Monday, March 13, 2006


I dropped Kat off at the MacArthur BART station this morning, and headed over to Home Depot for one of my frequent visits. I have, how shall I put it, "limited expectations" for shopping at Home Depot. Large stores; relatively few employees with limited training and expertise (and not that well paid to boot); the demands of a board of directors and shareholders that comes with being a public company to keep costs down and keep profitability as high as possible. It all adds up to limited expectations. I've done a lot of my buying at Economy Lumber (most of the framing materials) and Piedmont Lumber (drywall, house wrap, etc.), but for plumbing, electrical, and various tools, Home Depot is frequently the best bet for combination of selection and low price.

So I've been to various SF Bay Area Home Depots a lot. I'm used to searches for the right sized cart for whatever I need to get that trip (note to corporate HQ: the Home Depot in Pleasanton has all the carts). I'm used to no help available if I need it (I've even been asked for help by other people shopping there, and sometimes know more about the products they have than some of the employees). I'm used to waiting in the checkout line. I haven't always been, but these days I'm a fairly patient person.

But today they found a new way to lower my expectations further and severely test my patience. The main item I wanted to get today was a shower drain. As part of the rough plumbing inspection, I need to have the shower pan completed and the drain installed. So I was perusing the options available in one of the plumbing aisles and an employee told me they needed to close the aisle to bring a forklift in. As I was going to be a while deciding, I figured I could wait 5 minutes and come back.

I came back in 5 minutes. Still closed. I perused the kitchen cabinets and came back. Still closed. I perused the shower heads and handles available and came back. Still closed. I waited for a bit with some others, figuring they'd have to be done soon, or at least take a break for customers to get to the products in that aisle, but no luck. I perused the tile saws (between the shower, bathroom floor, thermal mass for solar, and probably the kitchen, there will be a lot of tile in the addition and remodel, though area-wise most of the flooring will be bamboo) and came back. Still closed. I watched (and listened to; and I quote: "$#!*@%!!") other customers leave. I watched another customer go in and get what they needed while the forklift was making another run down to the end of the aisle.

I finally gave up, and the next time the forklift was gone, I went in to get what I needed. An employee made a dismissive gesture, and I almost lost it. I pointed out that I'd been there all morning, and he said "so have I!" (um, yeah, but you, well, work here). His co-worker recognized my simmering anger and let me get what I needed. I was almost ready to sit down in the aisle and ask to talk to the manager.

I understand they need to restock the shelves or get a large item, and that means closing an aisle temporarily. But God help any pros who are in buying stuff all the time, and get stuck waiting to get to the plumbing aisle. Or anybody who expected to run in and get an item or two in 15 minutes or less.

To keep things interesting, I got in a line near the end of the aisle; it looked about the same as the line at any of the other aisles. Turns out it was a new cashier. I mean new. I was her second customer, and her sort-of-trainer had some problem with the first register she was at, and moved her to another. So checkout didn't go particularly quickly, especially since her sort-of-trainer got her signed in to the new register and then promptly disappeared. I didn't mind that part, though. It certainly wasn't this woman's fault that she'd been given almost no training and set adrift to fend for herself. But it did add a certain je ne sais quoi to the experience.

Apparently my low expectations aren't unique. There's even a website, A lot of that site is about their policies regarding some of the wood they sell (i.e., old growth, rain forest species, etc.), but a quick Google search on that lovely phrase turns up 677,000 hits. Eek! I imagine most large corporations have a or the like these days -- it's far too cheap and easy for people to create a website and register a domain name, and that includes people with a grudge (In case you're wondering, isn't registered, nor the obvious misspelling,

The final straw was when I got home. It was two hours since I'd left home with Kat, and I looked at the receipt for an exchange item from the beginning of the morning (I decided to get a larger electrical panel, since code means I'll have at least 8 circuits in the new sub-panel) to see just how long I'd waited in the plumbing aisle. It was 48 minutes. But (drumroll please!) ... I noticed the new cashier hadn't included the new electrical panel in the total. I may have inadvertently helped with that, as she'd gotten stuck on one screen during the checkout, and I helpfully got her out of it. And at the Emeryville and Oakland Home Depots, they have security guards to check your receipt against what you carry out the door, and they didn't notice the large cardboard box in my cart that wasn't listed on the receipt. Those of you who know me probably are realizing that as tempting as it was to just say nothing, the mistake meant a return trip to Home Depot to straighten it out.

I couldn't face it today. So I had lunch with my good friend Jim "Grampa" Kirkpatrick at Pyramid Brewhouse ('I liked the beer so much, I bought the company!' Well, a small part of it in the form of stock) and went and bought some new XLR microphone cables for church from my friend Paul (no, not in the diamond business, he's in the sound business), and got nothing done on the house today. I'll straighten out the mess tomorrow after my apheresis donation at the Red Cross. But thanks Jim and Paul, for listening to me vent and reminding me there's more important stuff in life than worrying about an experience like this. And thank God for beer.

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." -- Benjamin Franklin.


Katarina said...


Elizabeth (Liz) said...

Dang, that's rough. But there are days when we have made close to half a dozen trips to Lowes, for similar reasons. I think you should have gone ahead with the sit-in in the plumbing aisle.

For anyone who has ever been to/lived in Muncie, IN -- Long live Hi-way 3 Hardware!! the way, Paula clued us in to your blog a while back. Very cool, and I am enjoying vicarious remodelling. Don't know if Paul has checked it out yet or not, he's too busy with projects at our house, I suspect.

CaptKirk said...

Why am I not surprized to see this post? :-) The stars aligned and the planets converged to create the Perfect HomeDepot Storm for you. it seems to me that all invloved on the HomeDepot side got what they deserved. I'm especially glad you felt compassion for the new girl on register#3. Many people use those with the least protection to unleash their frustrations Kudos to you for directing your feelings well, like to this blog...:-)