I took early retirement in 03 after 31 years of service at a construction equipment manufacture. I worked as a plant maintenance mechanic for half my tenure. After a year or so of leisure I decided to re-enter the workforce. I answered an ad seeking a part time bicycle assembler, for a nationwide vendor that provides assembly work for the local retailers.
After I'd shown up for the interview I'd found out that this position was filled, but a full time product assembly position was available if I were interested. The job consisted mainly of assembling outdoor power equipment, ready to assemble furniture, gas B-B-Q grills, stationary power tools and a host of other tasks.
The main drawback I could see to this job was that the store I was to provide these services for was our local Lowe's home improvement warehouse. I refused to shop there several years ago after a couple of bad experiences with Lowe's associates. Now I was going to be paid to provide vendor services to this store. I enjoy this type of work and I like working with customers and helping them with their needs. So I gave it my best shot.
Right off the bat I could see that this was going to be an uphill battle. Morale in the store was low. The men's room stalls were covered with fresh, square splotches of black marker hiding the epithets directed at select Lowe's managers and associates. The lower caste associates routinely sat in silence while on their breaks; I thought it really odd to see 4-10 people at a time, sitting around ignoring one another in the break room. Smokers had a habit of being on the cranky side, since smoking is not allowed anywhere on the store property.
Although people work at Lowe's, workers are not called workers or people, instead they are referred to as associates. And the even lower rung workers are called vendors. These associates are then separated into different caste levels. Vendors provide select product sales and support to various Lowe's sales departments; they seem to be at the bottom of the Lowe's food chain. Then comes the Any Available Associate, Cashiers, associates assigned to one of the many departments, Sales Associatesof the many departments, Receiving Associates, Delivery Associates, Payroll Associates Human Resource Associates, Zone Managers, Manager-on-Duty, Department Managers. Then the three top store managers have equally important sounding titles( I hadn't time to memorize their titles during my tenure at Lowe's).
The managers are the weirdest lot. I don't know what kind of training they receive, but for the most part they end up as self-serving, omnipotent, pompous asses. All walked around with cell phones stuck to the side of their heads, ignoring the world around them. The #1 manager hated being called by his first name, so his associates called him by his middle name to his face, or by his nickname to his back. The #2 manager was a growley old poop that never smiled unless he was trying to impress some younger female working behind the front desk. The #3 guy kept to himself most of the time unless he needed something and then he'd never look you in the eye. I always made it a point to say hello to #3 and then side step him in an effort to look him directly in the eye, but I never had any luck at it.
The store associates are big into name calling each other. At first I thought I was losing my memory, cuz a guy I knew to be named Bob' was now being called Rick'. Then Bob' would call John', Dave' or Tom' in return. They were calling each other store manager names! Then more than once I'd hear the name Hotdog' being used in a robust manner. Now who's Hotdog'? Turns out it's the nickname for a Department Manager. Why Hotdog?, I asked. Cuz everyone knows that hotdogs are made out of pig lips and bungholes. I just had to know.
As the dedicated store assembler, I put together items for store displays and at customer request. More often than not, the merchandise I'd assemble came out of damaged containers or boxes that the consumer would pass up. Can you blame them? If the item was damaged, we'd order replacement parts and make repairs, sell it as is at a discount, or the RTM associate would send it back to the place it came from for credit. I think damaged goods are one of Lowe's sidelines.
I remember the first time I saw an offloading of merchandise from a Lowe's trailer. Associates are called to receiving from each department. Then pallets are laid, gauntlet style on each side of the receiving door. An expandable roller conveyor is placed in between the two lines of pallets, up to the receiving door to meet the Lowe's trailer. The receiving associate stands off to the side of the trailer to cut the bands holding up the heavy layer of cardboard that holds the new merchandise inside of the trailer. Everyone stands back for fear of falling objects. After the initial landslide of boxes and other packages of stuff, associates start the unloading process by throwing boxes onto the roller conveyor. Associates from different departments pull their items and stack them onto their department's pallets and transport their pallets to their departments in the store for restocking of shelves, hopefully in undamaged condition.
Damaged goods are the norm. Nothing is containerized. Larger items may be loaded in on pallets, but every square inch of trailer space has something stacked or jammed in place. I remember seeing a stack of four heavy joiner/planners sitting on top of two smashed cases of light bulbs before. B-B-Q s, patio furniture, millwork and windows are routinely crushed. In fact it looks as though Lowe's stands these trailers on end and load the merchandise in with a D-8 Cat, top it off with cardboard and webbing, close the doors and down the road she goes. Lowe's has an associate that re-ships these damaged goods, back to the manufactures for credit on a regular basis. Someone told me Lowe's saves $2,000,000 a month shipping their goods in this manner. At who's expense?
