The events at the heart of this post happened 2 years ago last October in the days immediately before the house settlement. I was sitting in the said house (as I had for the previous 36 years) and mentally cataloguing all the things I would do once it was MY HOUSE. Carpets to go, boards sanded and varnished. Kitchen splashbacks to go and be replaced. Couldn’t afford a new kitchen, but I had ideas of how to change the cupboards that were there. New cupboards to build in the laundry. Fresh paint (bye bye butter cream yellow!) from ceilings down. Turn the hall into a library with floor to ceiling shelves. New doors. New handles on old doors. New doors on the cupboards with new modern hinges. New light fittings in lots of rooms. Air conditioning. Window awnings. So many ideas I literally could not sit still.
The amount of money I was about to spend on the house was not small. I think I probably underestimated what paint would set me back by about $800 alone. Since I couldn’t afford to have anyone else do the work I was going to have to learn a few new skills. So one Friday night, sitting here twitching because I couldn’t really start any project (might jinx it if I did before it was truly mine) I focused on the amount of timber I would need to cut in the immediate future and went shopping for a sliding compound drop saw. I knew very little about them other than the fact that I can’t saw a straight cut to save my life, so this was a necessity, not a luxury if I ever wanted shelves.
I headed for K&D Warehouse Mitre 10 store in the city. It was almost ingrained – as a child I followed Dad on many a trip to Kemp & Denning for hardware. I went to the tools section. There were two men serving, one older the other a younger guy. So I planted myself in front of the saws and browsed while I waited for them to finish with the customers. I read boxes, fiddled with display models and got moved twice while the salesmen got up to higher shelves for things. Each time I went back to the saws. I was not just propping up a shelf waiting for hubby. The older guy finished with his customer. I started to initiate eye contact. I turned towards him. He turned towards me. He walked towards me….and straight past me to greet a man just entering the section behind me.
Deep breaths. Apparently I’d lost more weight than I thought and was now invisible. I waited as the younger man finished up with his customer at the other end of the row. As his customer walked away I started that little half wave you do when shopping. I almost got ‘hello’ out before he glanced my direction, turned and went to serve a man who had just entered the tools section at the other end.
I should have demanded to see a manager. About 6 months before I had asked to see a manager in the same store – to commend the actions of a salesman who had gone above and beyond to find me 6 screws (and then even cut them to length for me) – a total transaction of about $5. I was standing looking at $700+ equipment but these men weren’t interested in serving me. To tell the truth I was so furious I knew I wouldn’t have been coherent. I walked out of the store, got in my car and don’t remember driving to Moonah. As I walked into Bunnings the woman greeting at the door asked how they could help me.
“Depends, do your men serve women?”
She was a bit shocked when I told the story and assured me that wouldn’t happen here. I walked into the tool department and the salesman there spent the next hour going through what I needed, what would be better, which would do what etc. He pointed out the cheaper saw would disappoint me and talked me into the next model up which has a laser and less vibration so it stays true. He did all this despite me stating up front that I wasn’t spending any money that night, just getting a feel for what to buy later. 5 days later I walked in and bought the saw $800, several smaller tools and some paint. Within the next couple of weeks I had spent around $5000 in Bunnings, and that was by no means the end of it. I haven’t added up the total because I really don’t want to know. Despite the fact I have to almost pass K&D to go to Bunnings I went there constantly. In fact one day one of the cashiers commented I was there more than she was and she worked there full time.
Then, 12 months after they refused to serve me, I had to go to K&D. Firstly, they stock Rustoleum paints (which I have read rave reviews of on many an American blog) and Bunnings doesn’t. (Having now tried a couple of cans of Rustoleum I am now very reluctant to buy other brands of spray paint – they are just so superior in application and quality.) I also have a router which I bought from K&D many years ago and I’ve lost the fence (cutting guide). I was hoping maybe they had them individually. Well I took the manual in so he could see the model. (Note, the router is almost useless to me without the fence). The man in the tools department glanced at it, said “We don’t sell them anymore,” (the brand is discontinued, which I knew) and turned and rushed away from me as if he had an appointment. I later turned a corner and found he was in a hurry to hang packets of screws!) Now, if he’d said, we don’t have them, BUT here’s our range of routers, I’d have probably bought a new one. Stuff them, when I need a new router, I’m going to Bunnings for it.
Is sexism still alive and well in your hardware store?