Randy owned a remodeling company before joining the local carpenter's union. Now works for a building supply co. And freelance consulting.
Shopping Strategies to Save Money
I have been shopping at Home Depot since they first opened to buy many different products for my remodeling company. I've found several shopping strategies over the years. Most of these money saving tips are legit, a few are a bit sneaky because they exploit Home Depot's system.
Home Depot Credit Card
Home Depot normally offers a $25 discount coupon on the first purchase of $25 up to $999 or a $100 coupon on the first purchase of $1000 or more, when opening a new credit card with them. They also offer 6 months deferred interest on every purchase of $299.00 or more. Occasionally they offer promotions of 10% on your first purchase or deferred interest. It is best to purchase everything you need on this first purchase because it is only allowed one time. Or you can choose deferred interest during this promo of 12 months on a purchase of 299.00 or more, 18 months deferred on $999.00+, or 24 months on $1999.00+. During this promo, it's either the 10% discount or the deferred interest on your first purchase. Once again, it's best to purchase as much as possible on your first purchase to save the most money.
Home Depot also offers a commercial credit card which saves 5% on every purchase, but you must have a business to qualify. There is also a Project Loan offer that has the best interest of all their credit programs. This is a bank loan that is used exclusively on materials for large remodeling projects purchased at Home Depot. You would need to ask an associate for full details on these loans, as they are specific to each customer's circumstance.
Sneaky Ways to Save Money
Home Depot has policies that can be exploited to your advantage and even though they know about these policy exploits they still allow them.
Using your new credit card, you can max it out on your first purchase and buy more than you need at a discount of 5% normally or 10% during one of their credit promos. Then return the products you don't need without your receipt and do not tell them you bought the things with your card. They will give you a gift card for the full price of the products, which you can use to buy other products when you need them.
You can also purchase clearance items at one store and return them to a different Home Depot store where they are not on clearance without a receipt to get a full refund on a gift card. They will not allow you to return a gift card, it must be used in one of their stores or online. You can do this same thing with their competitor match program, explained further down on this webpage. You simply use their match program to get a 10% discount and then return it later without your receipt for a full refund on a gift card. Or buy a damaged product at a discount and then later return it for a full refund on a gift card without your receipt.
Just as Len Rapoport discovered at Costco, Home Depot also has price sign codes, I imagine most retail stores have them. For Home Depot, if the price ends in .66 cents, the item has been marked down. Products are marked down for many reasons. Sometimes they are slow moving (selling slowly), damaged (still usable or maybe package is damaged), a special order that was returned, etc. Buying slightly damaged products can save you money. For example, a door that is only primed and scratched can save you money and is easy to fix when you paint it. A sales associate or specialist in the millwork department can mark it down for you.
Occasionally you may see a sign that was marked down to .01 cent, this is a code stating that this item can no longer be sold. The product will more than likely be donated or thrown in the trash. This code was put on a product telling associates to remove the product from the shelf and take it back to receiving to be correctly processed.
Green Signs Fading Out
TIMED YELLOW DISCOUNT SIGNS
Green signs are being replaced by Yellow Discount Tags that change in value over time. The new Yellow Tags begins at a 25% discount. After six weeks, the discount changes to 50%. Then six weeks later, it drops again to a 75% discount and is good for six additional weeks. After that the product cannot be sold and is discarded.
A product is selling too slowly and so it is discounted at a 25% savings and drops 25% every six weeks. If a discounted item is not sold for 18 weeks it is thrown in the trash.
These timed Yellow Tags are not to be confused with the older Yellow Clearance Tags.
25% Timed Yellow Tag
Yellow Tag signs on items are products that are being discontinued and marked down. When these sell out they will not be re-ordered. These tags will also show the discounted cost and the original cost of the product. As you can see, the clearance tags do not end in .66 cents, only the green tags and manually marked down products do.
Not the same as Timed Yellow Tags.
Yellow Clearance Sign
Old Yellow Clearance Tag
Old Green Tags
Green Tags are special order products that have been returned and discounted. They may be doors, windows, flooring, or many other items. These items may have been returned because either they were made to the wrong specs by the manufacturer, they were ordered incorrectly by an associate, or the customer changed their minds when they received the item. Either way, they were returned and so they will be sold at a 25% discount from the original price. Sometimes the discount is even more. Occasionally these green tag items (aka value bin) items may be slightly damaged, so check them thoroughly before purchasing them. Green tag items can be a huge discount on expensive products. Green tags will show the current price and the was (original) price.
More Info on Green Tags
This Green Tag has been marked down more than 25% and shows additional information. The reason it was marked down more than 25% may be because it has been there for a while and on it's second Green Tag or is slightly damaged. The handwritten number at the top is the original purchase order number (PO#). The Was price and the Now price. The description of the product, a door made by the Feather River Company and details about the door. The original special order SKU. The manager's signature who approved the markdown and the reason code explaining why it was marked down. Above that is the original date it was marked down.
