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To purchase a mouse trap I'd rather hold it in my hand than net shop , even if it's in a package to determine what i'm getting and i sure don't need a package of 5 or 10 from a computer . And i sure don't want to mail it back because i received rat traps rather than mouse traps .

There was 1 ace hardware in the town i recently moved from but the new town has 0.0 and i miss that friendly store where a live person knew what was what . All 3 employees checked and stocked shelves . Ask any one of those where fender washers would be and they'll tell you something like -- isle 6 left side about mid-way down . I appreciate having that type of life for so many years .
 

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To purchase a mouse trap I'd rather hold it in my hand than net shop , even if it's in a package to determine what i'm getting and i sure don't need a package of 5 or 10 from a computer . And i sure don't want to mail it back because i received rat traps rather than mouse traps .

There was 1 ace hardware in the town i recently moved from but the new town has 0.0 and i miss that friendly store where a live person knew what was what . All 3 employees checked and stocked shelves . Ask any one of those where fender washers would be and they'll tell you something like -- isle 6 left side about mid-way down . I appreciate having that type of life for so many years .
We have 2 Aces, Most of the time very good and helpful. They tend to be higher on prices , but they have a lot of stuff.
 

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The experienced pros are at the lumber yards where the good contractors shop, not at Home Cheapo and Blowes.
That's something I forgot to mention. Not that we've had a ton of trades through our place, none dealt with HD (we don't have a local Loew's). I've never dealt with the Pro Desk at our HD but I can't imagine a contractor dealing with them if they are anything like the rest of the floor staff. I also heard that, in the beginning, their credit/payment requirements weren't that contractor-friendly.
 

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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 .
Thanks Randy. Regarding that little jab, you took the words right out of my mouth. Then again, this is the interwebs, and maybe he's just had a run of bad experiences in steel country.

The other half of the equation is how often good, reputable and fair contractors are put to the test by customers who just don't know any better. I just emailed an estimate for a tenant flip job and I have "that feeling", despite running my numbers a few times.
 

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I've had pretty good luck from big orange and big blue especially the guys in plumbing and electrical.
In our area, Ace is full of high school kids. Even at that they do TRY to be helpful but they just don't have the knowledge base or experience to be of much help.
Before walking into any store I try to have a solid understanding of what I'm looking for.
 

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I am fortunate to have with 10 miles of my house, two family run TrueValue, one Ace, and two independents and two lumber yards. All have long term knowledgeable employees and owners. The big boxes have zero knowledgeable employees at the moment, During down turns in the economy some times I find unemployed skilled people at the big boxes but it was still rare. Around us contractors are so busy they are making way more doing their work than than they would working at a big box. In the past none of the contractors I have hired use the big boxes. They don’t have the time to go “shopping”. They prefer to call trusted suppliers that will deliver what they need on the day and time they need it, even if that is 8:00 AM tomorrow morning. Driving to a store to pick stuff up is time they aren’t working on completing a job. Even though I also have three HDs and two Lowe’s within that same 10 mile range, the independents are doing pretty well
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Thanks Randy. Regarding that little jab, you took the words right out of my mouth. Then again, this is the interwebs, and maybe he's just had a run of bad experiences in steel country.

The other half of the equation is how often good, reputable and fair contractors are put to the test by customers who just don't know any better. I just emailed an estimate for a tenant flip job and I have "that feeling", despite running my numbers a few times.
A lot of it just comes down to capitalist economics: higher demand means higher opportunity for quality to go out the window - especially when everyone is increasing their prices either for operating costs or because they want to match the competition.

I think it's a combination of both not enough contractors to go around and a lack of knowledge that can pick out quality points. For the average person, it just becomes harder to judge people across the "get what you pay for" mentality.

In my case, the good guys are still around but they're booked solid or are 10x more expensive because the bottom feeders are now 10x more expensive (or vice versa). A rising tide floods all towns.
 

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Our local Lowes has a couple of older guys in the electrical department who really know their stuff. Most of the other employees are useless.
 
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Hate to get all theoretical and academic, but this is the natural consequence of globalization and modern free-market capitalism. Without effective regulation, it becomes a race to the bottom, and large corporations can't currently survive unless they drive employee salaries down so much that it's now a confused 17 year-old on minimum wage instead of a highly skilled and experienced resource. It would be great if it wasn't that way, but that's how competition currently works; a corporate strategy might be brutal and horrible for employees and consumers alike, but if it's the only option to remain competitive, all must bow to market forces. Sadly, the 17 confused year-old is often the one taking the blame ('back in my day I used to get up before I went to bed...'). But this is a transitionary phase and costly humans (even teenagers on minimum wage) will soon be removed even more from the equation. Digital assistants will soon replace in-store expertise (this is already on their strategic roadmaps, I can promise you, and is already happening in other areas of retail and services). In the early days, this will suuuuuuuuck and people will get extremely frustrated with these 'dumb machines', but within a relatively brief period they will be able to help you far, far better than Larry with 35 years of experience, even if he was paid $200/hr.
 

