The hard men of hardware

The hard men of hardware

I mourned Bunnings’ closure of its hardware store in my suburb because it meant that if I needed (I was tempted to say a screw in a hurry) items for menswork I’d have to go further afield. But that was turned into rejoicing when a new hardware store opened on the opposite side of the road to where Bunnings is now a hole in the ground being further hacked into by hungry earth movers.

The new hardware store is a frighteningly clean and brightly lit franchise. I’d heard that a well-heeled former banker, who was looking for something to do with his life and his savings, had opened it. His challenge was that he knew plenty about banking but nothing about hardware. He wasn‘t even a competent home handyman.

He was welcomed into his new business by the zealous local council which slapped an infringement notice on him. The fine stated that he had unloaded on the footpath. This penalty was usually related to defecating dogs, I thought.

I went in on day two of the new venture to find the owner camped by the cash register where he obviously hoped he would not have to answer any questions to do with hardware. He had employed older men who spoke fluent hardware to do that. All he wanted was to play with the money and smile at people.

The professional hardware sales assistant has rough hands, is late middle aged, all knowing and superior in an underdog kind of way. He works on the premise that the customer is a fucking idiot which, is most cases, is correct. On the other hand, the non-professional hardware sales assistant is usually much younger and known in the trade as ‘an improver’. He doesn’t keep his belief to himself that the customer is a fucking idiot. Rather, he demonstrates it when asked a question about a product. He picks up the product and reads aloud to the customer from the packet, usually tracing the words with his finger.

This young person works on the assumption that the customer can understand spoken English, but not read it. Or if he can read, he has no idea that information about the product can be found printed on the packet.

My visit to the new store also illustrated that the screw industry is manipulative. When I tried to fix our washing machine I found it was held together with torx head screws. To quote Wikipedia: Torx (pronounced ‘torx’), developed in 1967 by Camcar Textron, is the trademark for a type of screw head characterized by a 6-point star-shaped pattern.

 A torx screw is not interesting in having intercourse with an old-fashioned screwdriver or a Philips screwdriver. You need a special torx screwdriver, which is why I was in the new hardware store.

There was more humbug to come. In a hardware store you can’t buy one of anything anymore. You have to take ten times more than you need so you can store the surplus for several years at home before throwing it out.

Nobody in the history of the world has every finished a handyman job and had nothing left over. In fact, in my experience, you seldom use more than half of what you are obliged to buy, meaning that the major use of hardware products is landfill. In this instance, I only wanted one screwdriver, but I had to buy the whole set of 24 in case I needed to deal with a torx head screw in a watch or one on a battle ship.

Despite my grizzles, I’m pleased that this non-hardware man has opened to fill the gap left by Bunnings. I’ll buy from him in future. But if I’d been able to discuss his pre-opening plans a year ago, I’d have suggested he took an undercover job at Bunnings to learn hardwarespeak.



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