Posts Tagged ‘Home Depot’

Service of Low and No Cost Giving in NYC

Monday, November 27th, 2023

We’re lucky in Manhattan because in addition to volunteering, there are countless ways to help others at little or no cost in time or treasure.

I pass by the UN and through Grand Central Terminal countless times a week where there are out of towners galore. If you want to make tourists happy, ask if you can take their pictures. They are easy to identify. There’s usually one taking a photo of a group or another person or trying to squeeze into the shot via selfie. I always take one showing the building or iconic symbol behind them such as the information clock in Grand Central and then a few closeups of the group. They are generally beaming, and I think they’d appreciate the capture of their joy. And I like to imagine, when they look at the picture, that they will think how friendly New Yorkers are.

Walking west on 39th Street the other day I saw a young man coming towards me carrying four paper shopping bags bulging with groceries. One ripped scattering his purchases all over the sidewalk. He scrambled to keep the other three upright as he lunged for his veggies, fruits and cartons. I was on my way to grocery shop and had an extra bag—from Home Depot—that I gave him. He said “thanks” and I walked on. [The bright orange bags weigh little, carry a lot and if you wear black, help drivers in cars, scooters and bicycles see you when you cross streets in the dark.]

People puzzling over their phones are often looking for a landmark, restaurant or store. It takes a second to stop and ask if you can direct them.

What other low and no cost ways do you help others?

Service of Who Cares II

Monday, September 12th, 2022

I’m not the only one who has noticed a surge of overt indifference by retail employees lately and it’s not been exclusively in NYC where I start.

At a Manhattan branch of T.J.Maxx I heard a lively conversation of what turned out to be three sales associates hovering in housewares. I interrupted them to learn whether the store carried an item I needed. I was surprised they were so bold to turn the sales floor into a catch-up-around-a-water-cooler-like scene for such a long time.

At Home Depot, also in Manhattan, where I’ve always been treated courteously by sales associates, a guard on street level, seated in a wheelchair meant for customers, was slumped over his phone oblivious to his surroundings. My grocery cart accidentally slammed to the cement floor, the handle making an alarming clatter, and he neither budged nor looked up.


Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

The same week I heard from EAM who shared examples of apathy towards customers during a trip to California. She visited Gumps, a favorite haunt of her parents. It was 4:40 pm, she wrote, and the store closed at 5 pm. She was looking at jewelry and “they started pulling it from the cases, one man throwing velvet covers over some, putting the jewelry onto trays as well.”  While this was going on, one salesman was attentive and answered her questions. She continued: “Overall, I was appalled by this experience–that a high-end store would treat people so rudely. One saleswoman had made an assessment, based on my appearance, that I wasn’t a serious customer. In fact, my parents, over the years, had made some significant purchases.” 

That same week EAM reported on a booth selling art glass vases in the $200+ range at a craft show. “To ask a question my sister literally had to interrupt the four salespeople in the booth huddled in conversation. They seemed clueless about their dismissive sales approach. She returned to check out the vases before purchasing one and was so turned off by their lackluster attitude towards her that she left. They lost a sale.”

Is something in the air? Are we all exhausted? Were these interactions coincidental? Is it because businesses are shorthanded and have lowered their hiring standards? Have you noticed similar lack of enthusiasm at retail?

Service of Signs of Recovery: More than the Lifting of Restrictions

Monday, June 28th, 2021

Farmer’s Market Union Square NYC June 2021

During the pandemic New York went silent and not just because the streets and sidewalks were practically bereft of cars and people. Casual conversations among strangers who made it outside stopped. I no longer greeted or complimented dogs I’d pass on the sidewalk. We didn’t walk close enough for conversation.

Buses from 10 routes stop here and no bus in sight.

But this has begun to change. It’s evident illustrated by the energy at favorite gathering places such as the Saturday farmer’s market at Union Square [photo above] and an uptick in the New York tradition of chats or comments between strangers. I first observed the custom during countless bus rides at my mother’s knee. Honed in the art of conversation with strangers she excelled wherever she traveled.

I was waiting too long for a bus at 7:30 a.m. last week and struck up a conversation with a couple who were already there. A first. They liked my idea for helping out the suffering yellow cab business by creating a system in which potential bus passengers would sign in for a voucher for a free taxi ride if they waited more than 15 minutes–especially during off peak. Tweaking existing kiosks at stops would make such an initiative possible. Win win.

On another day I noticed a man of a certain age [do you say that about a man?] sitting across from me on a crosstown bus. He wore an orange shirt and carried a black tote bag. I got off at my stop, walked to Home Depot on 23rd Street and held open the door as I sensed there was a person behind me. I have a thing about letting a door slam on anyone because when it happens to me it puts me in a bad mood. It was the man in the orange shirt who said “thank you.” That happens but not always.

