Do-it-yourself tips: different stores, different experiences – feel free

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I served a young customer the other day, young in the sense that he was probably born on the 21stst century, which for me is damn young.

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She was looking to buy some gate hardware and a few other things related to a fence project she was working on. After showing her some fence and gate hardware options, I asked her if she would need lumber for this project. It was then that she informed me that she was expecting a delivery from the local big box store and therefore the required wood would not be needed.

Now, I would have to assume that this young lady had no idea I owned it. Not that the owner has to be recognizable, because one, I don’t know how Facebook works, and two, if I think most people under 30 are relatively indistinguishable, then I have to assume that all of us gray-haired people look like him too.

No, it’s more because not many people would be so honest with such a comment, especially to a landlord.

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“Yes” she continued, “they are a little cheaper for us.”

Hearing this, I asked him if we could do some comparisons, because it surprised me. Not that the big boxes aren’t competitive in price, because they certainly can be, but more because the items she was referring to were recently compared, so I was pretty confident in our lower retail price.

What’s handy about interacting with a young person, especially one as shrewd as this young woman, is that he’s very quick to provide information. By the time I was two keys into our computer with my one finger typing progress, she had downloaded her big box order, had the invoice on her phone, along with the expected delivery date.

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In hindsight, having her look at me must have been incredibly painful, those few seconds spent on an old person’s computer feeling like hours on a young person’s computer. Either way, his patience was rewarded with the discovery that we were indeed cheaper on almost every item. We also discovered a mistake she made in her initial wood order, so we corrected that and were able to deliver everything for half the big box store’s shipping.

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Now, things don’t always work out so well for us family businesses, but it’s good when they do.

When I asked her why she didn’t come to us first, she admitted that she finds stores like ours, which certainly cater to the contractor and home builder, a bit intimidating – we understand that. And, certainly understand that approaching a counter where there might be a loud conversation with a tall, unshaven contractor on one end, with an equally dynamic interaction with a sturdy individual on the other end, can be a bit intimidating. However, you must intervene.

Approach this counter directly and tell us what you need. Besides, you should probably know that your generation intimidates us. You’re brighter, more in tune with the trends, and your knee joints are probably working very, very well, allowing you to pick something up off the floor without wincing like someone stabbed you with a fork. Essentially, you are the complete, enlightened package.

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Shopping in a big-box atmosphere allows the customer a high level of anonymity, which can be liberating. You can walk in, shop, walk out and no one will be notified. If you walk into our house, or most small building supply centers, you will be greeted and asked if we can help you repeatedly.

Know this: it’s more than okay to ask questions, and we’re okay if you don’t buy anything. Take your time and let us help you with all the information you need. If you received a better price from the big box dealer let us know, we hate to be underpriced by these guys.

I hope to see you again soon.

Good building.

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About Catherine Sturm

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