I shop at Big Lots because they have good sales on many items. However, many of their prices have gone up considerably within the past three to five years. That narrows the margin between their originally good prices, and the prices of competing stores. Big Lots is slowly losing its appeal to thrifty consumers.
As far as customer service, their clerks have always seemed bored and robotic to me. On six occasions in two years, clerks have forgotten to place purchases in the bags before I left the store. This happens more at Big Lots than any other store I've frequented. It's evident that this company doesn't make any effort to motivate personal enthusiasm in its employees. To add to my several unpleasant experiences at Big Lots, I've witnessed blatant rudeness from clerks, who seem to develop a sort of mob-mentality when dealing with customer complaints during checkouts and returns. It is not unusual for two or three clerks to gather behind the checkout counter and address a single customer "en masse". This is very juvenile, and rather obnoxious. It is an "us against them" attitude which no proper business would want to portray to the public.
Returning anything at all to Big Lots means the consumer has to deal with the "third degree". If you don't have a receipt you might as well give up. This doesn't happen as much with other stores that take the time to research transactions via computer, if necessary.
Case in point: I was assured by a clerk that I could return something after the 30 day limit on returns. I told the clerk BEFORE my purchase exactly when I might make the return (to the day) because it was a gift to be given after the 30 day time limit for returns. I asked, "Would it really be alright to return it after 30 days?" The clerk said, "Absolutely! No problem." Still, to feel really comfortable about this, I asked a different clerk the same question, and he told me that there is a very liberal policy on returns after the 30 day limit- not to worry. Because of these assurances, I felt at ease making my purchase at that time, thinking that there would be no problem with stretching the return time period by two weeks. Looking back, I probably should have asked the workers to sign my receipt. But who thinks of those things during what seems like a friendly, respectful transaction?
The gift for my friend didn't work out, so I took my receipt, and the unused item back to Big Lots in its unopened packaging. But... it turns out that both clerks had misinformed me at the time of my purchase. This misinformation caused an embarrassing scene. I was told that never would a clerk who worked there assure me that I could return something after 30 days, nor that another clerk would have told me that there was a liberal return policy. Suddenly there were three rather nosey Big Lots employees at the checkout stand, who presumed to tell me what two other clerks had said six weeks prior, when they were not even there. Although they had no way of knowing what had been said, and were absolutely in error, they pretty much told me I was lying about my experience. One clerk mentioned she could lose her job if she let me return the item. I was flabbergasted, and very much offended by it all.
I decided to call the main office and was treated even worse. The manager there told me I didn't even deserve a store credit, but that he'd give me one anyway. Gee, thanks. Whatever happened to the "good will" policies that didn't make a consumer (a repeat shopper at that) feel embarrassed and defensive?
I won't be frequenting Big Lots as often now, and I believe I'm not alone in my disappointment with this company. There are other stores that treat their customers with dignity, and still have fair prices which don't escalate every year. Those other companies are wise enough, and flexible enough, to think outside the box when it comes to dealing with the public. Good public relations = good business.