Volume 46, Issue 6 - July/August 2007

Dear Shelter

Do the Math
Dear Shelter:
After publishing the two letters regarding differences in pricing between independent lumberyards and big boxes, you said, “We do plan on doing some price comparisons …” You can save yourself some time by examining the financial statements of Home Depot (or Lowe’s). The last one I saw for Home Depot showed its gross margins to be around 28 percent and net after-tax margin to be 6 percent.

I thought everybody knew that Home Depot is not cheap. Its vaunted purchasing power in lumber is offset by the requirements placed on vendors and by its pay practices. One of our best customers is a wholesale distributor who pays us top dollar and then resells every bit of it to Home Depot stores.

Buddy Klumb
Klumb Lumber Co.
Point Clear, Ala.

Lowe’s Management—and Employees—React to Secret Shopper
Lowe’s management and its employees reacted very differently to a poor customer service experience published in Shelter’s Secret Shopper column (see Shelter, March 2007). Contributing editor Sarah Batcheler visited a Lowe’s retail store in Oceanside, Calif., January 14, 2007, looking for Georgia Pacific’s Plytanium® Dryply™ product. The experience scored a D- for the branch there. Lowe’s management subsequently contacted Shelter requesting permission to reprint the article in the May issue of Lowedown, a publication Lowe’s produces for its employees.

Lowe’s president and chief operating officer Larry Stone explained the scenario in a preface followed by Batcheler’s portion of a three-part Secret Shopper. He then wrapped up his take on the article: “This is clearly a service failure and this shows we have a lot of work to do in our stores,” he writes. “In this example, we failed.”

Employees of the Oceanside, Calif., store had a different take on Batcheler’s experience. A letter addressed to Shelter’s editor defended J.W.—the associate who “helped” Batcheler in her visit—describing him as a “model employee,” calling her assessment an “inaccurate appraisal.” Oceanside employees assure that J.W. “exemplifies the term ‘customer service’ on a daily basis” and scolded Batcheler saying, “It is unfortunate that Ms. Batcheler was too short-sighted to see it.”

The letter was signed “Bobby Masson, Lowe’s 1588, Oceanside, Calif.,” accompanied by the signatures of 48 employees.

Stone’s commentary on Batcheler’s experience makes no mention of J.W. but says, “… employees who had not taken the time to have a true understanding of the products on our shelves.” He pledged a reaction saying, “I assure you we will have our Field Management Team spending more time in our stores to ensure this does not happen again.” 


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