Lee Valley having internal problems?

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Forum topic by DaveInGA posted 04-12-2018 09:28 AM 5639 views 0 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 930 days

04-12-2018 09:28 AM

Hello All,

In the last month or two, I’ve placed a lot of orders with quite a few companies for woodworking equipment. With very few exceptions, I’ve had excellent service, fast shipping (within reason on almost everything), excellent communications from the companies related to shipping delays and most everything was well packed for it’s journey to me. So overall, a great experience.

Recently, on April 5th, I placed an order with Lee Valley for quite a few items and spent quite a bit of money with them. I did this online and made sure I double checked all of my information. (I run a business where delivery and details are important.)

First, I get two emails from them. On one, they’re out of stock for a knob on a plane I ordered. Okay, so I email back and have them send the standard knob. (I wanted the low, wide knob.) On the other, they say there’s a problem with my credit card and I have to call them. So I call, talk to them and find out they found me in their system from a decade ago where I’d ordered something to our previous address.

As I’m talking to the guy, I’m realizing none of the information on the new order was incorrect and I’m wondering why the delay and how/why these two orders from two time periods so far apart have created this situation. (I still live in the same town and only about 3 miles from the previous address.) It had been long enough I didn’t remember the previous order. But okay, I answer the guy’s questions and get off the phone, thinking everything is straightened out and my order will ship soon.

Next thing I know, I see a double charge in my online banking showing on my credit card for the same amount from Lee Valley. So I call them and am told (after several hours they called back and left a message on my phone) it was just a “reserve” and it’ll drop off. I found that odd, because none and I mean not a one of any of the other online retailers had done this. They all just simply charged my credit card at the time the order was shipped out, which makes perfect sense. I’m not real comfortable with this.

So another day passes and the double charge goes away, but still no shipment notice. I suspect it was a double charge and there was no reserve involved, I caught it and they fixed it, but did not admit the mistake. I check on their website this morning (they’re not open yet) and find the order now has an item back ordered and I see no indication of shipment of the other items. This was an item that was supposed to be “reserved” according to the order before that. So I’ve been charged for the full amount, including the back ordered item (almost $200.00 alone) and still no shipment notice.

So now I’m sitting here with $907.00 less in my account and still no shipping/tracking notice in my email inbox. I must say, I’m not getting warm fuzzies here. If I ran my own business like that, I’d be out of business in a hurry.

My apologies for the long winded post, but I’d like to ask, is this the norm from Lee Valley now? Are other folks experiencing this or am I just unlucky related to them? At this point, being a cranky ole fart, I’m inclined to call them and if the order has been delayed, to simply cancel it and have them refund my money.

Can someone who does more business with them than I do please advise so I don’t let my old man oneriness get the better of me?

Thank you,


-- Dave back into woodworking in Jefferson, GA

44 replies so far

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1551 days

#1 posted 04-12-2018 01:49 PM

I’ve actually been unhappy with customer service at Lee Valley over the last couple of months as well. Rude treatment (very surprisingly).

View harrison17's profile


26 posts in 1017 days

#2 posted 04-12-2018 02:38 PM

I believe they’re having a lot of issues with the recent Cites changes and the change to torrified wood for plane parts. There’s a post on another site discussing it and Rob Lee shares some information.

View Manitario's profile


2816 posts in 3658 days

#3 posted 04-12-2018 03:04 PM

Long time Lee Valley customer here. They have typically been the epitome of great customer service and fast shipping. Last few months though, I’ve been annoyed with them too; seems like a large amount of their inventory is out of stock. Not just planes and tools with wood parts, but hardware, drill bits etc.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View d38's profile


142 posts in 1037 days

#4 posted 04-12-2018 03:07 PM

Last fall I ordered 6 blast gates for my dust collector setup, and all was good.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about them, so hopefully the above issues are isolated and they’ll be back to “normal” soon.

View Rich's profile


5619 posts in 1365 days

#5 posted 04-12-2018 04:01 PM

JessEm pulled that “reserve” double-charge crap on me when I ordered my Mast-R-Lift II. Let’s just say having an extra $350 outstanding on my checking account (I used a debit card) for several days is really irritating.

