Lessons from Home Depot: some customers need patience like the others

Every Sunday I wake up to get ready for my eight-hour shift at Home Depot with my angry customers that get mad at me when they do not get what they want, but sometimes I get lucky and have a good, friendly customer.

In case you were wondering, the two most common shifts at Home Depot on a Sunday are either 8 to 5 or 11 to 8, which is not too bad on a Sunday, but the customers can make you have a long, stressful day. Even though school is the same length, Home Depot just feels way longer dealing with some customers. However, sometimes my day goes by faster when I get lucky to interact with good attitude customers.

I have experienced customers getting mad at me for several reasons. One reason is because they see we have an item in stock on the website, but then it is not available in store. In these cases, most of the time the app shows we have 10 or less available. And I will have to explain to them that when an item number is that low, then most likely we do not have that item in stock and that the app was not updated. The app is usually updated once a week, and during the week lots of customers come in. By the weekend most item numbers go down, or it can just be an uncommon item, which in that case, we usually do not get many in the store from the beginning.

Instead of yelling at the employees, I think the customers should leave a survey which you get on a receipt when you buy something. Some customers that have patience with me, end up getting the item my store doesn’t have. What I do is call another store that’s near, and if they have the item I have them save it for the customer.

I have had many good conversations with customers and I have had many bad conversations with customers, both for the same reason, just some are more patient than the other. And as a worker I feel better when the customer gets what they want, but it’s hard to try my best when getting yelled at sometimes. 

For example, I had a conversation last weekend with a customer about college and my future, even after I was not able to find one specific item they were looking for, but he understood that I tried my best, and I even looked at other stores and called them to make sure they were not.  The customer worked with me and we were all good, so when a customer understands it makes my day a little better after having to work a full 8 hour shift.

Reports like this show how work can become stressful for a lot of people, so when people come in my job to buy something they need for their job and we do not have it, they become more stressed because they either will have to go to another Home Depot store to get their item, or they will have to wait to order it. This can sometimes take days or weeks, depending on how many deliveries we have scheduled for that week. I understand it can be frustrating to be in the middle of a project, with your home torn apart, installing something new, and then not be able to finish the project due to missing parts, but being angry with an employee is not going to help the situation, especially when we do try our best to help with all the power we have.

  Surveys like this show that most retailers are short-staffed, which is another reason why we can’t always help right away. Customers get mad at me because they usually come to Home Depot late in the day, around seven in the evening, to get help with something from a specific department, and at that time we usually are not that busy so there are not a lot of employees scheduled in each department, or it’s the employees with less knowledge who are unable to help with specific requests. As a result, customers get mad because they were not able to get the help they needed. Also, right now we are pretty short staffed in all departments, with some people going to college in August and then some people just leaving for a better job.

If the solution is not to get angry, then what can customers do? I recommend that people should call ahead, preferably in the morning hours like between six and eight or five to eight in the evening, since those are usually slow hours, to check if the item or items they are looking for are in the store, especially if the nearest Home Depot is pretty far from your home. However, if we are busy, you might not get an answer, which can lead to you having to come in the store to actually see if we have the item. 

If this happens, customers should understand that the employees in the store have no control over what items are in the store, but we can have it ordered to the store, which may take a few days. Also, customers should understand that we also get pretty upset when we cannot help them find what they need, and we always try our best. For example, we call other locals’ Home Depots trying to find the item for them, especially if the customer says it is a must today type of thing, which is us being nice because we are not required to do. I want customers to just have in mind that it is easier to help when they have a positive attitude and are understanding.