Is Home Depot shafting shoppers? "Home Depot is a consistent abuser of its customers' time."

Discussion in 'Building Construction' started by Stephen Blackpool, Mar 9, 2007.

  1. March 8, 2007
    Is Home Depot shafting shoppers?

    By cutting back on employees, the home-improvement retailer is putting
    the screws to the people it needs most: its customers.

    By Scott Burns

    Sixteen years ago, I sent my wife a love note. It went like this:

    Carolyn: I've gone to Our Store. Be back soon. Love, Scott.

    We called Home Depot "our store" because we spent a lot of time there
    back in 1990. We're house freaks. Wherever we go, we imagine living
    there, owning a house or a condo. We like to remodel houses. In the
    past 16 years we've done major work on three houses in Dallas and two
    houses in Santa Fe, N.M.

    But I have a confession to make. I still love my wife, but we don't
    shop much at Home Depot anymore. Indeed, we generally try to avoid it
    and grieve for the loss.

    We're not alone. Last month Home Depot announced a whopping 28%
    decline in earnings for the fourth quarter. Even more striking, same-
    store sales were down 6.6% from the previous year. This had never
    happened before, not in all 28 years of company history. Once a growth
    darling, "the new Wal-Mart (WMT, news, msgs)" and a stock that sold at
    twice the market multiple, Home Depot is now widely discussed as a
    potential private-equity buyout candidate because it earns 22% on
    shareholder equity and has lots of assets to hock. Today it sells at a
    below-market multiple of 14.4 and offers an above-average dividend
    yield of 2.2%.

    Much of the recent disappointment in the stock is due to the slowdown
    in housing and the reassessment many are making of homes as an
    investment. With home resale prices flat to declining, many homeowners
    are reconsidering the kind of home-improvement projects that make for
    multiple visits and big spending.

    Home Depot rival Lowe's reported an earnings drop of 12% for the
    fourth quarter.

    Some of the less recent disappointment in Home Depot shares is due to
    the egregious compensation of its former CEO and his high-handed
    treatment of shareholders.

    Consistent abuser of customers' time.

    But I'd like to suggest a much bigger reason that Home Depot has
    become a troubled and unloved company. I call it time abuse.

    Home Depot is a consistent abuser of its customers' time. Let me

    Back in 1990, when my wife and I loved Home Depot, the stores were
    staffed with well-trained, knowledgeable and helpful people. If you
    had a question, even a silly one, it was easy to find someone who knew
    the answer. Home Depot had an amazing inventory. It also had a staff
    that helped you access that inventory and make choices.

    Though it didn't have employees waiting at the door, as do high-
    service stores such as Elliot's in Dallas and Big Jo in Santa Fe, you
    could make a purchase quickly at Home Depot.

    But that was then.

    Today, it is difficult to find a staff person at a Home Depot.
    Personally, I've left the store empty-handed after a hopeless wait.
    During one long wait shortly before Christmas, I commented to a worker
    that the store was so busy they must be getting lots of overtime.

    "No way," the employee said.

    My wife has gotten so frustrated waiting -- while trying to buy
    carpeting for an entire house -- that she has taken her business

    I know we're not alone. One of my friends started to seethe when I
    mentioned Home Depot. He'll buy things almost anywhere, except Home
    Depot. He hates having his time abused.

    Add people to the payroll

    That's what Home Depot does by short-staffing. It abuses our time. We
    can't get the help we need, and we can't make our purchases quickly.
    The result is that a once iconic, wonderfully American store has
    become an aggravation rather than a blessing.

    Home Depot is not unique. Many supermarket chains and some of the
    large department stores appear to have decided that short-staffing is
    the way to meet their profit plans, hoping to drop more dollars to
    their bottom lines by stealing our time at the checkout counter or

    My bet is that a few years from now someone will give this a clever
    name, like "millennial myopia" or some other phrase suitable for the
    Harvard Business Review. Until then, the investment bankers will be
    working on different ways to solve the share price problem with
    financial moves.

