My Home Improvement Habit

Since I moved in to my new place last Wednesday, there hasn't been a day in which I haven't made at least one trip to a home improvement store.  Sometimes, like last night, it's for $5 worth of bolts and screws.  Other times, it's for much more.  (Sometimes, I swear I can hear a tiny voice screaming "nooooooo!" just as I'm about to swipe my Discover Card through the PIN pad...) I live dangerously close to the Home Depot now.  Make a right out of my development and follow Buckley Road to the end, make a right and a quick left and you're pulling into the parking lot of the Gateway Plaza Home Depot.  It literally takes a minute and a half to get there.  You end up with a lot of situations like last night, when I was fixing some furniture and wondered aloud if Home Depot sold nuts and bolts in an antique finish so the repair I was making would match the wood.  (The answer?  They do.)

Truth be told, I actually prefer Lowe's.  The Home Depot was great in its heyday, but they seem to have given up when it comes to hiring knowledgable people.  Sure, there are some great people in my neighborhood store who know what they're talking about, but there are quite a few people with little training.  They don't know the specs on the riding mowers and they get stumped by questions like "You have a nut that matches the finish on this antique brass bolt I found over on the next aisle?"

Lowe's seems to get more knowledgable people on the floor.  They don't get tripped up if you ask them to cut a piece of plexiglass for you, or if you want to know if they make a mulching kit for a particular riding mower.  At Home Depot, I asked someone to cut some blackout shades for me, so they'd fit Kate's windows.  You could see the smoke coming out of her ears when I asked.  And then she did it wrong.

It reminds me of that summer I spent working for Pergament.  Back then, Home Depot was killing us.  They had the better-trained people and the better-organized store.  I remember struggling to organize all the PVC fittings in the plumbing department in those little snippets of time when I wasn't helping customers.  There just wasn't enough time.  (Then, one day, the cops walked my department manager out of the store in handcuffs and I became the interim plumbing department manager, but that's a story for another time...)  Just like Home Depot put Pergament out of business with better people and better organization, Lowe's seems to be kicking Home Depot's butt.  Maybe Home Depot will figure this out and invest some more in HR, training and logistics.

I love Lowe's, but going there entails getting on the expressway.  So I tend to go there for major purchases only (like the John Deere) or when I have a shopping list as long as my arm.  So Home Depot manages to still get a fair share of my home improvement dollar, albeit earned over a comparatively higher number of visits a nickel or a dime at a time.  I'll stick to Home Depot when I know that the product offering will be the same as Lowe's and when the prices will be approximately the same, like Sunday night when I needed a dozen bags of dirt for the garden, or when I needed a 24-foot extension ladder to get up into my attic over the garage.  Lowe's gets my business when I go on a trip that combines several projects - like when I was simultaneously prepping the bedroom for paint, fixing up the horseshoe pits outside and buying organizers for the garage and shed.

I'll end up going tonight.  I have no idea what for, but I'll need something tonight.  There are a few rooms in the house that can be considered "done" for now.  The acid test is whether or not I could show the room to company without saying something like "we still have to unpack those boxes" or "we're putting a different color on the walls in here..."  Among the "done" rooms are the dining room, the room off the kitchen that I'm calling the family room, Kate's room and the master bedroom.  There are a couple rooms that we won't have to touch for a while, because the former owner's hideous decor hadn't left its mark and the kids hadn't destroyed the walls and floors.  Among those are the main floor bath and the spare room.  There are a couple rooms that are "almost done," including the kitchen (which needs a coat of paint, or an entirely different paint color, depending on what Lauren wants) and the room off the dining room that I'm calling the living room.

I won't know until I get home tonight what I'll be going to Home Depot for, mostly because I don't know what I'll be doing tonight when I get home.  If I have enough daylight to rototill the garden, I might end up needing some stakes or fencing to keep the rabbits out.  If I end up ripping up the carpet in the basement bedroom and getting rid of it, I might need to go get some heavy contractor bags.  I don't know what the project will be, but I'm definitely going to Home Depot.

My name is Tom, and I'm an addict.