Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things That Chap My Ass About Big Box Home Improvement Stores

At least once a week I have to go to either Lowes or Home Depot.

Usually both.

Sometimes more than once.

Sometimes a lot more than once (hey, sometimes I break stuff while fixing other stuff. It happens. So, put a sock in it, Bob Villa.)

This does not make me happy.

I really don’t like those places. They’re supposed to be one stop shopping for home improvement needs, but they’re really not. They never have what I need, and I end up having to go to both stores almost every time in order to get the supplies I have to have for whatever job I’m elbow deep in at the moment. Seriously the damned stores are always located together anyway, where you find one, you find the other – they ought to just build them on opposite sides of the same parking lot. It would sure make my life a lot easier.

What should be a fifteen minute errand always turns into a two hour adventure at Aggravation World.

I always get the helpless helper. You know, the guy in the blue or orange vest who comes rolling up with a big smile and says “Hey, what can I help you find?” Against your better judgment, you tell him because maybe this time it will be different. But no. Hell no. As always it turns out that he has no damned clue as to where the item you need might be or if they even carry it. So he says brightly, “Well, hey, let’s go look for it, follow me!” Sure, just what I need, a snipe hunt with my new best friend. I don’t need help wandering aimlessly up and down random aisles, you idiot, I was doing just fine with that on my own before you showed up.

What’s the phrase? Let’s build something together? Uh, no. Have you seen some of these people? Yesterday there was a wild eyed guy working in Lowes with hair down to his ass and a equal length beard. Yeah, me and Charlie Manson will be out back building a swing set if you need us.

Lowes has this phenomenally irritating automated paging system. I’m fairly sure this thing was cooked up by the same charming folks who invented the waterboard. Some brainless clod pushes a button and the damned system starts blaring over the loudspeakers “Special assistance needed in the board cutting area! Special assistance needed in the board cutting area! Special assistance needed in the board cutting area!” And the impatient mouth breathing dolt back there in the board cutting area just keeps pushing that goddamned button over and over and over until I’m ready to go back there and jam his head into the saw myself. He’s like a little kid on a road trip, “are we there yet are we there yet are wethereyet?” And when some helplessly helpful employee finally does show up to give him the special assistance, some other gomer starts pushing the button elsewhere in the store, “Special assistance needed in …” Jesus H. Christ, one of these days I’m going to snap and run screaming around the store with a pair of wire cutters lopping off those stinking help buttons and maybe a button pressing index finger or two.

I was in Home Depot on Sunday and they must have had every single forklift in the place moving crap around. The beeping was deafening. It was like Day of the Daleks in there. I kept expecting the stinking things to pick up a plunger in the toilet aisle while blurting “Exterminate! Exterminate!” If they started vaporizing customers I would have been cheering them on.

Whatever I need, they’re out of. If I go in looking for 250 feet of 12/2 U/W copper wiring – every damned body in the Valley suddenly decides to put in patio lighting that needs outdoor two-strand 12 gauge wiring. If I need 8mm recessed hex head screws – so does everybody else. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how unusual or obscure it is, they only had two of them and they just sold ‘em that morning – but, hey, no worries they’ll have more next week. They’ve got a whole huge pile of the size I don’t need, and apparently neither does anybody else. Just in time delivery is a business model that can kiss my ass.

I was standing in the electrical supply section, trying to figure out what I could substitute for the things I needed and they didn’t have. Behind me some halfwit was asking the helpless helper for advice on rewiring his main electrical panel. Now the the guy giving the advice was the same dipshit who didn’t know the difference between 12/2 and 14/3 outdoor wiring, but suddenly he’s an expert on your home electrical system? Yeah, better swing by aisle ten and pick up a couple fire extinguishers. Just saying.

