Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Hardware for beginners

Every time I pass the monstrous orange behemoth that is Mitre 10 Mega, I feel a pang of nostalgic sadness for the Mitre 10s of old. They were blue and cheerful, well-presented, and had lots of kind, evuncular retirement-aged men, who would patiently answer any hardware-related question you threw at them.

I suffer from a condition I like to call 'hardware anxiety'. I'm relatively handy for a woman (unlike many, I had the chance to learn from my dad), but I've still got plenty to learn about the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of DIY. And I hate going into many of the major hardware stores to ask questions. They expect you to know what you're doing. Some practically refuse to serve you unless you have paint-splattered shoes and a builder's buttcrack. They demand to know what grade of tanalisation I want for my timber. If I knew that, I wouldn't be asking, for f*ck's sake.

I end up feeling silly for asking my amateurish hardware questions. My partner's hardware anxiety is worse than mine, though - being female is an excuse for lack of DIY knowledge, but blokes are expected to know such things by virtue of testosterone. At my local Bunnings Warehouse, being female is an accepted metaphor for DIY incompetence - they run basic skills classes for ladies only. This is the one downside of an otherwise great initiative. I proposed putting my partner in a wig and skirt so he could enrol, and he wasn't completely averse to the idea.

I just want the empowerment of power tools. I need advice on which grade of sandpaper to use. I demand to know whether I can use acrylic based paint over enamel. Most of all, I long for a day when a woman can ask her hardware questions without fear, shame or an exposed buttcrack.


A Nonny Moose said...

Placemakers seem to have it better than Mitre 10. My partner is more DIY handy than I, but does like to ask questions to get it right. I don't feel uncomfortable going in to Placemakers - we go together, and they include both of us in the decision/sales conversation. A double plus is that it seems at least half their staff are women, and they're confident with their knowledge.

At PM, we also get the feeling from our sales assistant whether they're confident with the product. They're also good enough to say "hey I don't know, I'll get someone who does" without bullshitting us into a sale.

We might be lucky - it might be our local PM. But I'd say give Placemakers a go over Mitre 10. They might not be BIIIIG, but they seem to have the edge on staff.

Annie Fox! said...

I've found Bunnings to be great for advice and service - even though they are usually as big as a big, big, big warehouse.

They tend to employ ex-tradesmen and when asked where something is don't just point off in some vague direction, but take you there, find the product for you and give advice at the same time. No patronising behaviour and often with humour. My kind of men.

Anonymous said...

Yup, I find the same thing at our local Bunnings. Often their products are lower grade than their competitors but hey, it's a lot cheaper and nearly as good. So I've found myself going to Bunnings for advice then off to a trade supplire once I have the lingo down pat. That said, when I was building our rainwater tanks the local plumbing trade supplier was excellent and happily sold me exactly what I needed and even exchanged a couple of things that I guessed wrong about.

I think the trade places are reluctant to give advice because they don't really have the margins for it but do have legal liability for their advice. I've found the blokey "I'd like someone to tell me how dumb this is before I do it anyway" approach works quite well.

The girly finds that she gets better service if she knows what she wants and is willing to let the boys tell her everything she "needs" to know... it's worth it to get trade or staff prices for the stuff she ends up paying for. Nothing like getting $200 worth of stainless steel sheet cut to size (which should cost extra) then paying $100 for it because you've got boobies :)


anna c said...

My main problem with Mitre10 is that when I try to buy wallpaper paste they tend to assume I am going to use it for hanging wallpaper or something weird like that, and try to advise me accordingly.