There’s No Place Like Home . . . Depot

<%image(20060124-homedepot.jpg|88|133|homedepot)%> While living in Pennsylvania, the following would play itself out on numerous occasions: Julie and I would go shopping somewhere and a salesperson would not be helpful or would just try to avoid us. I was always surprised and expected better service. Julie wasn’t surprised at all and didn’t quite know what I was complaining about.

And then we moved to Vermont. I quickly learned that the chipper, “I can’t do enough to help you,” “I’ll be your best friend for 15 minutes,” and “will serve you to the point just short of indentured servitude” is not a given up here. In fact, when I go into most stores around here, I have a strong sense of sales people thinking, “Get out! Leave me alone? Why are you in MY STORE!!! Stop asking me questions, I don’t know or like you. Let me get back to my book.” Well, not really, but you get the picture. Julie shared the other day that she has just accepted this as the norm. And here’s where my dilemna comes up.

We’re doing some pretty major projects around the house (I’ll post pictures next week) and I had a novel, if not noble thought. In spite of the uncomfortable feeling and the total lack of help (that I sorely need because I know precious little about handy man stuff), I determined yesterday to buy local, support the little guy, and do all of my shopping at Local Store A and Local Store B. If necessary, I would go to a small hardware store chain called Aubuchon.

But Home Depot was not on the agenda. Enough of the giants squashing small town America!
Of course by 4 pm yesterday I was roaming the aisles of Home Depot filling my cart with everything I needed.

So I went to small store A. It’s not that small of a store, but it is locally owned and all that. My typical experience with this place is that you can find something similar to what you need, but not the exact thing. Or if you need two bathroom lights for instance, they’re surely have only one.

The other factor that came into play was the “service” end of things. Like I said, I’m no expert with home repair, so I really need a lot of help. When you walk into small store A, the same thing happened yesterday that has happened everything single time. Grizzled and rough looking employees gather in the middle of the store to hang out, curse A LOT, drink coffee, and generally act relaxed. I feel like I’m breaking up happy hour at the bar when I stand next to them like some dufus who wants to be part of the fun. One of them eventually wheels around, gives me a blanks stare and then just points me to where I need to go.

I’m not asking him to hold my hand here, but I was so clueless. I eventually found something that wasn’t quite what I needed, decided to hold off on it, and then moved on to the next item: quarter round. I asked a salesperson who wasn’t part of the posse and he said to go out to the lumber yard. The lumber yard is huge for being such a small store, so I asked, “Where do I go in the lumber yard?” He replied, “It’s just around back.” “How far around back?” I questioned. “Well, you probably want to drive your car to gatehouse and he’ll tell you where to go.”

OK, the gatehouse. I found it after slowly navigating the lumber yard crawling with fork lifts. The guy at the gatehouse promptly plopped a clip board on my lap when I rolled down my window and pointed toward a huge truck and said, “Go on through.” Seeing only a semi and flat bed of sheet rock, I asked, “Where? I need to get quarter round?” Seeing my confusion, he quickly replied, “Go around that truck, and then pull into building 7, aisle A.” “I drive right in?” I asked. “Yep.” The clip board was still a mystery, but at least I knew where to go.

OK, so I basically drove through a huge warehouse full of lumber. It was tons of fun. Imagine driving down the isles of Home Depot. I found the trim section easily enough, but none of it was labled in that easy-to-find way of Home Depot. While rooting through the assortment of trim, I noticed a couple of guys at the end of the row having a good old time chatting. I didn’t think anything of it until one of them eventually made his way down to me. Of course, he worked there. He knew what to do with the clip board, writing down my wood selection so I could pay. Apparently finding the payment place is part of the scavenger hunt.

And after I found the separate building for payment, I had to ask them how to get out of the lumber yard maze.

When I arrived at home I gave local store B to find out if they carried any of the unfound items on my list. Local store B came up empty, and so I resigned myself to go to Home Depot. The little guys couldn’t help. I was off to see Goliath.

And here is my conclusion after all of this. The little stores are great if you know what you want, can evaluate the products, and figure things out for yourself. They are convenient and sometimes you can find decent help. But in my case, I found that Home Depot really fit my needs. Take a saw blade for instance. I needed one that will cut laminate flooring. The little stores didn’t have a big selection and I didn’t have a lot of help in choosing them. The sales person kind of shrugs and says, “I think that’ll work.” A carpenter knows what to do with that. I don’t.

So when it comes down to it, I need to just stick with the big guys. Everything is easy to find, they walk you through it, have enough selection that you get exactly what you need, and have enough help to provide some expertise. That’s the edge that Home Depot has, and quite frankly, I need it! Someone with experience can improvise with local store a or b’s inventory. I can’t.

I’ll help the local economy when I can, but I have to admit, there’s no place like Home Depot.