Done shopping I walked to Third from Sixth Avenue to grab an uptown bus. About to cross Third, I again saw that orange shirt and recognized the tote bag held by the man–he was ahead of me. At the uptown stop I staked out a spot and as the local bus slowed along the curb, the man walked over and said “I must be following you,” and I replied “I’m the stalker,” and he said, “I’m not a very good stalker.” That was it. A New York moment and welcome illustration that the city is edging back to some of its endearing customs.

Have you noticed subtle ways in which your town or city is relaxing and easing into the best of its old self?

 

Grand Central Terminal busy again on a Sunday.

Service of Being Painted By the Same Brush

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

There are some companies set up so you can’t reach them and others you can contact but that don’t listen to sense: They see all customers as offenders. A grouchy or nutty customer or employee writes a terrible online review and the words glare back from the top of every Google search about you or your business. Just try to get rid of it even if insane and untrue. Same if a competitor trashes your restaurant or business on Yelp. Nightmare.

And now, a company you can reach but can’t reason with—Retail Equation—can forbid you from returning purchases or exchanging them to a particular store for a year according to its calculations, even if you’re innocent.

Khadeeja Safdar wrote “Retailers Crack Down on Serial Returners,” in The Wall Street Journal. I’m all for that: Cheaters and unreasonable customers are not my favorites. I recently wrote about 106 year old L.L. Bean’s tightening its generous return policy after too many abuses hurt their bottom line in “Service of Going Too Far: L.L. Bean Puts its Boot Down.” But with Retail Equation keeping track of returns and more for retailers, reasonable shoppers can be swept up in the fray and painted by the same brush as serial returners.

One Best Buy customer bought a bunch of cellphone cases as gifts for his kids, let his sons choose among the colors, planning to return the three they didn’t select. When he did his salesperson warned him that the returns would jeopardize future ones–and even exchanges–for a year even though he was well within the designated 15 day after purchase period.

He contacted Retail Equation that tracks returns for large corporations. His entire record showed returns of the three cellphone cases worth, in all, less than $90. The company refused to change its decision. According to Safdar the customer said: “I’m being made to feel like I committed a crime. When you say habitual returner, I’m thinking 27 videogames and 14 TVs.”

Safdar reported: “Stores have long used generous return guidelines to lure more customers, but such policies also invite abuse. Retailers estimate 11% of their sales are returned, and of those, 11% are likely fraudulent returns, according to a 2017 survey of 63 retailers by the National Retail Federation. Return fraud or abuse occurs when customers exploit the return process, such as requesting a refund for items they have used, stolen or bought somewhere else.”

WARNING: You could be on the Retail Equation’s black list if you return in store or online:

  • an expensive item
  • a significant percentage of purchases
  • something without a receipt
  • after the accepted period
  • things that are often stolen at that store
  • just as the store closes or
  • too many items at once

In addition to Best Buy, other stores that use Retail Equation to track returns are Home Depot, J.C. Penney, Sephora and Victoria’s Secret. If you want to protest your ban, you can call Best Buy at 1-866-764-6979 the Journal discovered when researching the story.

“It isn’t easy for shoppers to learn their standing before receiving a warning. Retailers typically don’t publicize their relationship with Retail Equation. And even if a customer tracks down his or her return report, it doesn’t include purchase history or other information used to generate a score. The report also doesn’t disclose the actual score or the thresholds for getting barred.”

I understand the reason for such a policy, but think it should be used judiciously and not be directed by a company that seems to treat every customer like a sleazy thief. Safdar didn’t say if the policy referred to gifts. What if you give your Aunt Millie a portable heater from Home Depot and her son had already bought her one? Who will be dunned and subsequently penalized for the return? Are customers supposed to keep unwanted items instead?  Have you been confronted with such a punishment? Does it make you think twice about using a vendor that resorts to such measures?

Service of Typos That Can Hurt

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Not all typos are equal, some being more high profile than others.

In spite of best efforts I’ve made typos here since I launched the blog in 2008: Readers Lucrezia, ASK and CG can tell you as they’ve rescued me [no surprise as they were a reporter and two magazine editors, respectively]. I am super careful with the work I do for clients. I re-read my material countless times if there is time. Some clients have eagle-eyes but I’m especially careful with the copy I use for those I detect don’t pay much attention to what they approve. I’m also good at catching errors in others’ copy.

White Out for the White House

Guests to this year’s State of the Union address received a ticket to the “State of the Uniom.” Printed by the Office of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper, this isn’t the first high profile typo on behalf of an administration for whom details don’t much matter.

Jason Silverstein at the New York Daily News reminded us of the Trump inauguration poster “No dream is too big, no challenge is to great…..”

In addition to countless errors by the First Tweeter, Silverstein listed a White House public schedule which spelled the British Prime Minister’s name three times “Teresa May,” instead of Theresa May. Silverstein took delight in noting that the Teresa version is the name of a porn star. The White House Snapchat account referred to “Secretary of Educatuon Betsy DeVos” and a press release about Israel and Palestine referred to “lasting peach.”

Staff is loosey goosey about spelling names: Schaub instead of Walter Shaub; John instead of Jon Huntsman; Human instead of Humane Society; Once instead of Air Force One.

Clean Up Your Act

Photo: ragan.com

At Home Depot last Saturday I pulled over a very nice associate to confirm what I saw on a sign printed on copy paper taped to a giant pile of 8-Pack double rolls of Bounty: “was $14.97,” in small type and in giant type “now 16.97.”

We joked about it —“oh good!” I said; “I get to pay $2 more!!”—and after speaking with his supervisor on the phone to report the goof he walked me to the cashier to get me the $14.97 price because the barcode was set at the higher amount. I was there late afternoon and wonder how many hours or days the sign was there before someone noticed!

Skin in the Game

According to statisticbrain.com, 14 percent of Americans—45 million—have at least one tattoo, the largest percentage falling in the 26 to 40 age range. A small one costs $45 on average and a large one, $150/hour. Annually, we spend $1,650,500,000.

The important statistics for this post are the percentage of people with tattoos who have covered up one with another–5 percent—and the 11 percent who are either getting or have already had one removed. The website doesn’t conjecture the reasons but my guess is either a girlfriend/boyfriend name change or an irritating typo.

In a skip though Google, there’s plenty of coverage of the latter. These are just a few of 38 posted in one site:

  • “Only God will juge me”
  • “You only life once”
  • “Believe Achive”
  • “My mom is my angle”

Have you made—or seen—glaring typos? Do you think that technology—auto-correct or overly complicated templates, for example—is to blame? Do you see more mistakes today than in the last 10+ years?

Service of Pass the Buck: Shoddy, Defective Sales Support at Home Depot

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

CC, a friend, was bursting with understandable frustration when she wrote this guest post. The incident she described happened at a NJ Home Depot.

The day she submitted the story the company was in the news. It’s “among the biggest gainers” wrote Ryan Dezember and Corrie Driebusch in “A Rare Bright Light in Retailing.” The Wall Street Journal reporters attributed the rise in stock prices of big boxes in the home improvement sector to booming US house prices and construction. After reading about this transaction, you wonder how this happened: Untrained, unmotivated staff wasted the customers’ time and their own.

CC wrote: “On Sunday we went to Home Depot to order a rug for our kitchen, which meant picking out an office or indoor/outdoor carpet to be bound in a custom size.  Simple, right?  I’ve done it before. This time Home Depot dropped the ball repeatedly.

Mistake 1:  There were two sales people in the carpet department, seated at the desk.  One was busy with a customer. The other was playing with her tape measure. I approached and explained what I wanted and why. She barely looked at me and told me I needed to go to the garden department. I explained that I’d placed a similar order in this department before and that I knew what I wanted was here. She grudgingly got up and gestured toward a rack before resuming playing with her tape measure. This sales clerk did NOT want to help me or make a sale!

Mistake 2:  I found what I wanted and approached the other sales clerk, who was now free. I explained what I wanted and asked him to ballpark price it out.  He instantly tried to talk me into buying a stock item – because, he said, it was cheaper, I wouldn’t have to wait three weeks, etc.  I explained that it wasn’t an issue of price or time but size and style. He grudgingly calculated (with some difficulty) the cost.  This sales clerk wanted an easy sale, not one that made him work.

Mistake 3:  After finalizing the carpet choice, I went back to the second clerk and said I wanted to place the order.  He had started to write it up when a young sales clerk came into the department to start her shift. He instantly insisted that she complete the transaction “to get credit for it.” She said she had no experience with a custom order that involved binding. He insisted and then left.  This guy REALLY didn’t want to work and was willing to let his young colleague struggle to help us.

Mistake 4:  Eventually, all three of the clerks got involved in calculating the cost and completing the paperwork. They all seemed so uncertain how to do this, I felt impelled to check their math at each step.  No one was sure about where the order would be shipped, and no one told us that we’d be putting down 90% and then paying a balance on delivery. The order was finalized, we thought, and I paid with a credit card.  The process was far too complicated and the clerks were not properly trained.