    Let's hope the board of directors at HD takes the time to learn what's
    obvious to ordinary people who do a lot for themselves and need to
    make good use of their time.

    The solution is to add people to the payroll rather than reducing both.
    Stephen Blackpool, Mar 9, 2007
    1. Advertisements

  2. Be sure you cruise the 300 pages of comments.

    You got a story to tell? This is a current ad promotion on the HD
    website. Good or Bad, let us know.

    True Stories

    What Story do You Have To Share?
    unique. The story of any home improvement project begins with the
    inspiration to take on a project and, with every step make it a better
    place for you and your family. Your stories have inspired us and we
    want to share these stories with others just like you. Simply submit
    your story right here so that you may inspire another great project.
    Stephen Blackpool, Mar 9, 2007
    1. Advertisements

  3. Let me get this straight: Brain-dead customers can't figure out how to open
    the yellow pages and find a hardware store, lumber yard, plumbing store,
    lighting store, or garden center, any of which will give better advice and
    often have better prices than Home Despot, and this is Home Despot's fault?
    Not the fault of brain dead parents who were too busy watching 200 channels
    of cable to to get off their fat, lazy asses and teach their kids how to
    find a merchant in the phone book?

    They live with their kids for 18 years or longer, and no time to teach
    something easy like this?
    JoeSpareBedroom, Mar 9, 2007
  4. I think that they're trying to be more like Lowe's, where the staffing
    is thin (ten minutes to get help, even during lax periods) and the
    training almost nonexistent (three employees didn't know where the
    room air conditioners were stocked -- in July -- in Phoenix). Home
    Base did that when they tried to copy HD, and they're gone now.
    larry moe 'n curly, Mar 9, 2007

  5. Hopefully, nobody interprets this to mean "everywhere", because it sure
    isn't the case here. And, even if the stuff is more expensive elsewhere, one
    must consider the rest of the equation: Walk into a good plumbing store,
    walk out with the right thing in 8 minutes. Walk into HD, and *maybe* you
    can find someone to help you get the right thing. Maybe you buy 5 things,
    knowing that one of them will be right, and you have to make another trip to
    return the other 4. Time is worth something, too.
    JoeSpareBedroom, Mar 9, 2007
  6. Stephen Blackpool

    Matt Barrow Guest

    You've never run a business, have you?
    Matt Barrow, Mar 9, 2007

  7. Matter of fact, yes. How do you feel your question relates to the fact that
    some people somehow reach adulthood with virtually no resources?
    JoeSpareBedroom, Mar 9, 2007
  8. Stephen Blackpool

    tom Guest

    Water finds it's own level. I suspect they'll soon go the way of Handy Andy
    and Builders Square for the same reasons.
    tom, Mar 9, 2007
  9. Glad I don't live "around here" where you are. I guess you didn't see my
    post from last Saturday about big box store pricing. My Taco circulator
    would have been $86 from HD, but was $61.48 from the plumbing supply house.
    A light fixture that was $10.99 at HD was $8.99 at a local
    hardware/lumber/home store.
    Edwin Pawlowski, Mar 10, 2007
  10. Lowe's looks nicer, and at first I thought that their people were
    competent because they lacked experience, but they've been open
    here for at least 2-3 years, and they're still making the same
    mistakes --
    can't find products, don't know much about the products, lots of

    Me: "What's the battery warranty on this cordless drill? The box
    doesn't say anything."

    Lowe's: " doesn't say. I don't know."

    HD: "90 days. The whole drill is warranted for two years. This one
    uses plastic
    gears, that one metal."

    I've yet to get an intelligent answer from Lowe's, except in their
    lighting dept.
    larry moe 'n curly, Mar 10, 2007
  11. Stephen Blackpool

    George Guest

    JoeSpareBedroom wrote:

    Its the same where I live. It you want a good selection of stuff and you
    want to be quickly in and out and have the right stuff the first time
    you go to the real plumbing supply house.
    George, Mar 10, 2007
  12. Stephen Blackpool

    George Guest

    I am surprised that anyone is surprised. Big box stores are interested
    in wiping out all of the small stores. To do that they had to make
    themselves look like good guys at first. Once they decimate the small
    stores they can cut way back on staff and raise prices.
    George, Mar 10, 2007
  13. Finding the keyboard operational
    larry moe 'n curly entered:
    I have 4 HDs within 5 miles and 2 Lowes withi 7. I get the best service at 1
    of the HDs but any questions involve a little English to Spanish work but it
    is always the right answer. The other reason I use that one is that the
    sales tax is only half what the other must charge.
    I only use the big boxes if I can't get what I want at the local hardware.
    The Other Funk, Mar 10, 2007
  14. Stephen Blackpool

    Mitch Guest

    At least you have choices. In my small town, all we have is a
    Menard's. Staffed only by retarded teenagers who avoid customer
    contact at all costs.
    Mitch, Mar 10, 2007

  15. If the manager is near suicide daily, it would be understandable. :-(
    JoeSpareBedroom, Mar 10, 2007
  16. You shouldn't expect much from big box store employees. Those stores get
    the quality of employees they pay for, and then treat them poorly.

    I worked at Lowe's part-time for awhile. Scary thing is they have trouble
    hiring because about 60% of people who apply can't pass the employment test!
    But with what they pay and the insane way they schedule shifts, I'd say the
    fact that they can attract any employees who can walk and talk is amazing.
    Getting people who actually care would be a miracle. But, unbelieveably,
    they do have ongoing required training - it's just that many of the
    employees don't give a damn.

    I also worked at HD full-time for a VERY short period. Their employment
    practices make Lowe's look great! I was on the floor for two weeks with NO
    training, and it took over a week to meet my department manager. They're so
    nuts about overtime that they have employees lined up at the time card
    machine 10 minutes before their shifts are over so that they don't go 5
    minutes over their regular time.
    justadilettante, Mar 10, 2007

  17. The idiots who manage those stores are too cheap to do something free and
    simple: Tell new hires to NOT put on their little vests for the first 15-20
    minutes of their shifts, so they won't be distracted by anyone who needs
    help. Now, pick an aisle and browse slowly. Some of these employees don't
    know which END of the store has certain things, much less which aisle.
    JoeSpareBedroom, Mar 10, 2007
  18. Stephen Blackpool

    curmudgeon Guest

    I work for Home Depot, and the article is correct. The dickhead who
    just left the company ( Nardelli) made his quarterly numbers by cutting
    costs anywhwere he could....and "store Hours" was a major point of cutting.
    Every store is given a budget of "man hours" they can spend in any given
    week (based on prior sales, time of year, time of day etc)...and
    particularly on week days that means entire departments without coverage
    by at least one employee. Often you have one guy covering two appliances and plumbing.
    Right now - weekdays in the winter - HD is at its lowest hourly store
    budget. And that means customer service is at its worst.
    The founders built the chain on that knowledgeable service. Bob
    Nardelli trashed it in just a few short years.
    The interesting thing though is how many customers come in complaining
    about Lowe's (and their corporate flagship store is right across the
    street). Lowe's pay less, hires young kids who don't know their ass
    from their elbow, and who actually turn and walk the other way when
    they see a customer coming. I hear that story 10 times a week.
    Bottom line is that you can't tar either chain with a single brush.
    Reagrdless of corporate policies, every store is different and each one
    a reflection of what that store manager feels is most important.
    Some stress customer service and some stress paint cans perfectly aligned.
    Some place HD wins and some Lowes. But the customer always has the
    final word.
    My 2 cents worth.
    curmudgeon, Mar 10, 2007
  19. Any idea what HD pays their managers?

    JoeSpareBedroom, Mar 10, 2007
  20. Stephen Blackpool

    clifto Guest

    I have to say that the Menard's stores near me have people who go out of
    their way to make sure you're finding what you're looking for, almost
    to the point of wishing they'd ignore you.

    Almost. :)
    clifto, Mar 10, 2007
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.