Is This What Passes for Retailing?

A trip to Home Depot to buy tiles suggests the company has big inventory problems.
Published: February 9, 2010

My wife and I put off renovating our upstairs bathroom for years, but recently, we finally decided to dip into our savings and spruce it up. We went to Home Depot to look at floor tiles, and found a two-by-two slate-colored tile that we liked. The helpful store associate told us the system showed 14 boxes in stock, but no one could locate 14 boxes—or even one—in the store.

“We’re sold out, but I can check some of the other stores in the area to see if they have it in stock,” the employee told us. She found five boxes at a nearby location, but when we went there, the tile was the same style but not the color we wanted. “I can check some of the other stores in the area to see if they have it in stock,” an associate at that store told us. We politely declined and purchased a similar tile from the Procida Tile just down the road from that Home Depot.

And the problems didn’t end there. We purchased a toilet and some other items from Home Depot, but it took 40 minutes to locate them. We had had to leave to pick up our son, so I had to go back the next morning. But two of the items—a faucet and mirror—were not the models we ordered, so we had to wait for someone to find the correct ones.

Is this what passes for retailing today?

I know that deploying RFID at Home Depot would not be a simple task. Tagging every two-by-four and piece of angle iron might not be effective. And reading tags on boxes of screws or super-dense porcelain tile might not be that easy. But if I were advising Home Depot’s CEO, I’d suggest he take a very serious look at RFID and related technologies, because I’m sure we’re not the only sale the company has lost. No one likes shopping under these conditions.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.