Lessons from Angry Mike

We were waiting in the blinds aisle at Home Depot, waiting for someone to cut some mini-blinds for us. As we waited, I was goofing off trying to balance an umbrella on my foot. After two or three failed attempts, my wife said, “Cut that out. You break it, you bought it.”

“Yeah,” came a growl from behind me, “you break it, you bought it.” I turned around and saw Mike.

Mike stood about 6-foot-3 and probably weighed in at around 350. His shaved head and his scowl added to his formidable presence.

His attitude didn’t make him any more approachable.

“Just kidding,” he said. “I don’t care if you break it. Depot’s got plenty of money. Not that they spend it giving their people raises or anything.”

Wow.

We gave Mike our measurements and he started cutting, grumbling the whole time. “That’s why I gave my two weeks’ notice. I’m outta here. They don’t pay enough. They keep switching my shifts around, too. My manager’s gonna be pretty pissed that I’m leaving but I don’t care. If they’re lucky it won’t be like my job at Autozone. Man, I really went out with a bang there!”

He was interrupted by his walkie-talkie – someone calling for him to come help a customer. “Just a minute,” he snapped back, “I’m busy.”

Then he turned his attention back to us, shaking his head. “Some of those people they want me to help, they are sooooo dumb. They just want me to find something for them on a shelf. It’s like, how about you read the boxes yourself? That’s all I’m doing.”

At that point he shoved the cut blinds back into their box, handed it to me, mumbled something about having a nice day, and stormed off. Speechless, we made our way to the front of the store, paid, and left.

Later that evening, I put up the blinds, only to find that they were not only too narrow, but also crooked. So back into the box they went.

As I returned them the next day, I asked the cashier whether Mike was still back there. “I don’t think he’s come in yet today,” she said, “but I know he’s got a couple days left.”

I smiled. “He seemed pretty worked up yesterday. I don’t think I’d want him talking to customers if I were you.”

She just laughed. “Yeah, he’s pretty mad right now. I know he can’t wait to get out of here.”

And that was that. So I went back, had new blinds cut correctly by someone with a much better attitude, and headed home thinking about Angry Mike. On the one hand, counting my blessings that I didn’t have to deal with him again, and on the other hand, wondering about anyone else whose path he crossed before his time was up. Mainly, I thought about why Angry Mike was on the floor that day in the first place, poisoning the atmosphere and making customers uncomfortable.

He was there because the person who decided he should be there (his manager, the store manager, whoever) wasn’t thinking about the brand. That person was thinking about the day-to-day details of running the business. Mike’s still working here, so we’re going to get our money’s worth. And besides, no one else knows how to work the blinds-cutter.

I get it. But here’s the thing. When I think of Home Depot, three things come to mind, and they all scream “WE DON’T GIVE A CRAP”:

  • This phone. In a home improvement store with every kind of bracket you could hope for, someone decided to use packing tape to attach this phone to this column. How half-ass can you get?Angry Mike at Home Depot
  • The automated propane machines out front. A great idea in theory, but since the one at my Depot never works, I have to leave my tanks out front, go pay for the exchanges, go back to the machine, enter in the code on the receipt, watch it open up a cubby that’s already filled with an empty tank (or just jam entirely), then go find someone to manually open the cubbies that have full tanks so I can swap them out. What used to be a 10-minute process, and theoretically should now be a 5 minute process, is in actuality a 15-20 minute process. I once asked a manager whether they would ever fix the machine, and he just shrugged.
  • And now, Angry Mike completes the trifecta! Any customer-centric manager wouldn’t dare put him on the floor, but there he was, spewing venom.

What’s the lesson? Take your pick. Check references when you’re hiring. Make sure employees know they should intervene or report other employees behaving badly. As a manager, know when to cut your losses with an employee, even if that means sending them home when they’re on the clock. Keep a careful eye on how you do things to make sure it doesn’t contradict your brand like you care about your customers.

And above all… if you see a large angry man named Mike… don’t hire him. Trust me.

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