On Friday afternoon, Becky and I headed over to Home Depot to pick up a bunch of things for some small projects. We ultimately left without buying anything.
Not that we had a whole lot of things to buy in the first place. For such a huge store, the selection was pretty poor. We looked at cheap metal shelves and found that they didn’t have much to choose from and the ones they had weren’t cheap. Many of the other items on the list, none of which were obscure in any way, couldn’t be found. Perhaps they were there, somewhere, but we had trouble even finding anyone on the floor to ask. The entire time we were there, numerous pages echoed through the place asking for someone — anyone — to help a customer.
As you can imagine, on a Friday afternoon, with everyone buying stuff for their weekend honey-do lists, as we were, it was pretty busy. Nevertheless there was a single staffed checkout lane open. One. It had about a half-dozen people in line. The “self-serve” lines were open, but they were also pretty packed. We got into the only open lane with an actual human in it and it immediately shut down while the customer ahead of us argued with them about the price of something that had been mislabeled and stocked in the wrong place.
We got fed up and left, but first I decided I was going to let them know why we were leaving empty-handed. I started out at the customer service desk, which also had a long line, and where an employee had just finished a shouting match with a different customer. So instead I went to the person monitoring the self-serve lanes and told her, “I know this isn’t your fault, but there’s something you might want to tell whatever manager is on duty.” I then went into our experience, particularly the lack of checkout lines. Her response was to point to the self-serve lines and say, “These are open.”
It’s that last part that drives me up the wall the most. These huge stores like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowes, and so forth, crawl into an area on a slime trail of tax breaks from the city. In return they promise jobs, but they don’t deliver. Four self-serve lanes means three fewer jobs at any given time. Nobody on the floor to help people means even fewer jobs. Sure, many people will say, “Well I always know what I want, so I don’t care that there’s nobody on the floor, and the self-serve lane means I get done faster and don’t have to deal with anyone!” Maybe so, but you’re still paying for things that you aren’t getting. It’s not like the prices at Home Depot are that fantastic; we were only there because our credit card company gives us a break there.
We ended up going to the closest thing we have to a local hardware store, where we got just about everything we were looking for, including advice from a guy who kept us from buying the wrong paint, which we almost got at Home Depot. When I needed someone to cut a key for me, there were three people nearby to help. And the prices weren’t much different from what we’d seen earlier.
In conclusion: David Wilcox is right.