"If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up!"
- Pete Seeger, in YES! Magazine

Friday, January 4, 2013

Saving a Megastore - One Honest Customer at a Time

The project:
A couple of days ago I stopped by my neighborhood (within 30 miles - barely) mega-hardware store to pick up a make-your-own shed kit. We've been putting off making the purchase while we work on other financial priorities, but after losing some hay to post-rain spoilage, we decided it was time to redirect some of the funds from my recent freelance writing frenzy. After two hours in the store hunting down various items NOT included in the package set (felt for the roof, tile for the roof, ridge tiles for the roof, and roofing nails - we'll pick up the paint later), I was out the door with two giant packages loaded by five strong men into our trailer.

Today, I unpacked the boxes. They weren't numbered, and there were no apparent instructions, so I was left to assume the instructions were inside the box and that it didn't matter WHICH one I opened first. After cutting through the shrinkwrap, the plastic straps and the cardboard, I finally unveiled the first block of goodies, which I unpacked and stacked for inventory, per the instructions found moments after opening. Then I opened box two. It wasn't until I found the second set of doors that I KNEW something was amiss. I finished unpacking anyway, thinking perhaps this was the multiple-door version and that fact merely didn't show on the package photo. Then I started inventory.

Once I realized I'd been gifted a second complete shed, I called the hardware store and sought out the employee. She knew she'd given me two boxes, but said she thought the shed required two boxes of materials. She checked around with other employees, discovered she'd given one complete shed away, then arranged to pick up the pile which will be repackaged, returned to inventory (which never missed it) and resold.

It took about 20 minutes on the phone for the employee to sort out the error, discuss the matter with her manager and arrange for pickup. She and another employee did all the rest of the work of reloading.

I had spent an extra hour unpacking and inventorying and dividing up the materials.

 Why bother?  
I confess I was temped to keep the shed. We could use more storage around here. It was already unpacked, already out of the store, and the store's a megagiant which probably really wouldn't miss it. (After all, their inventory showed 9 boxes of the roof tile ridges I needed, but they couldn't locate them. I had to drive 30 miles north to another branch to pick up the ridges, of which I need 10 but they sell only in boxes of 50.)

 But I knew the right thing to do was to call the store, explain the situation and let them make a decision about their product.

Worth it?
I had hoped they'd take into consideration several things: the two hours I spent waiting while they hunted down roof ridge tiles that don't exist in their store; the hour I spent driving to another store to pick up said ridges; the $54 for I had to spend for a whole box of ridge tiles even though I need 10 tiles (about $11 worth); the time and money they wasted on gas and staff time to get out to my place and back to pick up the stuff; the loss they'll take on the sale since they'll mark it down now that it's been opened and repackaged.

I hoped, all this considered, they'd mark it as an inventory loss, then just let us have it. You know. As a thanks for my honesty.

Clearly, they didn't, but I'm still glad I called. Had I kept it, I'd always feel a little guilty. Plus, given that this megagiant doesn't even give its employees discounts, I was afraid they'd take the loss out of this poor college student's paycheck once they figured out it was gone. That just wouldn't be right.

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  1. love your honesty. that would have been a hard call for me to make.

  2. As a retailer, I really appreciate your honesty. Inventory cost. Inventory loss cost more. You did the right thing. Too bad they didn't recognize this and comp you for your time, trouble and honesty in some way. One more brick in your road to heaven. WTG!!

  3. Heavy Karma is always a factor in the "Losers-weepers-finders-keepers" temptations for me. I do admire your decision!
    On a side note: When I read the DATE of this post, and considered the fact that you were considering BUILDING ANYTHING in the first week of January, I literally laughed-out-loud... amazing the difference that a couple of states can make in the "building season"!!


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