May 19, 2014

That's the power of the Home Depot

The last couple of days have been those flawless spring days where it seems like you spend all your time gawking at how bright everything is. Spring has been underway for a while here, but maybe I’m only just getting over the hangover of our soul-crushing winter. After spending most of December, January, February, March, and even part of April continually questioning why I live in this part of the country, the past few days have made me question why anyone would want to live anywhere else.

That sky is so...damn, it’s just so blue. I mean, I know it’s blue that’s like...that’s almost an electric blue. Wow, that looks amazing. And the leaves on that tree. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me but those look even greener than usual. They’re almost neon green, so green that they look like they might actually glow in the dark.

It’s been like walking around in a Thomas Kinkade painting, like someone took the color saturation levels and cranked them up to eleven.

Anyway, I’m not doing a very good job of describing this fantastic spring, so let me move on to another notable part of the weekend, which is fuck Home Depot. Fuck them hard.

Between ordering carpet and flooring for the new house Court and I went back and forth between two different stores, spent hours on the phone with a dozen different clueless employees, and put up with all manner of technical glitches, miscommunications, and general dicking around, culminating with my wife sobbing in the parking lot while I tried to explain to some Home Depot employees, as gently as I could, where they could shove our “missing” box of hardwood flooring once they found it.

From what I’ve gathered over the past two weeks, Home Depot has maybe nine different computer systems, none of which are joined with any other (“I can’t find it, it must have been ordered through another system.”), they have so many employees on a constant rotation that it’s impossible to talk to the same one twice (“You must have talked to Ted yesterday. I don’t know what he did with your order. He might have entered it in another system, in which case I can’t access it.”), and the sort of “not my problem” indifference you get from a low wage job manifests itself when you find a problem with anything (“Hey, I just pulled the stuff off the shelf. Steve is the one who put it together yesterday, and he’s not here today. I can try and find the original order but there’s a good chance he might have put it in another system.”)

The carpeting was our warm-up to the hardwood flooring trainwreck. We had to order it twice because the first time it didn’t “make it into the correct system,” and then Court had to go back and waste her entire lunch hour just to pay for it. It was a hassle but at that point we didn’t mind too much. The Home Depot people made a mistake but it seemed genuine and despite the delays we successfully ordered carpet installation for two rooms on the ground floor. Then we turned our attention to flooring for the living room, hallway, and upstairs bedrooms.

We needed 29 boxes of flooring, and we didn’t even need to arrange for installation - we just wanted them at the store for pick-up, and we* planned to put them in ourselves. It seemed simple enough but Home Depot has a gift for fucking up simple things. The Latham location only had 25 so we ordered those plus four more at their Schenectady location. This was all done in person, I should add.

The day after we ordered the four boxes from the Schenectady Home Depot, the day after we were told they’d be ready at “will call” for customer pickup, we returned and spoke to (of course) a different employee who looked at us as if we’d shown up at Home Depot expecting to pick up 50,000 live lobsters.

“Uh...I can’t find those in the system...I think Dave was supposed to handle that yesterday.”

Four boxes of the requisite flooring were found but it took ninety minutes and a team of disgruntled Home Depot employees had to go back into the warehouse and dig around for them because they hadn’t been set aside or even located the previous day.

And then on Sunday we showed up at the Latham location with a rented U-Haul and a confirmation receipt to pick up 25 more boxes. At the service desk we were helped quickly and efficiently by one of the few pleasant Home Depot employees I’ve yet encountered.

“Just pull your truck under the canopy,” he said, pointing toward the other end of the store, “and we’ll have them right out and get them loaded for you.”

“That was pretty painless,” I said to Court in what was probably the most jinx-ing sentence I’ve ever uttered.

It took half an hour for a forklift loaded with boxes to appear at the door, but all 25 boxes were there...well, 24 and one that appeared curiously crushed. Court lifted the box’s cover and peered inside.

“This one is a partial,” she said. The forklift driver came over and stood next to her.

“You sure?”

Court fixed him with a stare that said, “Yes I'm fucking sure.”

“There are, like, four slats in here. We ordered 25 full boxes.”

A second employee appeared and scanned the box’s barcode, then frowned at what came up on the screen.

“We don’t have any more of those.”

“Are you shitting me?” Court and I said, almost in unison. The first employee, sensing trouble, instructed his coworker to go back into the warehouse and check again. Ten minutes passed as we waited tensely, Court and I staring at the employee in the hopes that we could make him spontaneously combust, while the employee kept his gaze fixed on the partially empty box of flooring.

The second employee returned.

“Nope, this is all we have.”

Court’s face grew redder and redder as he stammered in explaining how the 25 boxes we’d ordered had actually ended up being 24-and-a-quarter.

“Well...uh...I’m not the one who put the order together. I wasn’t here yesterday…”

And then the forklift driver made the mistake that unleashed the fury of Hurricane Court.

“Maybe you should try another store?”

For a brief moment I thought she was going to grab him by the ears and pull his pudgy face closer for what she had to say next, which was:

“No. We’re not going to another store. We’ve already been to another store. We ordered 25 boxes from this store and we will leave with 25 boxes. Either find one, have one delivered here, or have it delivered to my house. It will be free of charge and it will be done today.”

Were it me I would have given in to the urge to raise my voice but she delivered her statement with an icy coolness that was even more effective than shouting. At every pause the forklift driver tried to cut in with, “How about this-” but each time he was shut down before he could follow up on that phrase. There must have been some sort of panic button on the second employee’s barcode scanner device because within minutes what appeared to be the whole senior staff at the Latham Home Depot arrived, all looking very worried. They all tried talking to us at once, pulling out phones and tablet devices.

“I just called the North Greenbush location,” one of them said, “there’s another box there you can pick up.”

Court’s eyes began to water, “No. We came here for it and we want it here.”

“We can have one here tomorrow,” said another.

“We really need it today,” I muttered quietly.

Eventually after more negotiating and a few frustrated tears we agreed that the missing box would be delivered at our house the next day - in the evening so that one of us would be home to receive it, and that this would be done at no extra cost. Court and I were still fuming but seeing as we had few other options we signed their paperwork ordering the delivery. The Home Depot brass looked visibly relieved. Mistakes can happen, I get that, but this was something like our fifth visit to a Home Depot in under a week and at this point we have yet to complete any sort of transaction without hassle, delay, or complete fuck-up.

By the time we returned home and unloaded our 24-and-a-quarter boxes some clouds had blown in, which was fitting given my mood. The colors of the spring seemed little less vivid. Rain will come in the next few days but I know that it will pass and the sky will go back to being blue. The leaves and flowers will once again be breathtakingly bright. Birds will sing in the trees. But Home Depot will still suck.

*By “we” I mean Court’s professional contractor uncles, as I have no home improvement skills whatsoever. It took me three hours to install a toilet paper holder at our last apartment. With a hammer.

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