After spending an entire day in a car dealership and in large home improvement stores, I feel the need for a good cleansing rant. Actually, the rant is mostly about car dealerships. My thoughts on home improvement stores is more of a theory.
Nevertheless, let the cleansing rant about the testosterone laden weasels in car dealerships begin . . .
The other day I noticed an add in the paper by a woman at a local car dealership. It read, “Would you like to buy your car from a woman?” Actually, after Monday, I think I may.
On the few rare occasions I’ve been to a car dealership I cannot help but be overcome with a sense of the “weaseliness” of the people working there, particularly the men. They proudly stroll up to you and call you names like “buddy” or “big guy” or–if they’re destined to go straight to hell–“champ.”
This is not to say that kind, honest, authentic men don’t work at car dealerships, it’s just that I haven’t met them yet. I generally encounter men wearing ties and surging with testosterone who patronize me endlessly with all kinds of stupid remarks.
Remove the prospect of selling a car and they’d be the guys giving wedgies or generally ignoring those beneath them. I don’t know how they can overcome this, but there is an artificial sense in their dealings with the public. Of course a salesman has to warm up to his customers, but making it seem like a natural course of events rather than a steely act of will is the key.
After spending my morning in the midst of the unbridled “machoism” and the strange chumminess of car dealers, I killed most of my afternoon, while waiting for my car to be fixed, at Home Depot and Lowe’s. I’ve had my theories about why these two stores are so fantastic, and now I have a new one.
I’ve said before that small, local hardware stores generally score low in the area of customer service. If a customer knows what to purchase, then they’re very convenient, but I generally encounter the cold shoulder or a blank stare from the staff of local stores when I have questions. On several occasions in the same store the owner answered one question and walked to the back while I began to ask my next question.
Now, take Home Depot and Lowe’s; we’ll call them the box stores for reference sake. I generally find great customer service among the staff who share their knowledge and make sure I find exactly what I need. Why the difference?
There is no doubt that the box stores have strict guidelines for customer service training. I remember this from my days working at a Borders Books. But there’s something else that adds to the quality of these two box stores: they hire professional tradesmen.
Take a construction worker, electrician, plumber, or any other tradesman who is nearing his (we’ll use the male pronoun for convenience here) later 50’s or early 60’s. There is a vast amount of experience and knowledge available, but these workers are growing weary of the daily grind. What could be better for the aging worker than a job at a desk or at least in a heated/air conditioned store sharing their knowledge with the general public?
Sure there’s a pay cut, but it’s a steady, reliable job with benefits. Local hardware stores can’t offer the same salary packages, so these experts flock to the hardware box stores. That’s part of the allure of a Home Depot or a Lowe’s: they are practically crawling with experts whose sole responsibility is to help the customer make intelligent, informed decisions.