Monday, July 30, 2007

More on Lowe's and Home Depot

The discussions here and at other sites on the differing responses from Lowe's and Home Depot to complaints about Bill O'Reilly have settled onto a couple of common themes.

One, is that many people find the service and quality sorely lacking in all of the big box home project chains. Any complaint seemed like a good enough opening to warrant a general bitch session about how unsatisfied we are with the chains. For those of us old enough to remember actual lumber yards, the nostalgia was thick enough to cut with miter saw. As we have cut down the last old growth forests, the quality of lumber has declined over the years. This is a process that has been going on for over a century. Furniture makers were complaining about the declining quality of hardwood before the First World War. Meanwhile, the rise of big box stores has not only wiped out small businesses with ties to the community, is has deprived of of the expertise that lived in those stores. Small building trade-stores were staffed by professionals in the trade. Big boxes are staffed by retail clerks, mostly young people on their way onto a career in something else. When we go int big box stores we not only wait a long time for service, we wait a long time for indifferent, unknowledgeable service.

Others took their unhappiness up to the next level and ranted about how the big box corporations are generally bad corporate citizens.

In general, though, people's complaints broke down between those who think Lowe's and Home Depot are equally as bad, and those who think Lowe's is in some way better. No one seems willing to actually defend Home Depot.

I did find one interesting update to the original issue of my post. When John Aravosis first quoted the snotty letter from Home Depot, he said, "Somebody in corporate communications is going to get fired." That was my thought. I figured that letter must have been sent by the last guy in the office on Friday night, and that someone more senior would arrive today and be horrified at the "shut up and stop bothering us" tone. The essence of corporate communications is to put out fires with soothing words even when the real message is "shut up and stop bothering us." The irritated and dismissive tone of that letter is way out of line.

Ihateaphids, a reader at Pharyngula, wrote to Home Depot over the weekend and received the same letter. This means that it is a form letter that has been distributed to their customer service provider and that it must have had some kind of management approval (though how far up the food chain is hard to say).

To summarize: For me the issue is not that Home Depot sponsors O'Reilly and Lowe's does not. After all, Lowe's had no problem with O'Reilly a week ago. Any company that advertises widely is bound to advertise on a venue that offends someone. The issue isn't even that Lowe's responded favorably to our complaints and Home Depot unfavorably. No company can cave in to every boycott called by every web site on the internet and still stay in business. Lowe's should be rewarded for acting in favor, even if just by a nice letter. Home Depot's offense in this case is their contempt for their customers. We demand at least a polite response even if we don't get what we want. Our response to a curt dismissal should be another curt dismissal. If they can't give us some of their time then we don't need to give them some of our dollars. The correct response to "fuck you" is "fuck you, too."

No comments: