It happened again. Poor customer service is the norm these days, but I feel that I have to take a moment to mention exceptionally poor customer service.
Some quick background: A few months back, I bought a file cabinet. The bottoms of the drawers were made of a cardboard-like material that could support about 1 or 2 pounds for a few weeks before buckling and splitting in two. Having this knowledge in hand, I proceeded to put about 10 or 15 pounds in each drawer and hope for the best.
Well, this weekend, the proverbial straw finally broke the camel’s back and my drawer's bottom. I was sort of expecting this, so I knew that when the time came, I'd simply go to Home Depot, get some sort of panel board, and re-build the bottoms of the drawers. So off to the Depot I went, thinking this would be a simple, uncomplicated trip. Wrong, wrong, wrong…
Upon entering the store, I make my way over to the wood section, gawking that they already have Christmas trees on display! I quickly find the boards that I need, and begin my search for an employee. They must know when you're looking for them, as when you don’t need one, you will have at least 3 or 4 of them ask you for help. Finally, after waiting in an ad-hoc queue, I got my turn.
"Hi, I need these two boards cut down to 12 ½ inches by 26 ½ inches please."
"No, not today."
"Our saw is broken."
"Don't you, like, sell saws here, too?"
"Yes, they are different."
"But the ones you sell – they cut wood, no?"
"So not THAT different."
"No, but ours is broken…"
This went on for a couple more minutes, as I could tell that some other customers were quite amused by the irony I was pointing out. I can’t imagine that I was the only one who needed a piece of wood cut that weekend, and for them to simply accept the fact that their saw was busted is just poor customer service at its best. Luckily for me, I have a good neighbor who has every tool under the sun. He gladly helped me out and cut the boards down to size in just a few seconds. They fit perfectly, and my file cabinet is now back up and running, so to speak.
Competition has its benefits. It fosters alternatives and good service. Take away competition, and there goes the alternatives and good service. The Home Depot that I frequent is just a couple of miles from my house. The nearest Lowe’s are anywhere from 9 to 13 miles away. Not really that far distance-wise, but if you know the DC area, you understand that a drive from Vienna to either Sterling or Alexandria on a weekend day takes most of that weekend day. It's all about travel time, not distance.
The people at the Home Depot know this too: no matter how poor their service is, its still better than dealing with the Mixing Bowl or the Dulles Toll Road.
Thus, another day, another miserable customer service story. This one doesn't have as happy an ending as my other one, as I will likely go back to that Home Depot many times in the future, because it is just so close and convenient. If someone from Lowe's is reading this, you now know where your next store needs to be…