One fine Saturday morning, I found three riding mowers, shoved into my work area with notes taped to them. I was informed by this OPE associate, that all were new units that had manufacturing defects and had just been returned from the shop with needed repairs. The OPE clerk also asked me to clean the dirt off of one unit, air up the rear tire and repair the seat on another unit and charge up the dead battery on the last one(remember the part about "just been returned w/ needed repairs."??) The looks of the bent front guide wheel strut told me it wasn't new, but a unit that was exchanged at an earlier date, for a brand-new unit. It had a flat. Parts were bent and scratched up. The unit was used. In fact there I found signs of a botched up repair attempt. The customer claimed it was a defective product and some management type gave him a new unit to tear up. Of the other two units, the one needing cleaning up, was a return also. The customer said it vibrated funnily and got his money back after he got his mowing done. The last unit failed its initial assembly and inspection because of a dead battery. The battery was still dead after being shipped out for repairs. But it was still a new unit.
As the #one store manager was passing by, I got his attention (between cell phone calls) called him over to bring these units to his attention. I showed him the problems as I'd described and informed him of the shoddy, incomplete repairs. I also told him that mowers aren't selling all that well right now and that I should drain the gas out of all the mowers sitting in front of the store and run them dry (Normally I run them dry after I prep them, but some OPE associates are too lazy to push them, so they gas them up and drive them up front. Then the gas gets stale if the mower isn't sold soon).
I told him that only one of the three units was new and should be priced accordingly. I tried to reason with store manager about the way Lowe's dealt with these customer returns, and the shoddy workmanship performed on these mowers. He basically told me to clean them up and get them on the floor for sale. He told me that the repair quality' and store return policies' were "Issues, not of my concern, "We're going in circles here, just do your job!"
Well if my name is on a tag representing the company that I work for and I said this item is prepped and ready to go; I mean it. When a customer destroys a piece of outdoor power equipment, brings it back saying it's defective and in need of repairs. I am concerned for the safety interest of the next customer that purchases this product. My name may still be on that equipment. Shoddy repairs, stale gas and all. My integrity is on display with the units I've prepped. This pompous, air-head, store manager convinced me my services were needed elsewhere. After I got home from work, I wrote an e-mail to my District Manager, giving him my two weeks until termination notice.
I had a couple of days off and returned to work to find out that the store manager questioned the RTM clerk about the riding mowers. He told her we'd had an argument concerning these mowers. It wasn't an argument; it was a newfound mutual understanding. The store manager is willing to skirt customer service issues, product quality and liability concerns, and I will not. Besides, what business is it to any other associate in the store what was said between the store manager and me?
I didn't make it the full two weeks before I finally gathered my tools and left. Several days later, I had to use the rest room after returning from lunch. As I stood there indisposed, I'd heard the men's room door open and the familiar store manager's voice say, Oh, It's okay! Then the next thing I know, the wall in front of my face lit up in a blinding flash. I thought, What the heck is going on? I looked back toward the door and the manager was still holding the door wide open and a What are you going to do about it?, look on his face. I gathered myself and proceeded to wash my hands. The manager was going to have the rest rooms remodeled and the flash was coming from a sweaty contractor guy, holding a digital camera. Whilst the manager was holding the door open for all to see, a little boy ran into the rest room with his daddy in tow. The boy must have had to go potty very badly, with the way he was holding himself. But as soon as he saw the sweaty guy holding the flashing camera, he turned about face and ran smack into his dad. Daddy drug his son into a stall. I just stared, glaring at the store manager. I was so angry. I couldn't speak. It would have been a waste of words anyway. Morons are usually hard of hearing.
I looked up the zone manager after this last incident. I asked if he had any more assembly work for me. He said, No. So I had him sign me out... for the last time.
I went home and e-mailed my boss about this incident and told him I was through playing games with Lowe's management and associates. My boss suggested I inform Lowe's corporate about this incident. I did this and haven't heard any reply back after several weeks waiting. Hell, they probably gave the dumbbell manager a medal. Isn't that the way it goes?
Mister Happy Face
God's Country, Illinois
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Lowes Home Improvement