Guys really do like to shop. Just give him a hardware store. All those tools, paint, garden supplies, and nuts and bolts. Nothing like a 3′ lag bolt to raise the testosterone levels. Hardware stores, these days, range from a few of the mom-and-pop franchises to the big-box stores painted orange or blue. The former are usually an Ace, TruValue, or Do It Best brand. Tractor Supply is setting up in a lot of rural communities, providing hardware and livestock supplies. I need not name the big-box stores. So what happens when you leave the pitch fork that you just purchased in the parking lot?
The big-box stores’ business models are mostly based on volume. They are cavernous warehouses, covering a lot of options at low prices. In addition to keeping wages low by hiring “associates” from the pool of college students, under-employed constructions workers, and retirees who are looking for a little extra cash, they buy hammers, paint, and nuts and bolts in massive quantities, thereby being able to contract low wholesale prices. A couple of friends in the building trades have lamented that the manufacturers of the power tools and nails also offer those low wholesale prices by cutting a few corners, such as reducing the number of copper windings on motors, using lower quality metals, etc. I have broken a couple of saws with “normal” use, and pitched multiple nails and screws that were missing points or heads. Yes, I can cut my costs 10% at the big-box store, but probably get greater than 10% loss in the deal.
The franchise, locally owned hardware stores focus more on a service and recognition model of business. They want to build customer bases and keep you coming to them. Their wholesale buying power may not get them the same discounts, and their stores do not allow stocking huge quantities of stuff, but I can usually find just enough of what I want. I usually find that the staff are more easily found and more willing to walk me to the aisle for the product that I am looking for. The cashiers are more consistent and get to know you over time. Of course, this can lead the reverse situation, when you are in a hurry, and they are chatting up the person in front of you about the price of steers at the stocksale last week.
The other day, about 5 p.m. after work, I stopped by one of our local hardware stores, the Rocking R in Harrisonburg, VA. I filled up a cart with lime, diatomaceous earth, fruit tree fertilizer, etc. At the last moment, I remembered that I wanted to purchase a pitch fork too. Of course, wielding a cart with 150 lbs of garden stuff in one hand a pitch fork in the other is a pit cumbersome. When I got to the car, I leaned the pitch fork against the passengers side, while I loaded the garden supplies into the back. Being a dutiful customer, I walked the cart back to the store front, returned to my car, got into the driver’s seat and drove off. I was annoyed at the clunk I heard as I moved, thinking that the load had shifted in back. I had purchased one light bulb and was concerned that it might have ended up under 150 lbs of garden supplies.
About an hour later, I wondered what I had done with the pitch fork. I could see that I had not put down the back seat which I would have needed to do in order to fit it into the back. Damn. That’s what that clunk in the parking lot was. My pitch forks was laying on the pavement and hour away.
The next morning, we left for work early, planning to stop by the hardware store, hoping that someone had noticed the pitch fork and not tossed it into their truck, or hung it back up on the wall with the other pitch forks for sale. Linda wanted to pick up some bulb food too. She went about her shopping and I went to the front desk.
“I was here yesterday about 5 p.m. and left something in the parking lot…”
“Yes, your pitch fork is right there by the register”.
Not only had the found it and brought it in. They wrote my name on it, waiting for me to come in (granted, they could scan the bar code to trace it to my sale). Now, there’s local service for you. I shall have to check on those 3′ lag bolts next time I’m shopping!