Searching for a small item inside a big-box store

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I entered the cavernous big-box national chain hardware store just to check out some bathroom fixtures and pick up a simple safety scraper, one of those with the retractable razor blade.

I didn’t even know what it’s called until I returned home and looked it up on the Internet, but that’s what it is, a safety scraper. It holds a blade that scrapes things off windows, or in this case, the side of the bathtub on the bottom, where the old glued on trim used to be.

I began my search for this item in the hardware section, where I thought it would be – along with the box cutters and utility knives.

I have been known to look at an item and not see it there right in front of my eyes, but this time it wasn’t there. There is so much stuff in these stores that each time I enter one, I remind myself of the advice former Freeport Mayor Jim Barnett gave me when I ran into him a few years ago in the middle of an aisle cluttered with light bulbs and fixtures.

“If you find what you need, grab it and don’t put it down, because if you do, you’ll never find it again,” he said.

But the mission this time was to find this elusive safety scraper. Guys will go up and down the store looking at each shelf, trying to find something on their own. We don’t like asking for help. It’s a sign of weakness.

So be it. I chased down one of the few associates in this gigantic place with lots of stuff in it, and asked him where I could find this scraper gadget.

Greg walked up and down the same aisles I had already covered. I could have done an inventory for him by the time I got finished. But he had to satisfy himself that the safety scraper was not there.

“I just saw it the other day,” he said apologetically. Well, that was the other day, not today.

Remembering seeing it doesn’t help me all that much. But I was polite. I didn’t say any of this. It must be hard to work in a place like this and try to find a needle in a haystack for customers who are actually in a hurry, like I was.

I would not do it. I hope these workers get paid a lot of money, because I’d be going nuts just trying to remember where things are. He got on his phone to call someone when I said, “I’d bet it is in the paint section.”

That’s right, he said. That’s probably where he saw it. There, problem solved. Greg was relieved. He really did his best to try to help. I let him off the hook.

I looked up and down the paint section, but no safety scraper. I saw more utility blades and wallpaper scrapers, but not the little metal thingy with the blade sticking out at the end.

I flagged down another associate (which is not all that easy to do), and asked her if she knew where the safety scraper might be. She walked up and down the paint aisles looking for it, just like I did a few minutes earlier, and declared that she couldn’t find any.

“We should have some on Aisle 12,” she said.

Great, now let’s go back there, pick up the item and leave. I headed for Aisle 12, where Greg was helping another customer. We were right back where we started from.

In this huge cavernous store, no hope remained of finding this $3, very simple and common item. I raised the white flag of surrender and left.

The next day I dropped by Lake Hardware and had the item in my hand within 30 seconds. Lesson learned: Bigger isn’t always better.