Death of the Helpful Hardware Man

Less than half a mile from my house is a shopping center. In that shopping center is an Ace Hardware store that has been there as long as we have been here, which is more than 30 years.

That hardware store used to be a super nice place to shop. It had more than one helpful hardware man. Not only were they helpful but they were very experienced and knowledgeable.

This store had a very good reputation in the neighborhood. It specialized in stocking parts for nearly any plumbing item ever used in this area over the last 40 years or so. If you had a problem of a plumbing nature, you could take in the offending item and have a replacement part a few seconds after finding their plumbing expert. I mean a repair part, not an entire faucet or fixture. Unlike a home improvement center, this Ace Hardware store believed a ten cent faucet washer failure did not demand replacing an entire faucet.

Their prices were not especially low. They might charge $2.50 for a 50 cent faucet seat but that was better than spending $50 at the home improvement center for an entire faucet.

About a year ago they started a remodeling project and reduced their knowledgeable staff to one person. They ripped out the small appliance repair shed and installed additional racks of merchandise. The existing racks of merchandise were moved closer together and were stacked higher. All of this activity occurred in the span of a month. The final touch was installation of a new floor so that you could not tell the racks had ever been moved.

Soon after that, the one helpful hardware man disappeared and prices began to increase. The increase was only a few percent at first but eventually grew to much more than that. For instance, a good well designed electrical plug went from $1.20 to $4.00. This made absolutely no sense because you could go to the home improvement center and buy a six foot extension cord with molded in plug for about $2.00. Just cut off the unneeded receptical end and replace the entire cord on the lamp needing the plug.

I also notice that their radio ads changed. Their jingle about the helpful hardware man was modified to present the helpful hardware folk. I did not think much of that or about that. I figured the helpful hardware man was just another martyr cut down by political correctness. As long as I could get help with hardware, I did not care about gender. I also did not care that much about price. If I was going to buy in quantity for a major project, I would go to a building supply place. Ace with the helpful hardware people was a low volume place where higher prices were justified by convenience and the quality of the help.

So the next time I had a plumbing problem I went to the Ace store. This time it was faucet washers for the bathroom shower. To make sure I got the right stuff, I removed the faucet stems and took them into the store with me. I was met by two eager young men. I held up the the faucet stems and told them I needed washers. The younger of the two asked ‘what size’ and ran off into the nuts and bolts section. The other had a better understanding of my needs.

We found two nice washers that looked like they would last for a long time. He put them in a little bag and wrote $2.00 on the bag. I thought that seemed a little high, but what the heck. At the checkout the lady rang up $4.00. After some consultation it became apparent that they were asking $2.00 each for the washers. I won’t be going back there anytime soon even if have to cut the washers out of sheet stock myself.

Change is not always good for everyone. In this case it will probably not be good for anyone including the new owners of the Ace Hardware store. Most of their customers were old timers like me. Now, with the unrealistic increase in prices and elimination of experienced help, it has become more than worth the trip to fill my hardware requirements at the home improvement center.

Explore posts in the same categories: consumer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: