Saturday, February 9, 2008

Fall of the House of Homer

Home Depot opened its original store on Memorial Drive just before I became a first-time homeowner down the street in Decatur. Lucky for me. I needed a hammer and some nails, screwdrivers and screws, pliers, bolts, nuts, drills, saws, paint rollers and brushes, and gallon buckets of paint. Later I bought a duplex I intended to rent to others, and I really needed 4 X 8 sheets of drywall, 2 x 4’s, plumbing pipes, faucets, light fixtures, Liquid Nails, bags of cement, and five-gallon buckets of paint. Year after year, I spent more money at Home Depot than I paid in income taxes, and believe me, the IRS got plenty. Hometown Atlanta founders of Home Depot realized retirement dreams to follow fish and football.

Now Home Depot has announced a layoff of 10 percent of its Atlanta headquarters workforce, blaming the sluggish homebuilding industry and the economy in general, which is the corporate explanation avoiding the R-word, recession, or the B-word, Bush. As President George Bush has managed near national bankruptcy, he also has been a shameless example to businesses, even legendary ones. Home Depot turned over its booming profit machine to corporate carpetbaggers, who wasted little time smashing the piggy bank and loading their own pockets so flagrantly even firing them did not stop the multi-million dollar looting.

Former employees will line up to tell you what went wrong at Home Depot. “It has to do with a manager not being allowed to hire the number of people he KNOWS it takes to properly run his store because of labor management controls from corporate, and it comes from laying off employees who know the companty, know the stores, and know the customers and hiring less expensive and less trained newbies to replace them. Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank NEVER hesitated to make sure a customer was taken care of when they visited a store, even if it meant taking time from a training session to wait on the customer themselves.” At one time, many Home Depot employees were moonlighting carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons, skilled tradesmen. I consulted with them on projects, and when they saw me in the store later, they would recognize me and ask me how my project went. Sadly nowadays, if I can even get the attention of a store employee, I would be lucky if one knew the difference between a fluorescent and incandescent light bulb.

My worse experiences have been about pricing, items that ring up for a different price at the cash register than the sign displays on the shelf. I often ask to see the manager when this happens, not that I don’t already know the lame excuses and explanations I will get, but just because I do not want it to go without notice. The last time this happened to me at Home Depot, the manager was even more insulting and insufferable than usual. Since I lost my hearing and received my cochlear implant, I often have difficulty judging my own speaking volume. The manager said to me, “You do not need to raise your voice. I am not deaf.” So I reached up to my ear piece, took it off, and presented it open-handed to the manager. “I am,” I said. The look on his face was so much fun, I have added this stunt to my repertoire.

Has Home Depot become any worse than the Bank of America, Comcast, Blue Cross Blue Shield or _________________? You fill in the blank with the corporate brand run by empty suits and providing customer disservice with attitudes ranging from sanctimony to condescension and based on a policy that the customer is always wrong. I am no longer a regular shopper at Home Depot, which has become my do-it-myself supplier of last resort. I would rather support the independents and mom and popshops.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter

4 comments:

jackie said...

Yes, big chains fixate on cost cutting, forgetting what made the franchise sucessful in the first place. The Home Depot on Ponce used to have a pay phone that my carpenter used regularly. I am sure alot of other carpenters, plumbers, etc used it too. They took the phone out so now my carpenter (and others I am sure) do not go into Home Depot as frequently. "When will they ever learn?"

Oreo said...

Way to go! I would love to have seen the look on that manager's face when you did that. It really is a shame when a good place goes bad.

Anonymous said...

Just today I was in Home Depot and asking for "hardware cloth". One said it might be with screen wire. It wasn't. One said he didn't think they sold cloth. One said since it is hardware cloth - it would be in hardware. I knew it wasn't. Finally by going up and down the aisles I found it with the mesh fencing and chicken wire. Two problems: Not hiring knowledgeable people. And not educating the ones you do hire. From Ralph McCluggage

Newmanic Tribe said...

It is a shame that I know and help myself and fellow customers better than the people employed by the Depot! An ex- Pine Laker Adam Newman

 

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