Apparently both Lowes and Home Depot get a volume discount on those big rolling stairway ladder platforms that are blocking every single damned aisle. I swear it’s like the silly sons of bitches are doing it on purpose. I think they’re tracking me with those little radios, “sssssh beepblop, this is Charlie on parking lot patrol, he’s getting out of his truck, looks like he’s got a busted sink fitting in one hand!”

“SSSSrk! Bleepblop! Roger all, Charlie, we copy. Try to stall him with the Helpless Helper routine while we move every fucking ladder in the store into the plumbing aisle!”

“fzzzztp! Beeelbop! Yeah, this is Charlie again, looks like he’s in a hurry, better get a couple of the forklifts too…”

“ssssvippp! Roger. Exterminate! Exterminate!”

What chaps your ass about big box stores?


  1. One problem you've almost certainly never experienced, I expect: shopping in hardware stores (even crappy big-box ones) as a woman.

    No, actually, I do know what I'm talking about, and I do need that exact bit of hardware/electrical component/plumbing fitting, and the explanation you just gave me is bullshit. Really.

    It just amazes me how having boobs means you can't build or fix anything yourself. And don't get me started on auto mechanics.

  2. PS Hey, I wasn't marked spam! Wasn't entirely sure, given the vocabulary I employed.

  3. Just what was the beeping defending? Inquiring minds want to know.

    We only have Lowes here, so if they don't have it we have to fake it.

    And any big project requires at least three trips to Lowes. Best one was when we were replacing the kitchen/outside door, and once we had a giant gaping hole in the house, realized we needed a single 2x4 before we could proceed.

  4. Any time I've tried to teach a woman how to run power tools or do electrical wiring I've run into serious problems.

    Not from the woman, they catch on real quick, but from the male co-workers.

    I ran the electronic maintenance dept. for one of the big three TV networks for years. The year I hired a woman I had a union shop threaten a wild-cat. (The VP I worked for was very on-board with what I was doing, when the shop steward complained to him, he simply asked the steward to point out the sexaually discriminating language in the contract or get out of his office.

    I usually don't have problems with the big-box stores because I try and avoid them. I've got a couple of great hardware stores in my area and a lumber yard and they get my custom.

  5. usually I get great service from the people they hire locally (most of them are contractors who needed the steady pay). However, the wood sucks.

    Last time in, was buying other things and thought, "Well, you know, I need to build a sled for the table saw to cut the proper angles for this project and most of my misc. ply is 3/4", I'll grab a small MDF board on the way out." Which I do, but my hands are full so I can't look at it closely, but hey, it's MDF what could they do? So I get to the checkout where I finally can give it a good look. Not only is it cupped, it's also warped. MDF. How the fuck to do warp MDF? Told the cashier to wait a sec as I ran back and pulled a good board out. (fortunately the only guy behind me was also buying wood, he took the time to double check his for true).

    It's the best thing those cement flours were poured for.

  6. cement flours, heavy bread they made. Cement Floors is what I meant.

  7. Yeah, the clueless 'helper'


    I try to avoid going to the Blue/Orange at all, but usually end up in there at least once a month for something or other. (I much prefer AIH or SBS, though they sometimes don't have what I'm looking for.) I always say that if you can't carry it out, get it someplace else - their 'special order' services could suck start a jet...

  8. I'm with Phiala... I know what I need, I know WHY I need it, and I know how to use it. Please, don't let my mammary glands fool you. And quit staring at them, while you're at it.

    Thank goodness I have a REAL hardware store available to me. They've always had exactly what I needed, and they're the only ones in the area who cut glass. That comes in really handy every time my spouse or offspring slams the kitchen window and breaks it AGAIN.

  9. I win this one hands down. Sure, my Lowes and Home Depot have all the same annoying problems you've all mentioned, but my versions of them have a completely unique problem.

    My stores are filled with people from Brooklyn...in front of and behind the counters. Every variety of moronic behavior is in evidence an my local Big Box Hardware stores.

