.... or Why I Am In Danger Of Liking Home Depot More Than JoAnn
.... or Why Hardware is a Viable Shopping Alternative to Textiles
Pop quiz - true or false?
1 Men shop for hardware and women shop for fabric.
2 Fathers shop for hardware and mothers shop for fabric.
3 Children behave better in fabric stores than in hardware stores.
4 Shopping carts are better in fabric stores than hardware stores.
5 The staff in fabric stores are more helpful than the staff in hardware stores.
In the old days before children, I was actually quite good
at shopping. I actually browsed. I left the house without a
shopping list. I meandered across the aisles in malls and
markets and got a real upper body workout carrying vast
numbers of shopping bags in and out of different stores,
buses and trains. Then I got a car and discovered the boon
a trunk (or boot, as we call it back in Singapore) is to
shoppers - suddenly I was enabled to buy ten times as
much. Those were good days.
I am now a mother of three small children, though.
I still prefer the physical shopping experience to its
online alternative, but I no longer indulge. My idea of
an upmarket buying experience is good old Target,
and if I get time off to myself, I might even drive to the
nearest Supertarget, so I can get groceries, toiletries,
toys and clothes from one place.
My standards have hit rock bottom.
But I still, on a regular basis, pack the children in the
car and patronize fabric and craft stores. The staff at
JoAnn probably know me by sight, and once, one of
the cutting ladies actually told me, "I think that's
enough fabric. Why not come back next week?" and
that was on a day my children were behaving well.
Shocking service, yes, but they probably think that
they were helping me save money.
More on that stellar fabric store service later.
Fabric and notions can only take a person so far, so I
thought I'd try other options. My husband, who hates
shopping, really seems to enjoy his (children-less) visits
to Home Depot and other hardware spots, so I figured
they must really be fun stores. And so I went to check
them out. Again and again. Oh, I am such a hardware
shopping rookie. I know nothing. I ask dumb questions.
But I like hardware stores. I might even like them a
leeetle bit more than fabric stores. Here's why:
1 Because They Have Cooler Shopping Carts
Stop rolling your eyes, people. Yes, you folks who click on your mouse button to buy fabric. Those of us tactile types who've been to the small-chain fabric stores will know that they either only have baskets big enough for fat quarters, or they have mismatched carts that have look suspiciously like they used to belong in oriental grocery stores. The big chain fabric stores have carts with nowhere to put both an infant seat and bolts of fabric without entombing the poor child. And let's not even talk about the bits of fabric remnants trapped in the wheels that make those happy vehicles skew sideways right into the glass panes in the framing department. True, there are probably no carts at the smaller hardware stores, but Home Depot and Lowe's boast carts that are shaped like racing cars. And have room for multiple children. If I were a child, I'd know which kind of carts I'd like to ride in.
2 Because hardware stores have lots of men in them.
It is a fact - men like solving problems. Sometimes that drives us crazy. But in a store, that is a good thing. It means you can saunter in, hold up a mangled piece of who-knows-what from under your kitchen sink and ask for help. They will probably know what to do, and we will be completely happy to let them be smug as they do it and not feel like our feelings weren't validated. Hello - gender stereotyping here, I hear you say. Plenty of gals work in Home Depot, too. Yes, and I love them all - they're the ones who hand out suckers to my kids.
3 Because Their Motto Gives Us Hope.
The Home Depot promised* "You Can Build It; We Can Help"; Lowe's invites you with, "Let's Build Something Together."
One time in a fabric store I asked a staff member which size needles I needed for sewing cotton and she whispered to me, "I don't know; I don't sew". Ah.
*Which they stood behind for years before they recently changed it to "More Saving. More Doing".
4 Because They Respect Your Privacy
Hardware staff never ask you what you are building and never roll their eyes if you volunteer to tell them. They probably know you have a project in mind that you don't want to talk about in case that jinxes it to hopeless failure. Or maybe no project is too weird in the hardware world. In fabric stores, however, I've had to invent excuses not to discuss my unusual sewing endeavors with the cutting staff because they just cannot wrap their minds around "oviparous chicken" or "suckling pig" or "tube for PVC piping".
5 Because Hardware Store Staff Never Share Their Personal Parenting Experiences With You
I must say upfront that I love the longsufferingness of the staff at Joann when it comes to putting up with my children. They don't raise their eyebrows when I pull out candy from my purse. They don't turn a hair when my children pick out all the pink spools of serger thread and replace them in the blue row. But when I am in the cutting line, I'd much prefer if the cutting ladies just cut my fabric and sped me on my way to the checkout instead of holding me captive (literally) with their grandchildren's school adventures and the state of Young People's Technological Dependence Nowadays. All very friendly phatic communion, but as one finally pushes one's cart thankfully towards the checkout, one very naturally wonders, "Did she say that because my child was playing with my cellphone? I am a bad mother!" It is a classic symptom of BloggySewer-itis. And to have it flare up in a fabric store just adds insult to injury.
6 Because They Will Help You Load Your Vehicle With Heavy Purchases
whereas no one in a fabric store has ever offered to help me carry my 100 kg of fabric out to my car.
7 Because Their Aisles Are Numbered And Labeled And Stationary
There is someone clearly right-brained behind the organization of fabric stores because the displays change location regularly. I'm not talking about the seasonal Easter egg or scarecrow displays. I mean the bolts of outdoor canvas that keep moving around so that I have to hunt for them. One time they were with the storage containers. Then they got moved next to the snuggle flannel prints. Now they play hide and seek with me from behind the upholstery department.
8 Because Their Dangerous Displays Are Clearly Indicated
They are called Power Tools. Or Noxious Adhesives. Or Heavy Lumber. Or something like that. Frighteningly, the most dangerous displays in a fabric store lurk among the most innocuous of their stock. You know the kind I mean - the printed bolt that from a distance looked perfectly at home among the calicos but, as you unsuspectingly approached it, came mobidly into focus as the coral-lobster-motif-against-forest-green-ferns-on-brown-gingham-checks-background-with-bananas-accent polyester apparel fabric that someone (and who can blame them) chucked there before they ran away screaming. Scarred retinas aside, we don't even want our children exposed to such combinations - so keep them close to you in fabric stores.
So yes, a lot of potential in hardware stores. But to show you that I'm not all starry-eyed, I will share one point against them: they do not have 40%-off coupons. Or 20%-off Senior Citizen Day discounts. Or Bring A Friend And Get 10% Off Your Total Order sales. I imagine it is because the majority of hardware store patrons don't go shopping with their friends to, say, build a lumber stash, of which they might take pictures to post on blogs. Hm.
So for the coupons, and the irresistible lure of fabric, I will continue to slink sheepishly through the doors of all my favorite textile shops. But I have also found a new haunt in hardware stores, whose aisles promise a heightened level of weirdness to my projects, and that makes me happy. Hello, my name is LiEr. I am a hardware shopping rookie. I know nothing. I ask dumb questions. In which aisle may I find the thingamajig tubes to make a teepee frame?
P.S. Answers to pop quiz = all false, in case it wasn't glaringly obvious.