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it's now a confused 17 year-old on minimum wage instead of a highly skilled and experienced resource
Might just be me, but everyone out here looks like a confused 30+ year old or 60+ year-old. You're right about the free-market capitalism, though. It waits for no one and frankly it'll probably get worse before it gets better unless there's some true incentive for trades-based education.

Sometimes I wonder if this is just the universe getting revenge on society for treating the trades like a second-rate career field for so long...
 

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I have found that Lowes hires mostly young 17 to 22 aged people who have zero experience in home repair orconstruction. They couldnt tell the difference between a screw and a bolt.
Home Depot hires more knowledgeable people in different trades.
That's just my experience in shopping at both stores.
It's just a sign of the times. Trade knowledgeable people dont work at home stores. They work in their trade.
Generations have foregone trades and substituted them with computers.
Ask them anything about graphics cards and gaming and they will make your head spin with technical jargon.
 

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Hate to get all theoretical and academic, but this is the natural consequence of globalization and modern free-market capitalism. Without effective regulation, it becomes a race to the bottom, and large corporations can't currently survive unless they drive employee salaries down so much that it's now a confused 17 year-old on minimum wage instead of a highly skilled and experienced resource. It would be great if it wasn't that way, but that's how competition currently works; a corporate strategy might be brutal and horrible for employees and consumers alike, but if it's the only option to remain competitive, all must bow to market forces. Sadly, the 17 confused year-old is often the one taking the blame ('back in my day I used to get up before I went to bed...'). But this is a transitionary phase and costly humans (even teenagers on minimum wage) will soon be removed even more from the equation. Digital assistants will soon replace in-store expertise (this is already on their strategic roadmaps, I can promise you, and is already happening in other areas of retail and services). In the early days, this will suuuuuuuuck and people will get extremely frustrated with these 'dumb machines', but within a relatively brief period they will be able to help you far, far better than Larry with 35 years of experience, even if he was paid $200/hr.
Or simply go on YouTube and find what you need to learn and buy. Then go get it.
 

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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?
I simply go on YouTube and the internet to find how to and what I need. Then go buy it.
 

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I worked at Big Orange off and on for about 30 years, from the mid 90's until 2015 when I had a workplace injury that resulted in me becoming permanently disabled. ( I fell down and go boom and had a TBI) The last 5 years I was full time and the front end manager.

Most of the stores I worked at, (2 in Minnesota and 1 in Colorado) a lot of the staff were from the trades. Especially in Electrical, Plumbing and Paint, or were very experienced DIYers like myself. Most were part time, some were full time. And some were department supervisors. Over that time, I did see a lot of the people who worked in the trades, return to them as the building boom increased and then return to the stores as the boom waned.

When I moved to Colorado, I was working for Vail Resorts and I managed one of the ticket offices. Since it was seasonal job, I needed work in the off season. Guess where I went? Big Orange of course. I was hired part time and transitioned to full time and then got promoted to the Front End Supervisor (FES).

In the 5 years I was the FES, I was constantly short of cashiers, even though I was paying a buck more an hour than anyone else in the valley. The same goes for every other department. We were the highest paying store in the valley, yet we were always short staffed.

We had several pro's working in our store. But, being a pro doesn't mean you are knowledgeable or ale to relate that knowledge to a customer. Luckily we did have a great one in the electrical department, and plumbing department. The pro's in building materials were failed contractors and were a bit bitter about it.

When I first started at HD, their training was not all that great. Over the years their training materials and classes improved dramatically. As well as their requirements for training. In the beginning, it was mostly pamphlets and video tapes. Later on, it transitioned to online learning and it kept getting better. HD also encouraged staff to cross train so you felt comfortable to help in other departments. Sadly, most people didn't do that. And only a few supervisors did.

Being a geek, I loved to learn as much as I could. So I cross trained in as many departments as I could. I learned to make keys, cut blinds, learn more about plumbing and electrical, sell appliances, etc. Because, as the FES, I had head cashiers who could take over if I had to go to another department to do something if they were busy or on break or something.

Over the time I was working there, demands on the staff was getting higher. We were always understaffed and the building/remodeling boom was taking off again. That meant that a lot of the more trained staff was returning to the field and leaving our store with less trained staff.

Yet, we still paid more than anyone in the Vail Valley. HD offered great benefits for even part timers. Yet we had a hard time hiring, much less keeping staff. Part of the problem was housing. Most who worked there, lived 30 minutes away at a minimum. Some lived high up which made driving in the winter an issue as the roads would often be closed due to things like avalanches or the roads not being plowed yet.

