One upside of the deteriorating economy -- customers are now receiving service at Home Store stores.
We met Jane Turner in the parking lot of the Akron (OH) store; an employee was loading bags of sand and gutter downspouts into the back of her SUV.
"This is unbelievable," she exclaimed, "I actually got help this time. Usually there's no help in this place, but this time, not one, but three different workers offered assistance. In the past, you'd be lucky to even see a helper, this time I was pleasantly surprised. I seldom come here because of the awful service, but look at this, I didn't even ask, this nice young man is loading my car, what a change."
What happened? Two words, THE ECONOMY.
George, 24 years old and just hired by Home Store nine months ago, quickly loaded Jane's supplies and seeing another customer needing assistance, dashed across the parking lot. We caught up with George awhile later collecting scattered shopping carts. "I work my butt off, I need a job, I want to keep my job," George told us. "In the past couple of months, since gas prices went wacky, we have a lot less customers. Everyone working here is nervous, there's hardly anything to do, with little selling there's less to re-stock; customers are getting all kinds of extra help they didn't get before," he continued.
Home Store won't provide specific store information, but one store manager reached by phone told us confidentially, "Sales are awful. Luckily the corporation owns the property and doesn't pay rent, but I can't believe our sales can cover payroll and utilities, much less all the expenses of this location. It's bleak and the employees are scared, I've never seen them work so hard."
Other workers we interviewed confirmed things have changed. "A few months ago I would see a customer coming and I would look the other way. I'd act busy organizing shelves or something," said Stephanie, who works at a different Ohio store. "If the customer asked a question I'd refer them to someone else. This was an easy job, no one bothered us. But now it's obvious, all the people working here try to stay busy, they don't want to be the one to get laid off."
A spokesman for Home Store painted a more rosy picture. "Our sales remain strongest in the segment," he told us. "We have dedicated, hard working employees, including Olympic gold medalists and many that are community volunteers. All employees are trained to provide Home Store's award winning standards of service. We've earned dozens of industry accolades and we look forward to building on our excellent record as the economy improves."