Volume 46, Issue 4 - May 2007

Secret Shopper
Shelter Goes Undercover
by Les Shaver, editorial director for Shelter magazine.

Good Luck Finding It: Kona’s Home Depot Offers Little Help Finding Products—and Workers

As I drove up Highway 19 on the way into Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, I was partially concerned that I hadn’t printed off directions to the Home Depot nearby. That feeling didn’t last long. I took a quick glance up the hill off to my left and saw a large box store with orange lettering off in the distance. I had found Home Depot. You can’t get much better visibility than that. 

Though I had found my destination, getting there proved to be a bit of a challenge. I zigged-zagged up the side of the hill, passing a variety of furniture, tint and even lumber stores on the way. After turning around at two dead ends, I eventually found Home Depot (In hindsight, Mapquesting the trip wouldn’t have been such a bad idea). 

Once I parked my car, I walked over to the edge of the parking lot (on the opposite end of the store). Down the hill was a great view of the Pacific. But I was there to do more than sightsee. So, I turned around and walked through the parking lot into the store. It wasn’t really cluttered, though there were trailers (detached from the rigs that pulled them) parked at one end.

Quiet as a Mouse
Inside was the typical Home Depot—rows and rows of about anything you want for your house. I explored a bit before going to the moulding aisle. At 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, the store seemed quiet with more employees than shoppers. I walked between the front and back aisles and eventually came upon the moulding aisle. I had to move past the stacks of quarter, half and full round, but I eventually found it. 

Never having shopped for moulding before, I didn’t really know how many options I would find. Eventually, I found three styles of unfinished crown moulding on my right. I glanced at the prices and looked at the product, trying to do a quick compare and contrast. No luck. I needed more detail. So I began pacing back and forth down the aisle to find an employee. No one appeared. I looked for a call button to summon help. No dice.

Finally, I walked a little bit out of my aisle and saw two employees—a man and a woman—walking toward me. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I felt like they were avoiding me (yes, despite walking towards me). “Excuse me,” I said. 

The Puzzled Look
The guy asked if he could help me. I told him I wanted to learn about crown moulding. After giving me a “what is there really to know?” look, he led me down the aisle pointing out the unfinished medium-density fiberboard crown moulding. He said it comes in a variety of lengths, and they could cut it to what I need. The price varied by foot. 

Then a light went off in his head. He led me across the aisle to point out the PVC crown moulding. He pointed out that, while it’s more expensive, it comes finished and has a fine degree of detail. I asked about installing it and he said it was not difficult. Then, as if he suddenly picked up momentum, he remembered the spacers just to the left of the PVC. He pointed out that those spacers look good, and they give you some margin for error if you’re having trouble getting everything to fit correctly. He drew on his personal experience, telling me that he found them helpful when he installed crown moulding.

With that, there was a pause and he asked me if I was fine. I said that I was for the time being, and he shook my hand and took off. As he left, I went to inspect the unfinished crown moulding a bit more and another question popped into my head. “Great,” I thought. “Another 15 minutes standing here waiting for someone.”

Another Test
It didn’t take that long. Soon, a younger employee came around the corner. I decided to test him by asking about the differences between the unfinished crown mouldings. He gave me a bit of a puzzled look and said he assumed it’s because the quality is different. Realizing, I wasn’t going to get much more help, I thanked him and let him go on his way.

I’d had about as much crown moulding as I could take, so I headed to the exit. Needing some water, I stopped to pick up a Dasani at the register and a friendly woman greeted me. I asked her for directions to my next destination. She told me to continue on Highway 19 and I would see it on my left. I thanked her for the directions and told her to have a nice afternoon. On my way out, she said, “Good luck finding what you’re looking for.”

I smiled, realizing that her friendly remark pretty much summed up my experience at the Home Depot in Kona. 


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