So yeah, when the building/remodeling boom is on, you will find less skilled help at big box stores. And it is not because Big Box stores are not paying enough, it is because the more skilled people are making more in the field. And, yes, you are seeing a lot of new people working in the stores. Part of it is work ethic, the younger crowd will jump ship if they don't like something you say, the hours you have them scheduled, etc. Because there is always a new job down the street. About the only place where you find that people are not leaving is Costco but even that is changing.

In the 7 years I have been gone from HD, I keep checking in on occasion. A lot of the Supervisors that were there when I was there have either left or been let go. Only 3 of the 25 DS's are left. None of the senior staff are left. I think they have been changed out 4 or 5 times.

The reason I left: I was opening the store and I was checking to see if the alarm was on for our rental area. I was up on a stack of Durock about 18" high. I was turning around to get off when my store phone rang. I was trying to answer it when something happened. I couldn't move my arms and I couldn't stop my movements. I fell of the stack of durock and I couldn't move my arms to stop my fall. I remember looking at the concrete floor thinking I was going to hit it head first and it was going to hurt. (It did) No one saw me fall but two DS's heard me fall. They later said they never wanted to hear that sound again. I was later diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and I was eventually declared permanently disabled.
 
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I worked in the plumbing department at Home Depot for a year. I did not know any more about than the the average DIYer. I wanted to work in landscaping or the area with lawn mowers etc. I knew about them.

But they put me in plumbing and I learned on the fly. Many of the people I worked with were high school students or recent graduates. They knew less than me.

There was one guy we worked with that was a retired plumber. He was paid about $28 an hour, but he was a relic from the days when they had a specialist working on every shift. Everyone else made 12-14 dollars. He was about 70 and he was like the guy that posted above, he did not need the money but he did it to get out of the house. He only worked about 3 days a week. He did not move anything heavy and he did not drive heavy equipment.

He knew everything about plumbing, he was a wealth of knowledge. They don't hire those experts any more.

I did my best to help people. Usually, we could figure out the problem together. Especially if they took a pic of the
p trap under their sink....lol

Many times there would be a plumber in the same aisle and they would jump into the conversation.

There was little training involved from HD. I watched a boatload of videos on forklift safety, and upcoming sales promotions, but nothing related to plumbing. It was embarassing when a customer asked me about Pex B and I could not sufficiently explain the difference between Pex A and Pex B and the fittings used for them.

It was even worse when someone asked me about a product and I had to tell them that the night crew must have set up the display the night prior because I had never seen it before.

My fav experience was when a customer said they went on the website and it said we had 24 ? water faucets of the kind they were looking for and I could not find any on the shelves because the stocking crew just put them where they could find a space and not where they belonged. Somehow it was always my fault I could not find them.

But I believe that poster that said that it is cheaper to keep a rotating staff than to pay people more money. They rarely gave raises and the staff constantly changed out.

It must work though, because HD, Lowes and WM have been money making cash cows for many, many years.
 

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I worked in the plumbing department at Home Depot for a year. I did not know any more about than the the average DIYer. I wanted to work in landscaping or the area with lawn mowers etc. I knew about them.

But they put me in plumbing and I learned on the fly. Many of the people I worked with were high school students or recent graduates. They knew less than me.

There was one guy we worked with that was a retired plumber. He was paid about $28 an hour, but he was a relic from the days when they had a specialist working on every shift. Everyone else made 12-14 dollars. He was about 70 and he was like the guy that posted above, he did not need the money but he did it to get out of the house. He only worked about 3 days a week. He did not move anything heavy and he did not drive heavy equipment.

He knew everything about plumbing, he was a wealth of knowledge. They don't hire those experts any more.

I did my best to help people. Usually, we could figure out the problem together. Especially if they took a pic of the
p trap under their sink....lol

Many times there would be a plumber in the same aisle and they would jump into the conversation.

There was little training involved from HD. I watched a boatload of videos on forklift safety, and upcoming sales promotions, but nothing related to plumbing. It was embarassing when a customer asked me about Pex B and I could not sufficiently explain the difference between Pex A and Pex B and the fittings used for them.

It was even worse when someone asked me about a product and I had to tell them that the night crew must have set up the display the night prior because I had never seen it before.

My fav experience was when a customer said they went on the website and it said we had 24 ? water faucets of the kind they were looking for and I could not find any on the shelves because the stocking crew just put them where they could find a space and not where they belonged. Somehow it was always my fault I could not find them.

But I believe that poster that said that it is cheaper to keep a rotating staff than to pay people more money. They rarely gave raises and the staff constantly changed out.

It must work though, because HD, Lowes and WM have been money making cash cows for many, many years.
Yeah I hate that. When the website says the store has 50 in stock but there are none on the shelf. And theres no one around to find the box up on the 2nd story shelf tucked away.
 
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