Let's take a moment to remember how HD was able to get so big so fast. Go
back in time ~20 years. You need a special fitting to fasten some piece of
your house to some other piece of your house. You go to your local hardware
store and head for the counter to talk to the guy who dispenses this stuff.
There's no discernible line anywhere at the counter, but it's surrounded by
the guy's contractor buddies, who are milling around, smoking cigarettes,
and telling dirty jokes among themselves and occasionally transacting some
business. The guy at the counter ignores you for as long as he can, but
eventually you make a determined effort to make eye contact with him, so he
decides everyone would be more comfortable if he gets you out of there.
Counter guy: What do you want?
You: Umm. I need a connector for a frammitz device. It's made by Acme inc.
The label says it's part number ncc-1701.
Counter guy: Is that an inside fitting or an outside fitting?
You: Huh? How can I tell?
(Contractor buddies all laugh.)
Counter guy: Here's the pictures. Which one is it?
You: Well, it doesn't look like either of these. It's green, and kind of
(Contractor buddies all laugh.)
Counter guy: Must be an outside fitting. They haven't made inside fittings
in 30 years. Is it type 31A or ddb lzmdc ouaejk?
You: Well... I just know the part number.
Counter guy: Listen kid, when you know what you want, come back and we'll be
able to help you.
(Counter guy and contractor buddies resume what they were doing.)
Consider also what happened when you needed lumber. This time, somehow you
are prepared and know what you wanted. You negotiate the deal at the counter
and guy tells you to bring your truck out to the yard. You know right away
you're going to get laughed at when you show up with a car. The yard man
shows up 20 minutes after you pull in. He goes way back in the yard and
comes back with the wood. Of course, he selects the pieces and they are all
warped and cracked. If you complain, he sneers that that's all they have and
you can take it or leave it. Now you have to decide whether to face the
counter guy again (and get the same treatment when you try to buy at a
different hardware store) or just settle for what he gives you.
Meanwhile, the Home Depot opened up at the other end of town. The
contracting business was kind of slow (that's why all those contractors had
time to hang out at the counter at the hardware store). Home Depot offered
jobs to these contractors. They didn't pay all that well, but it was steady
work, indoors, with benefits. All they had to do was be courteous and
helpful with the customers. If you weren't sure what you wanted, the clerk
would listen to your whole story, tell you what you needed to know to make
sure you got the right part, and probably give you loads of advice on the
best way to do the job. It didn't take long for the homeowners to decide to
take their business to Home Depot.
Over the years, Home Depot became big and prosperous, and the stockholders
demanded that they squeeze out more profits, so they had to cut back on
expenses, meaning buying cheaper goods and paying the help less. The
contracting business picked up, and all the contractors they had hired (the
good ones anyway) went back to contracting. The only help left were the
losers or the oldtimers and idealists who were still clinging in vain to the
dream of a place where customers and staff interacted in harmony. Some of
the neighborhood hardware stores eventually got their act together, but
performance was inconsistent, so most homeowners just accepted what they got
at HD, since by this time, they were conditioned to the Big Box store
Getting back on topic, my worst HD story was almost comical. I needed some
gravel to spread around on the ground under my deck. Over the course of
several months, I visited various HD stores and for at least 10 consecutive
visits, the gravel section was always closed. They always had the forklift
or something in there that made it necessary to close it off. Eventually the
curse was broken and I got my gravel, but i was starting to wonder if it was