Tag Archives: home depot

Karma & Customer Service

smiling Gina Schaefer

Gina Schaefer, owner, A Few Cool Hardware Stores. She smiles. A lot.

I’ve been mulling over a couple of things related to customer service and human interaction over the past several weeks.  It started when I smiled at a couple on the street as I was coming out of the garage where Marc and I park our car.  I smiled, made a right to continue walking to our condo and all of a sudden heard a woman saying, “Excuse me, excuse me”.  When I turned around, it was the young woman I had smiled at.  She said,  “That was so nice of you to smile at us, no one does that anymore.”  I was shocked.  I’m from the Midwest, so smiling comes so naturally to me that I probably always walk around downtown with a grin on my face.

Two days ago, I met with a friend and local business owner who said that I had “created a monster” because, for seven years now, we have trained our customers to expect the best service possible –treating people well, whether you’re passing them on the street or helping them find the right drill, is fundamental.  And when they don’t receive what they’ve come to expect, they get very angry with us and hold it against us.

Fast forward 24 hours: I received an email from an upset customer, who professed to having  a great experience at one of our stores, which was unfortunately followed up by a negative experience. He finished his email by saying that he and his friends would never shop with us again. Boom. Done and done. Just like that. No chance to make things right. Which is confounding, because it makes me think of Home Depot, a business that is notorious for their below-average customer service. But people accept that about them and are willingly to shop there anyway. It’s frustrating to be black balled by a customer for one negative interaction knowing he’ll probably head to a Big Box competitor where he’ll be lucky to find someone to simply point him down the right aisle. A very good lesson in what my friend said earlier about customer service expectations.

Finally, another 24 hours pass and I find out that our stores were used in a training session for another local business. The business owner explained to his managers and team members that if they wanted to practice good customer service, they should visit one of  A Few Cool Hardware Stores.

Just some musings here. Some days we lose, but some days we win big. And that’s OK.

3 reasons (and 6 stores) to avoid the Big Box.

Not too many cars in this scene. Back in the day, people walked to to the store. It was social. It was exercise. It was fun.

Yesterday, I made a very gratifying sale.  It was for 68 cents.  I happened to be riding in the elevator with a neighbor who said, “Hey!  Maybe you can help me.  But I doubt it.”  When I asked why she doubted it, she said she had already tried Home Depot and they didn’t have the screws she needed for her faucet-repair project.  She also said she preferred to go to Home Depot because she liked to drive to do her shopping. To this, I thought, “WHA??” When did we get to the point where driving in city traffic trumped walking 5 to 10 minutes to a store that has everything you need?

Up for the challenge and sure that I could help, I took a sample of the screw she needed to one of our locations and found the exact match in about 15 seconds.  Problem solved and no gas or time wasted on a trip to a Big Box. 

Here are 3 reasons why we can top a Big Box experience:

1. We carry a LOT of different products and are always surprised when our customers are surprised at how much we offer. We’re not just hardware. Indeed, we have absolutely everything you need for home-maintenance, DIY projects, kitchen and bath, gardening, storage, and even novelty and gift items. 

2. We have parking at several of our stores, so if you’re a drive-and-shop kinda person like my neighbor, this is good news. It’s generally short term with validation, but we’ve designed our customer service so you can get in and out quickly. One hour is TONS of time.

Glover Park: Behind the building, free for 15 minutes and $1 for the first hour.  

Tenleytown Ace: We validate 1 hour of free parking in the garage at

5th Street Ace: If you combine your trip to see us with your grocery shopping at Safeway, you can get free underground parking for 90 minutes through their validation.

In Baltimore, Waverly Ace and Federal Hill Ace both have outdoor lots.

At Logan, admittedly, there is not much convenient parking, but if you’re clever, you can combine your trip with a certain grocery store nearby and get their validated parking.

 3. 5th Street Ace also offers a free personal-shopping service as well as free delivery (call the store at 202-682-4570 to see if you’re in the zone).  Email us at shop@acehardwaredc.com by 2 p.m. and if we have the products in stock, they’ll be ready for you to pick up in the afternoon. 

And we can guarantee you won’t find that at Home Depot!