Flabby old John Madden used to do ads for Ace Hardware, and he'd say their slogan, "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks" and you'd figure it was just an ad slogan, but sometimes slogans are really meaningful.
As faithful readers know, I have been searching ad nauseum for a snow shovel. What at first seemed like a simple task in February had become something of a chore to the extent of it being a quest, like the Holy Grail or one of those dates with a woman that I keep hearing about.
Having visited several so-called "Big Box" retailers (spelled The Home Depot and Lowe's), a K-Mart and Sears, I turned my lonely eyes to an Ace Hardware store at 129 N. White Horse Pike in Hammonton, NJ; a few miles from where I work.
I wandered in after lunch today and was greeted by a red-shirted employee who asked (as had the big box people) "How can I help you?"
I didn't see any shovels near the entrance, so my question was tinged with doubt. "Do you have any snow shovels?"
"No, but we have sent someone out with a U-Haul to bring back 250 of them. They'll be here between 3:30 and 4:00 this afternoon."
I looked at her with a gleam in my eye, as though I had been announced as the winner of some strange lottery where the prize was not cash, but a useful article for which the winner had been searching.
After work today, I wandered back to the store and purchased - PURCHASED - a snow shovel for the paltry sum of $14.97 (including sales tax). I PURCHASED A SNOW SHOVEL. IN FEBRUARY.
It's a neat plastic shovel that should do it's intended task quite efficiently. I probably could have spent $35 at The Home Depot for a nicer one, but what I really needed was a shovel that could move snow, and this one seems built for the task.
Plus, the people at Ace Hardware seemed genuinely interested in helping their customers during a time of need. I'd guess that The Home Depot and Lowe's have bigger fish to fry than to try to help a consumer buy something that couldn't pay the salary of a worker for more than two hours.
What the big guys are missing is that when a consumer (me) is pleased with a store (Ace Hardware) making an effort to provide a service (their job) he leaves the store with a good feeling that he has purchased a useful product for a fair price.
That seems to be sadly lacking in so many retail ventures nowadays. The added benefit to you dear readers is that you no longer will have to endure my written whining over such a small matter. As they say:
As part of a cooperative, every Ace Hardware store is independently owned. From neighborhood hardware stores to lumberyards to super-size home centers, each Ace Hardware is unique and tailored to meet the needs of its local community. We are all committed to being "the Helpful Place" by offering our customers knowledgeable advice, helpful service and quality products. As the helpful hardware folks in your community, we promise that, "helping you is the most important thing we have to do today."
Thanks Ace Hardware. You lived up to your slogan, and that's something to be proud of.