It all worked out and I love the lift, but the experience sucked.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Mario's profile


195 posts in 4172 days

#6 posted 04-12-2018 04:07 PM

Been their customer (for business purposes) for the last 12 years without any significant problems, maybe you are just having a bad spell, but it is quite rare from Lee Valley, these folks are really professional

View JADobson's profile


1448 posts in 2886 days

#7 posted 04-12-2018 04:19 PM

I can’t say much about their mail order side of things as I have a store just a few minutes from my house. They have been nothing but fantastic there. Hope it all works out for you.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View ColonelTravis's profile


1976 posts in 2669 days

#8 posted 04-12-2018 06:14 PM

Never had an issue with a credit card or rude people but the past several orders from last year and this year, they’ve all been out of stock and delayed many weeks or months.

View NeophyteGrant's profile


133 posts in 1284 days

#9 posted 04-12-2018 06:31 PM

I can more understand the constraints and lead times of a couple person shop like Blue Spruce, or maybe Lie Nielsen (bigger in scale. Also love my LN chisels.), but I’ve been extremely frustrated by LVs inability to keep anything in their PM-V11 chisel line (bench, or butt) in stock for more than a day or two once they are resupplied. They had delays into JUNE for one or two sizes only a couple days after they had been out for almost a month.

You just can’t do that repeatedly to consumers; I want to buy some LV chisels in the larger sizes and I can’t. Never good when a consumer can’t buy (and receive within a month and more) your product. Anecdotally, we all know there is sufficient demand to produce ample numbers of these and that demand won’t abate any time soon. Either they’re in a mess with something or they’re artificially driving up demand or some sort of chicanery.

View Ocelot's profile


2539 posts in 3413 days

#10 posted 04-12-2018 09:16 PM

Well, the founder died a couple years ago. Sometimes a company can lose direction for awhile in that case. I hope they pull it together. I like their stuff – can’t afford much of it, but certainly like it.


View JohnChung's profile


421 posts in 2850 days

#11 posted 04-13-2018 03:49 AM

I have very good service from LV.

That aside. Maybe these issues be forwarded to Rob Lee. The president.
He monitors this site frequently.

As for items out of stock . The latest plane from them is no fun machining. The number of parts into that
plane held up a lot of the backorders they had.And the latest issue is the wood on the handplanes. No longer Bubinga.

View johneone's profile


11 posts in 4827 days

#12 posted 04-13-2018 04:25 AM

I’d be shocked if Rob Lee, the president doesn’t reply to this. They are a class act and I’m sure he will get this cleared u p.

-- John from Murrieta

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2261 days

#13 posted 04-13-2018 04:28 AM

I d be shocked if Rob Lee, the president doesn t reply to this. They are a class act and I m sure he will get this cleared u p.

- johneone

Ditto. Also, a few companies seem to be retooling lines lately to keep up with new demand and offerings. Something to consider as well.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View NeophyteGrant's profile


133 posts in 1284 days

#14 posted 04-13-2018 04:52 AM

I’ve loved LV—great quality, as the choir knows. Built my bench around the 3/4 dogs, wonders, and accessories, plus my back saws and much else.

I’d love to sneak in under the wire on a chisel order if they’ll have me to the dance :P

View Rob Lee's profile

Rob Lee

32 posts in 4070 days

#15 posted 04-13-2018 03:47 PM

Hi All -

First of all, I’d like to apologize to Dave for the problems with his order – it was completely our fault, and we should have done better. Looking at the events that occurred between the time the order was placed, and subsequently cancelled – I can’t believe what I see. It’s like “groundhog day” – the same type of error cycling over and over – partially due to a part that cannot be found, and partially to our own system processing constraints (the order was being voided every day at 11:00AM – automatically!). We’ll have some programming developed to detect and prevent this for future customers.

We also continue to be challenged by demand for Veritas products during our conversion to in-house (onshoring!) manufacture of handles and knobs, using a torrefied maple. The changes to the Cites II list caught many manufacturers by surprise – us among them. We have been struggling to get further along the learning curves as we are experiencing a peak demand from the necessity to convert 100% on short notice. We have brought in new equipment to help get us back on track, and should be out of the “hole” we’re in soon. We literally have thousands of finished planes and chisels waiting for the wood parts. (turns out – wood is a “lousy” material to build a manufacturing process around….:) ).

Overall – our inventory is in good shape – with more than 97.8% of catalogued items in stock. Our main challenge is ensuring every item is in every location, in the correct quantity – we have 3 Main picking warehouses, and 20 retail stores. In order to serve our non-store customers better, we have opened a second fulfillment warehouse in Reno NV, and we are still working to balance inventory between our two large distribution facilities. It’s a learning process, and a one time adaptation.

Not much consolation for Dave though – we failed spectacularly on his order – and can only learn from it.


Rob Lee

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