Hardware stores can be intimidating places for the average DIYer. There are so many different types of tools, fasteners, appliances, paints, and adhesives that it can be daunting to try to distinguish one product claim from another. And then you have to wonder: Is the store employee giving you their best, most honest advice? Or are they trying to take advantage of your ignorance to up-sell you on a more expensive option than you really need?
In many big box hardware stores, the average employee probably doesn’t have much motivation to try and get you to buy anything in particular. Unlike professions that are primarily by driven by commission, hardware store employees usually make an hourly rate. However, there is sometimes the promise of a bonus if the store makes its targets in sales. And some stores have other performance policies that push sales numbers, as well, so there’s a chance you could still run into some financially motivated advice.
What to do before you go to the store
The first thing to do if you’re planning a trip to the hardware store is to Google your project to get at least a basic idea of what you need. Knowing some tool names and sizes of materials going in will give you an inside track on an overly enthusiastic salesperson. If the conversation turns to things not on your list, you’ll know to ask more detailed questions about why they’re recommending them.
In addition to your list of materials, you may want to come armed with answers to any basic questions the employee will have. Consider which features are absolutely necessary, what are some things that you would like, and how you’ll be using your tool or appliance. If you’re prepared ahead of time with these answers, it will be more difficult to get steered away from what you want. Also, it will be easier to spot when someone is trying to sell you something you didn’t ask for.
Ask for comparisons
If a sales rep seems to be pointing you toward a particular brand, ask why: How does that brand compare to others in terms of quality and durability? In the case of battery-operated tools, ask about battery life, how useful it is for a particular project, or features that make it easier to use than similar products. You don’t want to end up with something that will break 15 minutes after you take it out of the package, but most average DIYers don’t need the most expensive, top-of-the-line tools. If a sales rep is pointing you toward the most expensive version of what you’re looking for, they might be up-selling you.
Or skip the rep altogether
Lastly, in some cases, you can skip the sales associate all together. If you know what you want, order it online ahead of time, and simply pick it up. This allows you to take your time researching your options and come away with exactly what you need without feeling pressured to make a decision on the spot.