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It Takes One to Know One

It Takes One to Know One

That phrase–”It takes one to know one”–has been applied to every kind of person, from bratty children to coffee connoisseurs.

As it turns out, the same holds true for that strain of people who not only qualify as “Do-It-Yourself”ers but actually know what they’re doing, without the advice of someone on HGTV or a website. There’s a wide array of brotherhoods and sisterhoods represented by those men and women that shop at Lowe’s and the other get-anything-you-need-for-any-project megastores. Whether they ever speak to one another or not, many of them seem to have a magnetic sense for others who know as much (or as little) as they do.

There are the people who do “handyman” projects for a living, who only ever use the entrance/exit next to the Commercial Services desk, know where the complementary coffee is, and know the trade names for the materials they need, as well as the price on the same product at “the other store,” if it means a price match and bonus. These are the people who are known to their customers as General Contractors, plumbers, laborers, electricians, HVAC technicians, etc. These are the people who spend staggering percentages of their lives in hardware stores and home improvement megastores. They can be easily identified by company uniforms or a general air of confidence, directness, and a no-nonsense get-in/get-out manner, not to mention an almost instinctive store knowledge surpassing that of some store employees.

At the far opposite end of the spectrum are the people who come to these stores only when they have emergencies, can’t find or afford a professional, and have reached the farthest edge of desperation. They may walk confidently enough up to the automatic doors, but as soon as they’re inside, they slow down and start looking back and forth, all around, hoping against all odds that the magical solutions to their particular emergencies will be right there on the first end-deck. These are the people that don’t know that there are more than one kind of screwdriver. These are the people who grew up in rentals and made home repairs not with tools from Dad’s toolbox but with the telephone…the landlord’s phone number set as speed dial #1.

Somewhere in the middle are the rest of us–the average Jacks and Jills who can handle the majority of minor home repairs and renovations and try hard to recognize those projects that are beyond our capabilities (or toolboxes), before we get too far in. Although we don’t call a repairman to spray WD-40 on the squeaky door hinge, we will contact a professional for help with a second-floor addition. In a sense, we are the “middle class” of the customers at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and the rest of the home improvement industry. We are the people that know where the clearance tables are and faithfully help to clear out the discontinued stock. We are the people who stock up on materials for renovations during sales.

It takes all kinds, and the home improvement stores are no different than any others, with their wide range of clientele. Although there are distinct differences among the people, there is, in the atmosphere of a well-run hardware-and-more store, a camaraderie that irresistibly sparks conversation, every now and then, between strangers in Lumber or in Aisle 24. Depends on the time of day and on the nature of the home emergency, of course, but people can sometimes learn a lot from their fellow-shoppers, in these kinds of stores, as much as in any other.

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