A Tale of a Dancing Bear: The Good and the Bad of Home Depot

Promoted. Originally posted 2008-06-14 14:40:50 -0500.

Home Depot is like a dancing Bear. It is remarkable that it dances at all, but it doesn't dance very well. I am writing this because I have a lot of experience with Home Depot. I am a general contractor who specializes in Handyman type job. As a result, I am in and out of Home Depot at least a 100 times a year. I visit them up and down the San Francisco Peninsula from San Jose to almost San Francisco. (SF has no Home Depot.)

Most people I know have been there many times. It is an important store that serves a definite need. While many people can't stand the place, they still shop there because except for Lowe's, there is no place that serves that niche quite so well.

Before Home Depot, shopping for construction and landscaping stuff was much harder. One trip to the lumber yard, one trip to the plumbing store, one to the hardware store, one to the electrical supply. There was one price for contractors and another for everyone else. Everyone had a 25% restocking charge. It was a nuisance. By putting all that stuff under one roof, they made our lives easier and lowered the prices we had to pay. Construction for consumers.

That being said, Home Depot is also a large corporation and therein lies the part people hate. Not because they are a big corporation, but because of the big and little things that large corporations are prone to do. If there is one thing that stands out about Home Depot, it is the desire to squeeze every last penny out of the business. The objective of Home Depot is to make money and nothing else.

No matter what Home Depot I go into I can count on the following somewhere in the store:

1. Nearly impassible isles with crates, ladders and half finished stocking jobs strewn throughout making passage difficult or impossible. This is a result of their system. Store managers do not have the leeway to hire extra people to make sure their stores look great and are pleasant places to shop.

2. Home Depot will be out of stock on something I have to have right away. Home Depot tries to keep their inventory as low as possible, meaning that they probably have an out of stock rate between 2 and 4 percent. This rate is much lower on fast selling items and higher on slow moving items. So there is probably a 1 in 20 chance that the one certain specialized part you need is out of stock. (This is incredibly annoying in plumbing and electrical where it can stop a project completely.)

3. Cheerful, polite and helpful people who are hard to find and too busy to be immediately available. For me, getting help with something usually means an extra half hour in the store, at least.

As a corporation, they clearly don't care about the special needs associated with doing construction projects, such as getting everything you need in one visit.

But it's not all bad news. Home Depot has signed on to only buying wood that was not clear cut. They're a big buyer and they have a lot of clout.

Home Depot has also force some manufacturers to pay a lot more attention to the assembly of their products, making faucets and other consumer installable products easier to put together.

One of the more helpful things they've done is set up a code approved standardized way to buy electrical wiring. It was terribly confusing before and this is much better.

The price pressure though, has led to some significantly cheaper stuff. You can buy faucets for under a hundred dollars, but they probably won't last over 5 years. This is just my opinion, but I don't think the innards are as sturdy as they used to be. I will not buy Shower fixtures or faucets from Home Depot anymore because of the high failure rate. (I can't afford any failures at all.) Also, customers break stuff and return it and it just gets back on the shelf for the next person to discover.

The worst offender in the cheap cheap cheap category is the plastic crown molding and trim. The stuff is so awful no one else sells it. It melts when it's cut, it bends when it's installed and it breaks when it's nailed. It's too hard for professionals to install and this is what's being sold to consumers.

Home Depot has a lot of room for improvement. Their store managers need more control to make their stores better, they need more staff trained to both help people and get the add on sales that are both tremendously helpful to people and significantly boost the sales per visit number. Properly trained, the extra staff can not only pay for themselves, they can increase overall sales.

What I hear over and over again from people is that they don't like shopping there. It's noisy, cluttered and dusty and they can't get the help they need. It's a shame really, a little less bean counting would go a long way. Home Depot is really a store people want to love, but can't. Chances are, someone will come along who figures out the right system and Home Depot will find itself closing stores right and left.

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Some products truly are very shoddy. I'd rather pay a little more for something sturdy.

Over the years, I've noticed the caliber of sales person decline. Used to be whoever worked in plumbing, knew plumbing, whoever worked in electrical, knew electrical. Nowadays they just know the stock but not necessarily how to use it.

As a Carpenter, with well over 35yrs., and having my own small companies, give me back the good ole days!


The objective of Home Depot is to make money and nothing else.

Isn't only the Home Depot problem, this is end of and beginning 20th and 21st century Capitalism and Business practises.

No customer services, they aren't number one they need so why care about their problems with, get as much out of a smaller work force as you can squeeze for as low as the wages you want to pay and screw bennies, worry more about investors, if public, who have nothing to do with actual company work and quality while squeezing more out of employees, don't worry about quality/dedication of workforce not wanted around for 20plusyears, needing to give raises, new bodies are cheap labor,.....................................................................and on and on and on!

Glad I'm old but Really Worry about what us Responsible Adults are leaving the young!!!!!!

Tell the world: My America Doesn't Torture!

"The wise man points to the stars and the fool sees only the finger - and discusses it 24/7 on cable."

today I was mending some clothes, and I was thinking how much I like working on cotton canvas duck cloth.

And then I realized, since kids don't learn to sew anymore... and fewer adults sew... do they even know what duck cloth -- much less crepe backed satin -- is?

Has supposedly made sewing the in-thing to do again. A recession will undoubtedly make it wide spread.

how cool... I know that sounds bizarre, but there are worse things to spend one's time on!

Over the years, I've noticed the caliber of sales person decline. Used to be whoever worked in plumbing, knew plumbing, whoever worked in electrical, knew electrical. Nowadays they just know the stock but not necessarily how to use it.

With apologies to Blind Faith and Eric Clapton! I don't use Home Depot because they don't fit well in my Buy Blue scheme as they are big Red contributors. And I'm lucky to have a Lowes down the street. They have happier employees who are better to work with if you have a question. I ,too got stuck Big Time on HD cheesy faucets! What junk.

I don't have your needs but I am the incessant home renovator and love hardware stores. I try to use the smaller hardware stores whenever possible because they cannot be beat for relationship, customer service and quality of life issues--they often hire the retired and elderly who really know their stuff. I would pay extra to just go and shoot the breeze with some of those old dudes working there--they can make me laugh like hell and there is no corporate, dictatorial stench about the place.

Regarding the "plastic" molding--I LOVE the stuff (from Lowes)and have it all over my house. I installed dentil molding on all my kitchen cabinets, made a compound molding over my kitchen desk, and used it instead of wooden quarter round after putting in my hardwood floors. I don't nail--only Liquid Nails for the reasons you cite, and I use a fine coping saw for all my cuts. Those odd angle cuts can be tricky and you cannot go quickly so I can see why you would be vexed with it. But I have found it so versatile--I even make picture frames and tiled trivet frames with it. But you are absolutely correct in that nails will ruin the stuff. And ruin your day. I would not recommend it to anyone with a house full of roughhouse kids as it can be a little delicate if you hit it too hard. It would not be good to use for a chair rail for that reason. But it was a cheap fix for me and looks great.

Even more talents!

But HD is a consumer store and building products should not require a "Learn to deal with this garbage" learning curve. A coping saw is a hand tool and is unsuited to compound cuts without a miter box, which will probably be too small for most crown molding.

Installing crown molding is impossible with that stuff without a nail gun and two people. Not exactly your homeowner set up.

where I lived in Oregon, taught me a helluva lot. They had a program [totally free] ... "Monday Night Football Widows" where they taught wallpapering, tiling, simple wiring ... So I guess I will always have a soft spot for that store ...

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