — aka "the holy grail of finding deals at Lowes," he says. According to the former employee, ask somebody at the commercial sales desk to print a copy for you. Depending on how long they've worked at the store, they may even be a little confused by the request. Regardless, it's worth a shot. "Most of the items start off discounted 25% off, but I've bought nice items (like a Dewalt power tool set for $56, cases of Gatorade for $.80) at 75% or even 90% off," the employee said.

Not checking the store inventory beforehand

Yes, Lowe's has just about everything a home DIY enthusiast could need, and you could theoretically get everything required to build a house from the ground up at the store. That said, if your shopping list is long enough, there's a good chance you won't find everything you need at Lowe's — if you visit without checking inventory first, anyway.

If you take away a single tip from this article, it should be to always check the store's inventory online before making your shopping trip, especially if you need something specific. If you only need a hammer, yes, you can go in blind, and Lowe's will have one. But checking that the product you need is in stock at your specific store is simple with Lowe's Product Locator smartphone app (via PR Newswire).

As for why Lowe's might not have the item you're looking for, this could be due to any number of reasons. Sometimes it might be due to seasonal demand, like folks buying landscaping rocks in droves in the spring. Other times, it might be due to global events, like COVID or that big ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in March 2021. Speaking from personal experience, we've made one too many trips to Lowe's without checking online first, only to find out the needed item was sold out. So check and check again.

Forgetting to bring your tape measure

Not every Lowe's shopping mistake is about overpaying or neglecting to buy the right items for the job. Sometimes, a mistake could be as simple as leaving home without your tape measure. This is another Lowe's shopping goof we've been guilty of more than once and vowed to never make again.

Lowe's employees carry a number of things in those vest pockets of theirs, and according to several employees on Reddit, a tape measure is a popular choice. Yes, you can track down an employee and ask to borrow their tape measure to check if a chest freezer will fit in your backseat. Doing so, however, is yet another Lowe's exercise in aggravation. You very well may have more than one item you need to measure while shopping, and that Lowe's employee probably doesn't want to loan out their tape measure for your entire shopping excursion.

Save yourself the trouble of having to ask an employee in the lumber section ... and the appliances section ... and again in the gardening section if you can borrow theirs. Lowe's has lots of tape measures of all different sizes, so buy one, and keep it on your belt or in your purse each time you visit the store.

Overlooking price matching and competitor coupons

Just like Coke versus Pepsi or McDonald's versus Burger King, Lowe's is in a constant battle for retail home-improvement supremacy with its arch-nemesis, Home Depot. Like any corporate giant, Lowe's strategy for winning this never-ending war is to offer lower prices than the other guy. Their money lust is your win, though, and you should definitely ask for a price match should another store be trying to undersell Lowe's on a product you want. "Our commitment to you is that you'll find competitive prices every day, both online and in store, and if you find one from a qualified retailer that's lower on an exact product, we'll match it," reads the Lowe's website

You should also try your luck at asking Lowe's to accept coupons from a competitor or even an expired Lowe's coupon. "I have accepted competitor coupons," a Lowe's assistant store manager told Reddit. "We even accept expired coupons." Just don't try to use those competitor coupons on top of three other discounts. The key takeaway here: Ask and you shall receive.

Not using the app to navigate through the store

The average Lowe's store is 112,000 square feet indoors with an additional 32,000 square feet of outdoor retail space, according to Market Realist. That's bigger than Home Depot and Target. Have fun finding that super-specific barrel nut you need to replace the one you lost while assembling your Ikea dresser.

Navigating Lowe's can be a tiring and frustrating experience for even the seasoned Lowe's shopper. Apparently, the company took notice that their stores are mazes of home improvement supplies, capable of driving a person to the brink of meltdown, and decided to make shopping a little easier. The solution is an app, Lowe's Vision: In-Store Navigation, rolled out in 2017 (via Digital Trends).

The app uses some pretty cool augmented-reality technology to help guide customers through the store and locate exactly what they need. According to Kyle Nel of Lowe's Innovation Labs, the goal of the app was to not only help customers better navigate the store but "it allows our associates to spend more time advising on home improvement projects." In other words, you no longer have to pester sales associates to help you find LED light bulbs.

Turning up your nose at returned items

Just like any big retail store, people are constantly returning items to Lowe's that they don't want. Provided those items aren't broken, they're likely to end up back on the shelf or in the clearance section. It's in our nature to reach for a box that's in pristine condition, but going for the one that's a little more banged up or has clearly already been opened can save you some cash.

