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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'll preface this by saying this is just an isolated opinion/observation across maybe less than a hundred instances over the past few years so by no means is this scientific nor intended to put anyone/anything to shame. I get that times change. I'm curious if anyone else has witnessed the same.

Here's the "back in my day" rant as I get older:

When I was a kid, I used to go to home improvement stores dozens of times with my dad and be awed at the level of customer service, knowledge, and downright passion some of these employees had. Even then I assumed they were getting standard retail sales pay, but people would go out of their way to draw up designs, make fancy wood cuts, help walk you through plumbing schematics, etc.

I assumed you either had to be skilled in construction to get these jobs or the company just had a pretty robust training program. I spent my high school years working office supply stores and I did get a pretty solid training program, allowing me to answer the common technical questions across nearly every department. I had assumed similar retail jobs were the same.

Flash forward to present day and I can barely get someone to check inventory by SKU for me nevertheless have any knowledge of any product or project type. Some of the specialists are an exception: paint, windows, pro desks, etc.

I thought I was crazy but it seems to be happening everywhere: literally having to explain to three separate employees what rebar is, why I need spray foam (and what it is so I can find it in store), and customer service tracking down a handful of employees who can tell me what the return policy is on replacement vinyl windows. It's at all of them: big blue, orange, red, pick your flavor of store.

I know...low paying jobs, I'm lucky to be there with the opportunity to buy stuff right now, maybe training has gone to the dogs over the past decade, etc. I called a big box concrete manufacturer the other day (you know the one) and their technical support line is a joke too.

I'm really curious to hear from anyone in the industry or has/knows anyone working these retail jobs: have times just changed? Maybe this is all part of the trades shortage?

With contractors taking everyone for a ride right now, are DIY forums and YouTube channels the only place to turn?

Where did the knowledge go?
 

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Going just from your title, because the post is far too long, I never expect top advice from a big box store. My lumber yard is very helpful and I see the same people all the time. AND their prices are often better. And I was just a small contractor.

The economy has flipped upside down since I retired but seeing all of the help wanted signs I suspect any sales clerk with good knowledge has quickly moved on to a better opportunity.

Bud
Sorry about not reading, my eyes are old and tired.
 
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In my experience most of the knowledgeable were generally older. I even recall a conversation with one who said to me 'I do this 2-3 days a week for something to get me out of the house'.

The bog box stores want everyone to be able to lift and carry x pounds, assist where and when needed as in helping load bags of concrete. Honestly if I were all caught up with my to do lists I might consider a part time job as a clerk but there is no way in Hades that I am willing to lift and carry concrete for $15 (doubt they pay that much) per hour.
 

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Went to the orange box looking to get a dozen keyed alike door knobs. Found an older sales clerk who was actually a retired locksmith. Store had no solution and allowed him to direct customers like me to his house. Took all assemblies there and watched as he expertly re-keyed them all. Cut me a bunch of new keys and back I went. So enjoyable to deal with a real professional.
I never questioned whether he actually had permission to do that, but I now know who to look for when I'm in that department.

Bud
 

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You get what you pay for...
And in this case it's the Store doing the paying.

Most companies today don't want permanent employees or full time.
They save $$$ by having a rotating workforce of new employees keeping the payroll at the starting salaries.
And part time usually gets little in the way of benefits.
 

· retired painter
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Went to the orange box looking to get a dozen keyed alike door knobs
Last locksets I had rekeyed were at big blue. I was a little surprised when the gal said come back in a half hour [previously it had always been done while I waited] I returned 20 minutes later to see her watching a Utube video on how to rekey locks.
 

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I'll preface this by saying this is just an isolated opinion/observation across maybe less than a hundred instances over the past few years so by no means is this scientific nor intended to put anyone/anything to shame. I get that times change. I'm curious if anyone else has witnessed the same.

Here's the "back in my day" rant as I get older:

When I was a kid, I used to go to home improvement stores dozens of times with my dad and be awed at the level of customer service, knowledge, and downright passion some of these employees had. Even then I assumed they were getting standard retail sales pay, but people would go out of their way to draw up designs, make fancy wood cuts, help walk you through plumbing schematics, etc.

I assumed you either had to be skilled in construction to get these jobs or the company just had a pretty robust training program. I spent my high school years working office supply stores and I did get a pretty solid training program, allowing me to answer the common technical questions across nearly every department. I had assumed similar retail jobs were the same.

Flash forward to present day and I can barely get someone to check inventory by SKU for me nevertheless have any knowledge of any product or project type. Some of the specialists are an exception: paint, windows, pro desks, etc.