Mistake 5: After my card was run, the system would not finalize the deal.  It kept saying we hadn’t paid.

  • The older two clerks insisted we go pay at checkout. 
  • The younger one knew how to check whether our card actually had been charged. It had. 
  • Just then, the store’s assistant manager showed up.  He could see three clerks working with two obviously distressed customers, so he stopped to ask what was wrong.  He did NOT look at or engage with us then or over the next 20 minutes. He sat and played with his cell phone, taking calls, while they went through the whole thing again.
  • Eventually, he had the young clerk call HD’s central tech office in Atlanta.
  • The young clerk, however, was very apologetic and professional as she tried to sort it out.  The assistant manager quite obviously wanted to be anywhere else. Tech couldn’t help, and the young clerk shut down her terminal and tried another one with no luck.  Senior management ignored us and never apologized!

Mistake 6: It had now been at least an hour since I first asked for a price.  Other clerks would buzz by the desk and try to chat up the three clerks we were working with. Finally, another manager came and took things over. The assistant store manager left without a word. When the new manager could get nowhere, she apologized and told us to leave – that they would figure it out and call us by the next morning.  Home Depot wasted more than an hour of our time before cutting us loose.

At that point, I was prepared to cancel the whole thing and go somewhere else – a sentiment I’d expressed to the clerks several times.

What they did right:  The young clerk called me later and again apologized profusely, telling me nothing had been resolved but promising to call me next morning.  When I opened my email the next day, the transaction had gone through.  She called me within minutes to explain what had happened with the computer system and to apologize profusely once more. Her apologies were genuine.  She and the second manager, alone, had behaved professionally.  She told me that the second manager was giving us the carpet ($300) at no charge. Later that day, I got an email update showing that the order had been fast-tracked and would now be completed in a week instead of three.

Will I ever place a custom order again at Home Depot?  No way!  The company finally did the right thing, but all the wrong steps along the way gave us an insight into the company that was extremely unflattering.  I go into Home Depot under duress as it is (my husband practically lives there).  I prefer to go to a hardware store.  Now I will, at every opportunity.

How does a district manager inspire catatonic staff at an individual store to treat each sale with care? When salespeople pass the buck and act uninspired is it because they: 

  • don’t think an order is big enough to bother with
  • are lazy
  • feel there’s nothing in it for them if they work smart and no downside to being sluggish
  • don’t know better
  • are not trained to be effective salespeople 

While Home Depot may be doing well for the moment, the retail landscape is bleak, which portends cutbacks for millions of jobs. How can anyone in retail dare to act blasé and indifferent? Doesn’t an employee want to be chosen to stay in the event of massive layoffs? What happened to personal pride?

Service of Selfish Redux

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Service of Selfish Redux

Here are some new instances to add to the rest previously covered in this blog.

Reflect on This

When I got to the house a few Fridays ago, all four reflective markers astride the two entrances to our driveway were missing. There are so many more expensive things to steal from a property I couldn’t imagine why anyone would take our markers. [They cost less than $3 each.] I mentioned this puzzle to the man at Home Depot in Poughkeepsie who directed me to the markers aisle and he suggested, “You saved someone from making the trip here to get them like you had to.” Markers are essential on our country road as no streetlights alert a driver to the driveway that has a 6-foot high wood fence on either side.

Who knows if he guessed right but gosh, it rang so possible these days and so quickly popped out of his mouth he must have known of other instances of petty theft like this. I hadn’t thought of it. [As the ground is frozen, I had to hammer a screwdriver in it to make a hole to hold each marker.]

Hit and Run

The Home Depot cashier told me what just happened to her daughter’s fiancé. He was driving her daughter’s car, an old one that had taken her years of savings to overhaul when a car slammed into him making him, in turn, crash into the car ahead. The car was totaled. Meanwhile the car that caused the mess dashed away, a hit and run.

Hit and Run–but Stopped

Another cashier, a young woman at Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, told me that she’d been run into by a car in the city and that she was nevertheless lucky on several counts. On impact she flew in the air and first landed on the hood of the car which was softer than the street where she eventually toppled. This driver started to run but witnesses jumped into action. An imposing Puerto Rican man, she said, stood in front of the car with his hands in the air indicating “STOP” which prevented the driver from moving forward while others called the police. [Better news: She said that these days her injured back only twinges once in a while.]

“What’s yours is mine,” is nothing new to those who turn to theft for a living or because they don’t have time to buy what you own and they need. As for the drivers in the hit and run instances, I can imagine how frightened they must have been, especially the man who ran into the young girl. How might we dust off and refresh the Golden Rule to help people override natural tendencies?

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