Monday, January 22, 2007

Passing the Savings Along to You

I've blogged about the 'joys' of shopping at Home Depot and the like before. To their credit, I actually encountered a friendly, helpful person, who came into the next department to show me where to find something (a faucet for a laundry sink, for my friend Cindy's mom's house; I've been working there the last several days to replace the burst water heater, repair leaky faucets and toilets, fix the new back door that was a replacement for the one kicked in by a SWAT team, etc.) A nice woman in the appliance department at the Oakland Home Depot asked me if I needed any assistance, and I asked about the laundry faucet. She not only told me approximately where to find them amongst the zillions of kitchen and bath faucets, but walked over with me to help find them. All too often questions are met with a surly "that's not my department", so this was a very refreshing change. Of course, since Home Depot's departing CEO got a $210 million severance package, I imagine I'd be a little surly if I were an underpaid, undertrained employee there, too. $210 million for not doing your job? That's the kind of job I want to get fired from.

Anyways, at a different home improvement store yesterday I bought a 10' piece of copper pipe to finish up the aforementioned water heater install. The sticker with the barcode was damaged, so the cashier had to go look at the display to get the price. She came back and quoted what I think was the right price (for copper pipe these days, a 10' section of 1/2" pipe is hecka expensive, whether for type L or the slightly thinner type M). Then said such-and-such per foot (which would be a higher total for 10 feet than what she'd just quoted). She rang things up, and Katarina noticed the grand total and said, "that doesn't seem like enough" (for either amount the cashier quoted), and the woman said "well, if you want me to charge you more...". She was in a hurry (more customers in line behind us), and seemed nervous and kind of jittery, so we left it at that. Later I looked more carefully at the receipt, I think she charged the higher price per foot, but for only one foot of it. I'll be passing the savings along to Cindy's mom, because the difference isn't worth a separate trip back to the other store.

If Home Depot, et al, would spend a little of the absurd amounts paid to execs and spread it around in more more training and more pay for their employees, they'd doubtless have better employee retention, not to mention happier employees and happier customers. I just ask for the opportunity to try this plan once, then whether it works or not, it's OK to fire me, with say, 20% of the former CEO's severance package.


Eliz. said...

I can relate to your experiences at the Big Orange Box. In our town, we have Lowes, but really it's just a different colored box. Anyway, we are VERY lucky to have our very clever and delightful neighbor, DeWayne, working at the local Lowes. If you can't find what you need, all you need to do is find DeWayne. It's amazing to hear so many other employees asking each other questions, only to hear "I don't know. Better ask DeWayne". I am quite sure he isn't paid what he is worth to that store, but I'm very happy he's my neighbor.

On the subject of ridiculous corporate severance packages, I would like to know how one finds a job that pays more to be fired than to be hired. I could do that, with very little experience or training.

Jim said...

The downside, if there is one, to "Better ask Dwayne" is that if Dwayne leaves or is hit by a bus, we go right back to where we started. I've been the Dwayne in a number of situations. It's nice to feel wanted and appreciated. It's also nice to feel you are genuinely helping others. However, the real payoff is if you figure out how to help other employees to become Dwaynes. It's almost like cloning yourself.

As I've become older, I am grateful for the patience I've learned and the pleasure I derive from teaching others. There's no longer a need to 'protect' my job. I'm in the business of giving away information.

Gene said...

I'm the 'DeWayne' at church for audio and video stuff. Besides knowing what runs down the :-), I've always attempted to make myself replaceable, and less likely to get called. I've written documentation for the setup at church, and even refer to it as my "if I get hit by a bus" backup.

My experience with Lowe's is more limited (the nearest is Union City, I think), but I've found they're generally cleaner, better lit, and the staff are easier to find than Home Depot. But my experience with the laundry faucet at Home Depot was a nice change of pace. The copper pipe incident was at an Orchard Supply Hardware. They generally have very helpful people, but obviously not the best and brightest cashiers.