According to LowesEmployees.com, buying a slightly dented, scratched, or previously opened item can net you a discount. Lowe's cashiers can apply a 10% discount to such an item without having to first check with management, per Reddit. Floor models and other scratch-and-dent items also give you more flexibility to negotiate a better price.

The wear-and-tear deal doesn't only apply to hard goods, either. You can even use this shopping strategy in the lawn and garden section on plants. "Distressed plants are a great deal," said a former Lowe's employee. "The plants could have some frost damage (in the fall), already bloomed or suffering lack of care (annuals)." Depending on how worse for wear the plant is, you could score up to 90% off the retail price. Just be sure your thumb is green enough to nurse the plant back to health.

Skipping substantial product rebates

Spend enough money at Lowe's, and you're bound to get a rebate offer. Often, these rebates are going to be on big-ticket items: refrigerators, AC units, water heaters, etc. Screws and light bulbs? Not so much. There are a lot of rebates up for grabs, though, and at the time of this writing, over 8,000 Lowe's products qualified for a rebate. Be a smart shopper, and check for which items might net you a rebate before buying. Then, of course, check that in-store inventory.

Lowe's allows customers to submit their rebate and check their rebate status through its website, and according to AskingLot, rebate processing times are around six to eight weeks. Some rebates may be as little as $10, while others — depending on the purchase price — could be several hundred dollars. Sure, it requires a little bit of effort to fill out the form (especially if it's mail-in), but skipping such rebates is like leaving money on the table.

Buying a tool when you could just rent it

Before you start a project and run out to Lowe's to buy some shiny new power tool, ask yourself: "Will I ever use this again?" If the answer is no or "probably not more than once a decade," renting is the way to go. Otherwise, that tool is destined to sit in the garage collecting dust or wind up in the local pawn shop. Thankfully, Lowe's saw fit to expand its rental service in 2020 and include tools of all different varieties.

Tool rentals were previously limited to around 50 stores, per USA Today, but the service will soon expand nationwide. "For all of our customers, having the right tool is key to every project, but they may not always want to purchase a new tool or piece of equipment," said Lowe's executive Fred Stokes. "Lowe's Tool Rental helps customers save on the cost of owning, maintaining, and storing the tools they need."

The Lowe's tool rental page offers everything from nail guns and scaffolding to lawnmowers and heavy-duty tools like trench diggers. Customers simply check the tool's availability, reserve a date, and pick it up at the store. Easy peasy.

Ruling out a Lowe's credit card

"I could really use another credit card payment," said nobody ever. Adding yet another store credit card to your spending arsenal might seem like a turnoff, but hear us out: For the right Lowe's shopper, the company's store credit card could be a valuable asset.

NerdWallet gave the credit card a 4.5-star rating, calling its value "top-notch" for home project fans. (Lowe's does have a line of business credit cards, but those are a whole other animal.) The card has no annual fee and allows users to choose from an everyday discount of 5% or a special financing option on items costing $299 and above.

As the Motley Fool points out, the credit card does have a few cons. You won't earn rewards; the 5% everyday discount is your reward. Its interest rate is also a bit on the steep side, with a non-fixed APR of 26.99%. Motley Fool notes that this is around 10 points higher than the average credit card APR in the United States.

But if you're a Lowe's weekend warrior or want to finance a large project, the card might be worth it. Obviously, it's important to look at your own finances and budget before adding the extra plastic to your wallet.

Not utilizing Lowe's in-store services

Folks who are relatively new to shopping at Lowe's might not realize the full scale of services the megastore offers its customers. Yes, there are the standards like store pickup and help with loading, but those are just the tip of the iceberg.

A really great in-store offering that reno fans should certainly take advantage of is Lowe's selection of computer design tools. Its kitchen design and deck design tools can be used at home, but they may be a little tricky for the novice interior designer. Visit the sales desk, and Lowe's technicians can provide this design service for free. Depending on which Lowe's you visit, you may even have the option to view a mixed-reality version of your renovation project (via Microsoft).

Worried that the wood you need won't fit in your car? Lowe's will cut it down to size. They even offer free pipe threading on galvanized or black iron pipe. Have some paint chips but not sure about the exact color to buy? They can customize and color-match a bucket of paint for you, too. From installing a washing machine to planning a vegetable garden, it's worth taking advantage of the in-store services offered — many of which are free of charge.

And you can't put a price on the satisfaction of a job well done.