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.