Doing the Depot

Some may wonder what all the fuss is about. With more than 1,500 Home Depots in North America – including ones in Farmington, Montrose and Grand Junction – what’s another one, they figure.

Yet, for the past few weeks, the topic of casual conversation in coffee shops and on street corners up and down Main Avenue has seemed to center on exactly this. Some openly boast of multiple trips to the Mecca of do-it-yourselfedness, while others sheepishly admit to reconaissance missions “just to check things out,” and still others staunchly pledge never to step foot on the premises, no matter how tempting the power tool selection.

As for me, I fall somewhere in the wish-washy middle. Yes, I have been to the new Home Depot. No, I did not rush out on opening day with baited breath to ogle gleaming new bathroom fixtures and large appliances. But, by the same token, I was not dragged there kicking and screaming, either. Rather, on my own volition, I made a conscious decision to visit the second-largest retailer in the United States. And yes, I spent money.

If it’s any consolation, the outing was not without guilt. For years, I have been a staunch supporter of Kroeger’s Hardware. In fact, I am pretty sure I own the record for most trips in one day and most time logged on the courtesy phone. I once spent an entire afternoon there learning the finer points of underground sprinkler construction and have haunted the plumbing aisles to the point that I swear certain employees see me and run the other way. The man in paints treats me like a long-lost friend whenever I visit, even if it happens to be the fifth time in the same day. When I need help with carry out, there’s always a willing and able body, and returns are always taken, no questions asked.

And of course, no trip to Kroeger’s would be complete without the strangely delicious Idaho Spud, a gooey, confectionary cross between a chocolate-covered marshmallow and a coconut-flecked hand grenade. Packaged in plain brown wrapping with yellow lettering, it’s the type of thing that probably should have gone out with beehives and tailfins. Yet, for some reason it lives on at Kroeger’s, conveniently placed at the check-out for impulse splurges.

Given the nostalgia, it is easy to see why I really wanted to be in the staunch opponent group with the hold-outs and boycotters. I wanted to say “no” to the sweat-shop mass-produced, mom-and-pop annihilating, brick-and-mortar gobbling, evil monolith. But on a limited, often negative income, and with a dilapidated house sorely in need of running water and a baby on the way, it’s hard to be strong.

So I did the Depot. Of course, because of fear of public retribution, my fall from retail ideology was not information I readily volunteered. When a neighbor announced his firm stance in the dissenter camp, denouncing the rest of us as weak, I slyly changed the subject. When coworkers asked what I did over the weekend, I conveniently left out the part about my big box shopping trip. But I was living a lie. Which is why, after 48 hours of holding it inside, I cracked under the pressure when caught off guard one morning on the way to work. I ran into two local carpenters who were talking shop when one turned to me asking what I thought of Home Depot.

Panic ensued. Obviously he had seen me there, probably fawning over the Ralph Lauren paint chips conspicuously in plain view of the main entrance. God only knows who else saw me. Seeing no way out, I came clean.

“You must have seen me there Sunday,” I stammered.

Judging from his blank expression, I had just incriminated myself. Curiously enough, I felt a feeling of relief wash over me at my coming out. And, as is almost always the case, the backlash was not nearly as bad as I had imagined. I was neither shunned nor rebuked. The earth did not open up and swallow me. In fact, I soon found I was not the only one lugging around the dirty little secret of retail infidelity. In fact, both men readily admitted to not only frequenting the dreaded McDepot, but the Albuquerque Lowe’s as well.

Where you shopped depended on what you were looking for, and some stores were better equipped than others to serve certain needs, they pointed out. Indeed, I had found this to be true.

While the sheer breadth of items offered at the big orange retailer is bedazzling to a weekend DIY warrior such as myself, there are drawbacks, especially for those of us with poor eyesight and an even poorer sense of direction. Unlike the friendly neighborhood variety hardware, where the aisles and their contents are committed to memory, the rows at the Depot seemed to stretch on forever. It’s often necessary to scan the towering shelves numerous times, with neck craned at a dangerously unnatural angle, just to find they don’t have what you’re looking for. More than once, a search was abandoned due to neck spasms and temporary flourescent-light blindness.

Which is not to say the trip was a total wash. As mentioned, I did not leave empty-handed, but my cart didn’t necessarily runneth over, either. When it came to the small stuff – ceramic drawer pulls shaped like tiny ears of corn, coat hooks in assorted sizes and finishes, the smiling gent at the front door – I was at a loss. And when everything was said and done, at the end of the day I still found myself pulling into the familiar diagonal parking spot, passing by the smiling, red-vested gent and leaving in possession of that familiar red-ticking-striped paper bag filled with assorted trinkets, widgets and doodads – and the freshest Idaho Spud this side of the Great Basin.

-Missy Votel




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