Monday, June 06, 2005

Dear Home Depot:

Store Manager,

How many employees does it take to sell a grill?

Saturday, June 2, I was in your store. I recently bought a home, and I needed a few items. Namely, an electric drill, a stud locator, and a gas grill. I found the stud locator without any problems. I located a woman who appeared to be an employee, to help me find the drill. When asked about it she got on the horn for another clerk. Meanwhile, I located the "Black and Decker" end-cap display while a somber looking, 40 year old employee scuttled past me from the key machine. My girlfriend got his attention by asking, "Can you help us?" The look on his face implied that we were inconveniencing him. Maybe he was on his way for a break? Regardless, I told him I was looking for the cheapest rotary tool in the store and he started rifling through the inventory. "Let's look over here" he said, and vanished into the tool section. I found a $25 drill on the display, and my girlfriend came back with the same one.

He said, "Wow, that's nice."
"Yeah, that's a nice drill" she s agreed.
"No, I meant me." He said.

(I swear, I did not make any of this story up. And, it gets better.)

We shrugged this off and decided to go look for the grills. We headed back to the garden section and spotted two people wearing aprons, one drinking a Pepsi, both leaning comfortably against the display rack. "Do you have grills inside the store?" we asked.

They waved us down a few isles and we found a grill we liked. However, it wasn't on the shelf. So, we went back to the two employees. One was a teenager and he told us that certain grills are all pre-assembled, and were not in boxes and we'd have to buy the one on the floor. I admitted that I wasn't sure if this would fit in my car. Another employee, an older bald man, found this interesting and stopped.

I was about to give up when my girlfriend came up with the idea that maybe I could pull my car up and a clerk could bring the grill out and see if it fit before we bought it. After-all, this was about to be a $200+ purchase, it didn't seem unreasonable.

"Sure, we can do that" the old man chirped.

I dashed out to pull my car around. It was probably 90 degrees outside, and I sat waiting for an employee to emerge with the grill. After a few minutes I got bored and got out, looked at the grills outside the store, and decided if the one I wanted didn't fit I would get a smaller grill. Yes, I wanted one that bad! This purchase could not possibly fail. But the only person who came out was my girlfriend. "They wont take the grill out of the store" she explained.

"Oh," I said. "Well, just have someone come out and measure my car and the grill."

It seemed simple enough to me. Back in she went. Ten minutes passed as I sat in front of the store. Fifteen minutes in the heat. I looked in the window and I saw my girlfriend talking to ANOTHER clerk when it dawned on me: your store did not want to sell me the grill. Why was my girlfriend doing all of the work to sell your store on the idea of customer service and selling me the grill? Why was she running in and out and trying to convince any clerk she should find to sell me the grill. Why were we being treated like an inconvenience when all we wanted to do was spend money in your store?

I parked the car, and walked in. My girlfriend was talking to yet another employee. This one must have been a manager because he was on walkie-talkie. My patience had run out. I walked up and said, "Thanks for all your help, I don't want that grill. " I grabbed the drill and stud finder, paid for it, and the alarm went off on my way out. The cashier had forgotten to de-alarm my drill. She did so without even noticing me, busily talking to someone else. I walked out, the alarm went off again, I just went out to my car. No one seemed to notice or care.

On the way to the car my girlfriend explained what had happened inside. The teenaged employee had pushed the grill to the front and vanished. The old man had vanished. An alarmed cashier saw the grill sitting near the exit and asked my girlfriend what had happened. "I don't know" she admitted, "Both clerks just left me." But she was assured by the cashier that she was mistaken. "Oh, our employees don't just leave our customers" she insisted. Still, there was my girlfriend, standing by the grill like a fool while I waited outside like an idiot. The teenager returned to inform her that the grill couldn't leave the store, then he vanished for good. My girlfriend asked the cashier if she could use her tape measure to measure my car sitting right outside. "I am not going to just give my tape measure to just anyone" the cashier informed her. In a store full of hardware, your cashier was worried about losing her $10 tape measure to two upper-middle class would-be thieves?

Finally, a manager wandered by. My girlfriend assuaged him for help. He said, "Hold on" and resumed his conversation on the walkie-talkie. The cashier asked my girlfriend, exasperated by now, if he was helping her. "No, he isn't!" That is when I came in.

So, I guess my question to you, Mr. Manger, is how many employees does it take to sell me a grill? How many does it take to equal some customer service? I eagerly await your answer. For wasting my time, treating my sale and future sales with contempt, and ruining a few hours out of my Saturday night--not to mention the contempt my girlfriend was treated with--I would like that question answered.

And let's not even use the word "sell" for that implies some kind of creative psychology to get me to do something I didn't want to do. No. I came into your store with an open checkbook, ready to spend over $200, and assuredly more for future home improvement purposes--this was just the tip of the iceberg--and none of the employees involved could take two minutes to find out for me--one way or another--which grill would fit in my car. What do you give them tape measures for anyway?

Rest assured, thousands of dollars of my money will now go to some other store. This probably seems very incidental to you since you run a 150,000 square foot store and losing one person's business is no major concern to any of your employees. And, sadly, I expect that kind of contempt from major chains who have nothing to prove. I know you probably bank on sales volume via competitive pricing, so really all your employees have to do is not anger any would be customers. But they seemed incapable of even that, the most basic of service requirements.

The fact that this is the first letter of this kind that I have ever written to a store hopefully reflects the level of my dissatisfaction. But, it's really not even written to avenge myself. I know it will fall on deaf ears and I'll buy the items from another store and happily move on with my life. But, it was the slighting of my girlfriend by a team of your staff that I find totally irritating. From a teenaged clerk, I would allow such gaffes, but not from adults whose career is to work in your store, none of whom seem to care one way or another about customer service. So, I write this letter for her sake. She didn't want a grill, a stud finder, or a drill, she just wanted to enjoy her Saturday night. Obviously, her business has been lost too...and as many other people as I can tell this story right what was done wrong to her.


-New Lowe's Shopper Just Out Of Spite

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