April Fools

The Long Way Home 

Despite the recent winter storms, spring is coming. We looked forward to spring at the Home Center--with some uneasiness, but with the certainty that we would soon have stories to tell.

Spring means the return of snowbirds and seasonal property owners. And that means they’ll need to be doing home improvements and repairs. So guess what, they come to the hardware store and leave us laughing--at ourselves most of the time.

Last spring a woman came in looking to get a longer toilet connection--one of those flexible, braided pieces of plumbing to get water to the toilet. In her case, it was for a bidet. So who does this poor woman get stuck with to help with plumbing? Me.

We made our way back to the plumbing area and soon found the length of connector she wanted. I thought I’d solved a plumbing problem and was pretty happy with myself. The fittings on the connectors come in only a couple of sizes, most commonly ⅜” or ½”. Strange that the shorter piece she brought in for comparison didn’t fit with either size. I worked with her at finding adapters that might work for more than 15 minutes, without success. Feeling like an April Fool after this fruitless effort, I tracked down one of the store owners. He, who had vastly more plumbing experience than I.

So Nate took the problem under his wing, allowing me to retreat to the front of the store with some sense of dignity intact. Fifteen minutes later, Nate sauntered (yes, he saunters) up to tell me a bit about the bidet this woman’s husband was trying to install. It seems they purchased it while in Europe and had it shipped over here. The fittings on a European bidet, they are metric. At Ace, all the toilet fittings are imperial.

Lesson learned that day, remember to ask all the questions before offering a solution.

Tourists will be back too. One of my favorite phone calls from a distant area code related to a question about how to find the store. Admittedly, it is a bit off the highway, but there are signs. Still, lots of folks miss it on the first pass.

So I answer the phone and this guy asks, “You’re north of Grand Marais, right?”

Me, partly because I’m nasty, “No, we’re east of Grand Marais.”

I could almost hear him murmuring to himself, trying to figure that out. After we got the whole east or north thing out of the way by me telling him we’re on the way to Canada I got down to my best customer service attitude.

I said, “We are east on highway 61 just one mile from THE stoplight.”

He asks, “Which stoplight?”

I rolled my eyes, and as gently as I could, I explained that there is only one stoplight in Grand Marais. I’m not sure if the guy ever got to the store, but he made a permanent impression with the stoplight question.

Here’s hoping you weren’t the victim of an overzealous prank today.