I thought I was crazy but it seems to be happening everywhere: literally having to explain to three separate employees what rebar is, why I need spray foam (and what it is so I can find it in store), and customer service tracking down a handful of employees who can tell me what the return policy is on replacement vinyl windows. It's at all of them: big blue, orange, red, pick your flavor of store.

I know...low paying jobs, I'm lucky to be there with the opportunity to buy stuff right now, maybe training has gone to the dogs over the past decade, etc. I called a big box concrete manufacturer the other day (you know the one) and their technical support line is a joke too.

I'm really curious to hear from anyone in the industry or has/knows anyone working these retail jobs: have times just changed? Maybe this is all part of the trades shortage?

With contractors taking everyone for a ride right now, are DIY forums and YouTube channels the only place to turn?

Where did the knowledge go?
Really contractors are taking everyone for a ride right now. :rolleyes: You must live in a pretty crummy area. Yes there are some shysters out there that give us hard working honest ones a bad name. Most us contractors are honest people just wanting to make a fair living. Have you ever figured out what it even cost us to do business .
 

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In any job you have to be passionate about it. It seems the younger ones don’t have that passion. They are there to fill in their 6 hours part time as full time is not available. I highly doubt there is any proper training. New employees might be getting trained from someone else who just started a few months before them.
I’ve learned to be patient now and try to look online for parts or whatever I need. Then I go to the store and buy it. It’s nice because the big box stores tell you what aisle and shelf it’s on.


Retired guy from Southern Manitoba, Canada.
 

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Where did the knowledge go?
The knowledge is still out there, its just not working at the hardware or big box store.

We shouldn't complain, because it's the modern consumer that caused this. The only thing that the great majority of consumers cares about, is getting the lowest price.

Used to be that there was a hardware store down the street, and that is going to be where you get your replacement faucet. Period.
Now, you are going search online for THE LOWEST price. If its at the independent hardware store down the street, great. If it at Home Depot, then I guess you are going to drive to Home Depot. If its on Amazon, then its coming from Amazon.

If they are going to compete, they can't pay premium wages to attract skilled talent.
 

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You get what you pay for...
And in this case it's the Store doing the paying.

Most companies today don't want permanent employees or full time.
They save $$$ by having a rotating workforce of new employees keeping the payroll at the starting salaries.
And part time usually gets little in the way of benefits.
Exactly !!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Really contractors are taking everyone for a ride right now. :rolleyes: You must live in a pretty crummy area. Yes there are some shysters out there that give us hard working honest ones a bad name. Most us contractors are honest people just wanting to make a fair living. Have you ever figured out what it even cost us to do business .
It's all relative to the current economic condition. It's a generalization on this area for sure and certainly nothing against you. There are a ton of good ones but more often than not (at least out here) the current market has allowed a TON of really bad ones to thrive or at least to charge a minimum that is well above what it used to be. This happened back in 2008/2009 when companies would say the the recession was the reason they couldn't increase wages, cost of goods were so high, etc. All of that is true (and still is right now) BUT the same mechanism has caused a contractor's market where quality of labor is a wash because no one knows any different.

It goes back to the "get what you pay for" comments from everyone else. The problem is...without the basic knowledge tree or an idea of what's good/bad, people don't know if their $200/hr lawn mowing service is any better/worse than your $150/hr drywall person or the next contractor - both real quotes here.

..
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The knowledge is still out there, its just not working at the hardware or big box store.

We shouldn't complain, because it's the modern consumer that caused this. The only thing that the great majority of consumers cares about, is getting the lowest price.

Used to be that there was a hardware store down the street, and that is going to be where you get your replacement faucet. Period.
Now, you are going search online for THE LOWEST price. If its at the independent hardware store down the street, great. If it at Home Depot, then I guess you are going to drive to Home Depot. If its on Amazon, then its coming from Amazon.

If they are going to compete, they can't pay premium wages to attract skilled talent.
I definitely miss the store down the street. Agreed on price. If we focus on sheer commodity prices, I guess something else has to give to balance it out. Cheap faucet with no one knowing how to put it in.
 

