The human touch

(photo by winsordi)

(photo by winsordi)

Something strange is happening. I noticed it first at Home Depot, a place that, like all big-box stores, gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Superstores have been huge, echoing, lonely places that, like city streets, leave me feeling adrift no matter how many people surround me. I wander the aisles, confused and anxious, knowing that finding someone to guide me gently to what I am looking for is like searching for a well in the Gobi Desert.

My guy and I had given up on Lowe’s long ago. It was even worse than Home Depot. Even when we found someone who worked there, the odds were excellent that they’d hand us off to someone else who either never showed up, or finally arrived to tell us that what we wanted was out of stock.


Our local hardware store might cost a little more on some items, but we were happy to sacrifice the box-store discount for the happy experience of finding a knowledgeable employee who was willing to answer our questions.

A couple of months ago I went back to Home Depot. I had to. They’re the only ones I know who stock what I needed.

I was mobbed by helpful associates. Well, perhaps “mobbed” is an exaggeration. But after the cavernous silence of the past few years it felt like a mob scene. I figured it was a fluke. Sunspots, maybe.

No. A few weeks later I went back, partner in tow. He hadn’t believed my tall tale about customer service. Within two minutes of our arriving, a Home Depot employee asked whether we were finding what we needed. Five minutes later, another offered to get us a cart. A third stopped with a smile just a few aisles over, checking to see whether we had found everything we needed.

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