    There was the guy at the appliance counter demanding that the store rig him up a 40amp/250V extension for something or other. He claimed it needed a male plug on both ends. And the salesman believed him. (In the movie biz, there are really rare occasions where we actually do need such an animal. We call it a "suicide" connector.

    But the absolute worst is if you show up at one of them shortly after sunset on Saturday evening. The Hassids are big DIY guys. They all show up en masse as soon as Shabbat ends. And they bring the wives...and their 12 children. And 3 double-wide strollers.


  10. Nah, you don't win, Nathan. Your problem is very simple to solve: just move.

    Kelly and I would have to go in drag, or even more extreme solutions. And I don't know about her, but for me to come up with a successful male impersonation would be considerably more difficult than moving. (An unsuccessful impersonation would be counterproductive, I think.)

  11. Jim, I'd like to point out that "helpless" is a relative term.

    Any moron on the planet could probably help me, since there's a pretty fair chance that I'm a bigger moron when it comes to that kind of stuff. Either that or I just take The Mechanicky Gal with me. Or hire someone to do the work. Then I don't have to deal with any of it.

    Someone would have to be pretty sharp to beat you in the competency department. Just sayin'.

    Now if you need a VoIP enterprise solution designed, THEN I'm your gal.

  12. I get the same thing...I got boobs so I must be one when it comes to gardening, pest control, basic home repairs, paint, you name it.

    First, my father rebuilt/remodeled everything we ever lived in. I knew how to properly use most hand tools before many kids had the training wheels off their bikes. Same goes for paint & prep, yes I do how to properly patch a hole or prime a wall, thank you very much.

    Ditto for gardening & bug sprays. Daddy was a research formulation chemist developing agricultural products, and we learned a healthy respect for proper application of bug & pest control products. I still can identify some compounds by their smell.

    So please do NOT come over and tell me I need Brand X bug spray, because I'll ask you why and then tell you how wrong you are!

    Home Despot, as my brother calls it, is most common down here as Atlanta is their corporate hq. Not always easy access on the bus, depending on what I'm buying. If you come over to help me, and I ask why the new miracle gizmo is better than what I've always used, you better be able to tell me.

    A few years ago I was with some friends out in a rural area, and one of the uncles owned a real old-fashioned small town hardware store. They had everything. Had a blast picking up a few odds and ends I would never have found in HD. And at a fraction of the price I might have paid in the city.

  13. Deafening, my good fellow, not defending.

    As for the boobs:help relationship, I have the same problem in Radio Shack stores.

  14. That's what happens when the spell checker is set to autocorrect and it's 6:30 in the morning when you proof read the post, Wench.

    Thanks. Fixed

  15. Oh fine, ignore my pointing out of defending vs deafening and listen to the one from the hot wench.

    But I still want to know what the beep was defending.


  16. Jim and Wendy, I sent your comments to the 'rents HP Presto Printing Mailbox -- one-way physical e-mail for people without computers -- Daddy will be rolling on the floor I'm sure tomorrow morning when it prints out. Which is pretty good for a man of ninety. (and scary)

    Not that the other comments weren't great, but I don't want to use all their ink and paper -- we've got the print font set at medium high, I do believe. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  17. My own local "big box" is Rona who seem to have managed to combine the stock of a larger store with the experienced staff of an old-fashioned hardware store. And nary a pimpled youth in sight. I just hope they can keep it up.

  18. I'd share our "safety wire" story, but it really needs to be told in person to convey just how gawdawfully stupid you have to be, to get employed at one of those stores...

  19. Things That Chap My Ass About Big Box Home Improvement Stores

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Nathan, I live in Rockland county, don't get me going on the ultra-ultras.

  21. I was at the check out line of Home Depot yesterday, buying a chuck key, when "Heather" the checker in charge tries to answer "Heather Jr's" question about what the chuck key is... "It's for a small hose repair she tells Heather Jr"?!?!???

    A Chuck Key? Seriously? You've never touched a drill and somehow you are training someone at Home Depot? Enough said.


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