Posts tagged “home depot”

Mom and Pop in your Neighborhood or Corporate Big Box at the Mall?

Bruce Nussbaum offers some great insight about the problems and history with leadership at Home Depot (I hadn’t heard any of this). It reminded me of last weekend’s interesting shopping experience…

We were planning on painting the ceiling in our family room/kitchen. We had some paint on hand from our last ceiling job. It was Glidden ceiling paint, and we wanted to match it exactly with the same brand. Ceiling paint from different companies won’t match exactly and the job will look terrible if you switch color/finish midway through. We had bought this Glidden stuff a number of times at our local Ace, just down the road from us. Last time, they had a big display for a new variant, ceiling paint that goes on pink and dries white. It’s tough to paint ceiling white over primer, since you can’t really see where you’ve painted very easily. We were too cheap to opt for the fancy stuff, but we liked the Glidden just fine.

Sure, ceiling paint is just a specific color and finish that they’ve repackaged, but it’s much easier to ask for ceiling paint as a product rather than have one mixed up custom. It’s a great idea to package and brand a solution.

We hit the Ace, with our list of stuff. But no ceiling paint. No Glidden. No pink. No Ace brand ceiling paint. We asked and got an inarticulate and unhelpful “We just have regular paint.” Amazed and frustrated, we checked out (another inarticulate employee). We got in the car and drove north to the next paint store we knew about. They weren’t a Glidden dealer, but they had been helpful in the past with paint. No ceiling paint on display, so we asked for help. Apparently “Mark” who dealt with paint was occupied, so our guy went to ask him for us. He came back and told us “All these paints go on the ceiling.” Uhh, yeah, but that’s not the point.

Back in the car to the next hardware store north. Seemed to be an Ace that had been disenfranchised. Rusted tools on the shelves. Ladders covering the paint display. We were told “we don’t carry ceiling paint any more.” Obviously.

At this point, we just drove the remaining few miles to Home Depot. We got a good parking spot (their parking lot being enough to keep me away from the store) and strode purposefully to the paint department. We found, without help, the Glidden ceiling paint. We walked to the self-check, waited 30 seconds, swiped, weighed, paid, and walked out. We were back in the car in 5 minutes. The most successful Home Depot trip ever.

After all this driving around, we were pretty hungry and we went to the Burger King drive-through across the street (sort of a protein-of-last-resort choice). When we came to the window to pay and pick up our food, they noticed our dog in the backseat, and a small flurry of excitement ensued. “Is that a dog back there?” “Look at the lovely doggie!” and “Can we give your dog a treat?” We said sure, and they went and got him a piece of bacon, wrapped in a napkin. (and in case he’s reading this, sorry, dog, but you don’t get people food, so you didn’t even know about this).

The local stores were unable to provide us with the product we needed (including something we had previously purchased from them) and they were unpleasant and frustrating to deal with. The big box corporate experiences were efficient, satisfying, and/or surprisingly pleasant and touching.

I’ve certainly bitched here extensively about bad experiences at Home Depot and their ilk, but in one hour we had a series of disappointing local retail visits, and two very successful (especially so when the previous ones failed so badly) corporate visits. We tried to shop local and support smaller businesses. What will we do next time?

Postscript: Glidden had changed their label since the last purchase, removing any information about the coverage per gallon. Why? And they changed the formula; this new version smells like sour milk and what Marge Simpson calls “heinie.” But the ceiling looks great.

Situational Ethics at Home Depot

I love the automatic checkouts at Home Depot. There’s usually no line for them, so I can start my transaction right away. Even if it’s slow and inefficient, I’m actually doing something, rather than waiting behind another customer. I like being in control!

There’s a balance of design goals at work in these monsters – standalone/simplicity (and by that I do not mean ease-of-use), theft prevention, staff reduction. Those goals are not all met very well, and they are sometimes at odds with each other.

After using this for a couple of years, I’ve figured out that to start to check out, you must place all your items on a tray to the left of the screen (this isn’t so obvious). You pick your items, one at a time, pass them over the scanner, and then place them in a bag on the tray to the right of the screen.

The trays on either side contain scales. Your items are being weighed, with the left and right being compared. You can only have one in the air (i.e., not in the bag and not on the to-be-bought tray) at a time. And you must stow it in the bag before picking up the next one. This is not beep-beep-beep rapid scanning. It feels very silly and slow, but that’s what the system wants you to do.

If you try to go too fast, the system warms you. “Please re-place item in bagging area.” It’s far from foolproof (not that the users are fools, but the users can fool it!); it often goes out of sync. The item it wants to be put in the bagging area is already in the bagging area. Often we have to flag down the cashier at the master station who is “supervising” the four self-check devices (usually trying to help poor first-timers, or calling out instructions from her station).

Anyway, I was plodding away with my purchase of 4 $0.69 switchplates the other day, and of course, we got out of sync. Everything was either in a bag or waiting to be scanned and I was being given instructions about what to return to where, even though there was nothing that could be returned. In my attempt to mollify the system, I picked up one of my to-be-rung-up items and put it in the bag. That seemed to satisfy it. That left one remaining. I picked it up, scanned it, and put it in the bag. All four of the items were now in the bag. But I had only scanned three.

Screw this. I clicked “finish and pay” and ran through the payment swipe interaction (this takes place on another interface, about 5 feet from the first interface).

The machine, which represents Home Depot and its interests, didn’t want my $0.69 for my fourth item. It insisted that I put it in the bag without swiping it. Did I alert the supervising cashier so she could come over and rejigger the whatsit and charge me the right amount? I did not.

I was able to somehow justify this because it was the will of the machine; the error was not like an ATM that gives you two $20.00 bills stuck together; it was a richly interactive error – “put this in the bag, Steve” it told me… (but I never…) NO – PUT IT IN THE BAG NOW PLEASE. (okay, sir). The machine is the boss, but I’m responsible for knowing more than it about what is right and what is accurate?

Please don’t read this as some sort of attempt to rationalize something that is obviously wrong. We can get the Ethicist in here if we need to, but we all know what he’d say. I guess I’m more interest in the attributes of the exchange and how it influenced my own decision.

Of course, the fact that was $0.69 also is a factor. Do we want to call this stealing? If so, then the dollar amount shouldn’t matter? Although we’ve got a recent story where Wal-Mart is ignoring some sub-$25 shoplifting, so maybe there’s a sense that the amount does matter.

Presumably, I was doing a calculation of time, cost of goods, aggravation, and wrapping that up in a bit of self-justification and walking out with my extra (free!) switchplate because of that. These decisions are complex, with a lot of factors mixed in, in an organic (rather than linear) fashion.

Home Depot are privacy scumbags?

I was trying to snag an interesting bargain at HomeDepot that I found on so I registered with their site, figuring if it knew my local area it might better find available stock for me. I declined to receive any of their 8 mailings and figured that was that.

I get a registration confirmation that is kind of scary

Steve, this confirmation email verifies your recent registration at You will not receive additional email from The Home Depot unless you opt-in for our email offerings or purchase at

[various other content in the welcome email snipped]

You may be removed from this list by calling 1-800-430-3376, or mailing your request to Customer Care at:

The Home Depot
2455 Paces Ferry Rd NW
Atlanta, GA 30339

So it’s confusing, for one. Why do I need to be removed from this list if I won’t receive anything else anyway? And why will they presume to add me to this (or some other) list when I make a purchase? Forcing me to write or call someone to opt-out? That’s heinous. Definitely makes me rethink my purchase, if I am therefore forced to make a call to opt-out.


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