Several Codes in Most Home Depot Signs
Other codes are location of product in the store, the SKU number and UPC number with its bar code. The SKU number is an item number Home Depot uses to track the product; each product has its own SKU number.
Working With the Correct Orange Apron
Another shopping strategy is to work with the correct associate in the store. Most associates know only the products within their own departments and their area of expertise. In all of the stores, there are a handful of associates who can help you more than any others and they are not always the managers. Managers have the authority to mark things down more than others, but it is not always in their best interest to do so. The best associates to get deals from are the full-time special order specialists in flooring, doors & windows, the pro-contractor sales associates, or custom kitchen designers. These specialists can normally get you the best deals and will talk to the managers on your behalf to mark products down for you. They are not paid commissions on their sales, but they are tracked on how much money they bring into the stores. Specialists are recognized by customer feedback and so their monetary raise depends on making you happy. Every manager makes a bonus on the profit the store earns and so they may be hesitant to give the best deals. You can always tell who the "go to" people are by watching who associates and other departments are asking the most questions. It is in these few associates best interest to give you the best deals. Because it also helps them grow their sales numbers, no matter how much they mark an item down. Using a smart shopping strategy takes a little time and patience. These few "go to" people are who you want to be dealing with to get the best deals.
Purchase in Bulk
Another way to save money is to make large purchases, or purchase in bulk. Pro contractor associates and a few specialists can use what they call the "Bid Room". To run a purchase through the bid room it must total over $2500.00 before sales tax and can be many different products combined together. Only a few associates have access to this feature, as it is supposed to be reserved for contractors. But the best specialists, your "go to" associates will have access to it or can guide you to someone who does. A customer does not have to be in business to get this discount, if they work with the right associate. Running an order through the bid room can have different results depending on the purchase. The most immediate and biggest discount will probably be items bought off the shelf, but special orders can also qualify. Custom special orders almost never qualify. The discount is normally about 5%, but can be more in certain cases. Running special orders through the bid room may need a day or two to get the results because they are often looked over at corporate headquarters before qualifying for a discount amount. Rather than buying a few items today and a few more tomorrow, buy them all at the same time if they total over $2500.00 to get this discount. This discount cannot be combined with another promo, except for vendor promo's.
Secret Store Sales and Vendor Promotions
Occasionally there are secret (unadvertised) store sales and vendor promotions. The secret store sales are on special order products only and called "closed quote" sales, normally a 10% discount (on rare occasions 15%) on all special orders in that department for a period of time. The vendor promotions are usually advertised and can be combined with store promos and discounts. Even if an assistant manager (ASM) tells you they cannot be combined, they actually can. Always ask your "go to" specialist who the best ASM is to get the best deals, because they will know. Home Depot promotions cannot be combined, such as a closed quote promo and a military discount. Home Depot discounts can only be combined with a vendor promo, because the store is not "double dipping" markdown promotions in that case. Also custom made special orders cannot be used with any type of promo, simply because it is a custom made product that is not mass produced. It would be up to the ASM or store manager to decide if they will allow a military markdown in that case.
Home Depot Flyer
Favorite place to shop
Every week there are advertised sales published in the mailer and the Sale of the Day online. There are many sale items posted on the Home Depot web page. There is also the price match program where Home Depot will price match the same product from one of its competitors and then mark it down 10% below the competitor price. But it must be the same product and the same brand that is sold on Home Depot's shelf, this does not include special order items. They also offer a 10% military discount with an active military card. On Veteran's Day, they honor all military cards, not only active military cards.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I am retired military (26 years) plus VA disability. One Home Depot offered me the standard 10% discount on a sale item. Another store refused the discount on any sales item. What is the corporate answer?
Answer: It could be several reasons you are not always receiving the full discount.
1. Vendors sometimes offer a discount on products special ordered from them for a time limit. Like at this time there is a 15% promo running on exterior and interior doors, also storm doors and patio doors from the vendors supplying these products to us. Since the 15% promo is being given to the customers from the vendors another Home Depot discount can also be added to the order. This will give a total of 25% discount on the items purchased.
2. The military discount is for vets that have their photo military ID. Also, the Home Depot associate is supposed to verify the ID is valid for the discount. Some associates who are not sure of the SOP of various discounts may not feel comfortable giving the military discount.
Truth is a military discount can always be added to a valid vendor promo, providing the vet has proof of active service.
I hope this is clear and explains it for you. The promos and discounts can be confusing.
© 2015 Randy Horizon
Jdeveraux on December 27, 2019:
It's called arbitration lady
GKersten on July 26, 2018:
Your article was 90% interesting and informative; however, how can you promote thievery. Your verbiage under "Sneaky Ways to Save Money" infuriated me. You are telling people how to steal from Home Depot. It has nothing to do with saving money, it is blatant stealing, and in the end costs every single one of us. You need to remove that section of your article, as your credibility is diminished to nothing more than a thief. You are a contractor? Based on what you wrote, I would not do business with you.
Randy Horizon (author) from Philadelphia on January 18, 2015:
Please check back often because as I find more ways to save money at Home Depot I will add them. Thank you.