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Big-box story time

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I was at Home Cheapo yesterday. I'd never been to that location before. After walking around in circles for a while, I found some one in an orange apron and asked, "Where is the HVAC stuff?"

He said, "Hmm. I don't think we carry those."

I politely expressed my gratitude for his assistance.

Made my day.

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The only thing I get at HD or Lowes is convienience... I know they don't stock expertise, and since I'm not expecting it, I'm not dissappointed when they don't have it.

In the morning, on my way to a job, I can pick up a can of primer, some plaster of paris, a piece of plywood, some thinset, a 1900 box...

If I have to ask the little above minimum wage stock boy how to do it... I shouldn't be buying it.

One of my pet peeves has always been when I send a man to the supply house to get something we have just run out of... and he comes back with the wrong thing.

The excuse has always been... "this is what the guy gave me"

... and I ask, " but you have been here working with me, you know what we have been using and how we have been using it, don't you see that the guy... a clerk... not a mechanic... gave you the wrong thing?"

At this point silence and a dumb look fill the worker's face. The same worker that insists he should be making more money.

Now all the other guys get to take a paid, unscheduled break while we wait for him to return with the right screws... hopefully.

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Kurt - I've only been to one Lowes(naragansett/fullerton), and I actually had better service in those couple visits than I've ever had at the orange box. I don't know if that's standard. A builder friend, mostly works in Northbrook, despises Lowes and will never go back. Never got the full story.

I think we're all a bunch of stubborn crab-asses. After all, if you don't agree with me, you must be wrong!

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That's pretty good. Mutants. I've got a lot of politically incorrect jokes about Le Depot de Maison.

You know, I've been that person (almost). I had a Willy's Jeep mail wagon (most reliable car I've ever owned) about 35 years ago; put a whole bunk of plywood on top one time. The frame could actually handle it, but I swear the plywood weighed more than the jeep. Scary ride.

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I worked at a Lowes for a while last summer. Here in Boise, the Lowes preach customer service, but what it mostly amounts to is welcoming the customer, helping them to the proper isle, and keeping a very neat and clean store. At the same time, Home Depot was getting national attention for very poor in-store customer support, their stores were messy. For both, the training is weak, the pay is poor, and the turnover is high. Not the characteristics of where to go for home repair advice.

Both these stores have some good people, but the average homeowner will not know how to tell the difference.

The good thing about them is that they continue to feed the need for home inspectors. Stores like this can help create more inspection business, because much of the advice they get is either wrong or incomplete.

If I am asked by a client where to go for something beyond cosmetic, I first recommend a qualified contractor, giving examples of fine points that an "Uncle Harry" repair can miss that can cause even worse problems. If they press on, I may steer them to specialty stores that have more knowledgable staff. For instance, we have a local retail store that specializes in Electrical and Plumbing. Their salespeople are quite knowledgable, sell quality products, and will admit when they don't know.


A "remodeler" came in one day to get the materials to wire up a new subpanel and the kitchen for electrical appliances. I knew exactly what the issues were for this project and tried to help him, but he refused to listen, more interested in saving money. I finally excused myself, telling him that when he found what he wanted, just take it to the cash registers. Half hour later, I saw him at the register purchasing a couple of boxes of 14 ga. (only) Romex. I wanted so bad to report him to the building officials.

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I once sat outside a HD and watched as a homeowner that had purchased a piece of sheetrock tried to put it in his car.

Well, it didn't fit so they took a knife cand cut a piece off of it. It still didn't fit so they continued to hack it apart until it was in about 8 small... dis-similar pieces.

I have no idea what he planned on using it for, but I sure hope he knows how to tape.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have made friends with some of the Home Depot and Lowe's people. They have opened up enough to me to tell a few behind the scene stories.

The workers are pitted against each other in a competitive basis in an effort to get a raise, better hours or any benefits.

Like many retail outlets, most of the employees are part timers who get no company benefits. They have a huge turnover and are paid the lowest dollar possible.

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