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Alot of good info here and something else I'll add in has to do with online shopping. From a business standpoint, why would I pay top dollar for knowledgeable people so "customers" can come in, pick their brain about how to do xyz project, items they need etc just so the customer can make a list, leave and go buy it all somewhere else with a lower price? Brick and mortar stores have become showrooms / information hubs for internet sellers while taking the hit for years now. Not saying any of it is right, but it's the way it is now. Sure some items they will sell just because of urgency, but those couple items aren't going to keep everything going. Not to mention that alot of the younger generations that would typically start in these positions just haven't had the upbringing to learn or be taught these things since their parent's house maybe didn't need much work or because it was all hired out. You're seeing the results of big generational shifts coming into play.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Alot of good info here and something else I'll add in has to do with online shopping. From a business standpoint, why would I pay top dollar for knowledgeable people so "customers" can come in, pick their brain about how to do xyz project, items they need etc just so the customer can make a list, leave and go buy it all somewhere else with a lower price? Brick and mortar stores have become showrooms / information hubs for internet sellers while taking the hit for years now. Not saying any of it is right, but it's the way it is now. Sure some items they will sell just because of urgency, but those couple items aren't going to keep everything going. Not to mention that alot of the younger generations that would typically start in these positions just haven't had the upbringing to learn or be taught these things since their parent's house maybe didn't need much work or because it was all hired out. You're seeing the results of big generational shifts coming into play.
Compared to a lot of retail verticals, home improvement still seems like they can hold on to fighting the "showroom" mentality because they solve the urgency issue but also because of sheer inventory and quality of goods. Similar to a grocery order, I don't want Elmer Fudd picking out my 2x4s or bags of concrete that have been sitting there all year. If Amazon starts stocking lumber and plumbing at a low cost, that might change the game...

I still wonder if the issue isn't as much pay as it is training -- although pay really is an issue, regardless. Would be it be that hard to throw someone into a basic 1-2 week products/materials training? They don't have to solve the world's problems, but knowing the difference between rebar and a drill bit seems like a good start. The other thought is bring back commissions-based sales (even at a micro level) so that service quality is rewarded and not wasted on the masses. All food for thought.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
around me, most of the old guys have left the bigger stores. Ace hardware seems to have the highest ratio of older generation .
I still see a lot of "old folks" at the big box stores but the ones I run into are the the "grandma needs a job because the economy is shot" or "gotta stay active" crowd and not the ex-contractor type.
 

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It' not just the 'current economy', although it hasn't helped. I remember when Big Orange first broke into Canada, they seemed to hire either ex-trades or at least very knowledgeable people. It did last. Now it all part-timers so they can pay them less and avoid paying benefits. I try to mind my own business (really!) but once overheard an employee giving electrical advice to a customer who clearly had no electrical knowledge. After the exchange and the employee walked away, I actually approached the lady and suggested that what the employee told her was dangerous.

I've had decent luck with our local Rona (a Canadian chain now owned by Lowe's). They have a guy on service desk who was a GC but had to get out because of back problems. We'll see how long it lasts because Lowe' Canada is for sale and they have announced a bunch of store closures.

My best luck has always been hardware stores and lumber yards (or combined, 'building centre'). We all remember that hardware store from our youth that not only had everything but could actually find it. The best ones looked like they could be shut down by the fire inspector. Maybe it's different in larger cities but it seems the guys on the desk at our local yards have been there as long as I've been in the area, and that's pushing 30 years. As a DIYer, many times they've offered better solutions than the one that was in my head when I walked in.
 

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Occassionally I've found a real tradesman working in a Big Box. One guy was a carpenter who told me he worked there the required number of hours to qualify for health insurance and the rest of the week he would do his own thing with a lower overhead. Another time I asked a Big Box person for some help. He told me he was an office worker and was covering the floor while the hourlies were in a meeting. I asked him why it was when a new store opened the floor help was excellent and then went downhill after a few weeks. He said that SWAT teams were sent to new stores for the first few weeks. After that who knows. Met a plumbing pro in the tool dept. I asked why he was assigned to tools instead of plumbing. He said that's were the manager assigned him. I asked someone in paint for some help....person was an artist but didn't know about house paint. Asked another if the had a 3 pound cut of shellac. He said 'let's go weigh the can'.
 

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Compared to a lot of retail verticals, home improvement still seems like they can hold on to fighting the "showroom" mentality because they solve the urgency issue but also because of sheer inventory and quality of goods. Similar to a grocery order, I don't want Elmer Fudd picking out my 2x4s or bags of concrete that have been sitting there all year. If Amazon starts stocking lumber and plumbing at a low cost, that might change the game...

I still wonder if the issue isn't as much pay as it is training -- although pay really is an issue, regardless. Would be it be that hard to throw someone into a basic 1-2 week products/materials training? They don't have to solve the world's problems, but knowing the difference between rebar and a drill bit seems like a good start. The other thought is bring back commissions-based sales (even at a micro level) so that service quality is rewarded and not wasted on the masses. All food for thought.
Amazon sells plenty of plumbing fixtures and fittings. And at a very competitive price.

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