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Follow-up question from the Wall Street Journal reporter

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DanHolohan
DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,565
"When an HVAC technician gets an urgent voicemail--especially one that's off hours--does he/she decide not to call back because there's plenty of non-emergency work to do?"

What say you? Thanks!
Retired and loving it.
«1

Comments

  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,696
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    I would never blow off a call for that reason. I might not (read "almost certainly wouldn't", unless I was expecting it) answer/listen to it, though.

    But, I'm an installer. We have a service team for that.

    One of the highlights of my career was getting off of the on-call list.

    PC7060
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    They would have to define urgent. And it would have to agree with my definition of urgent. But usually call back. I say usually because it depends on the customer.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,952
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    From an existing customer a call back is given. New customers no. 
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    Everyone gets a call or text back.  Within an hour or two of when I get the call.  If its late, next morning latest, but in any case I'll shoot a text and as long as its not a land-line, they will get the message and usually respond back.  They usually appreciate that.  Texting is here to stay.  Its a quick & easy way to keep people in the loop.  Phone calls often go 5-10 minutes.  You can text the info in seconds.  Mad Dog 🐕 
    SlamDunk
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,104
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    I will just about always return a call, usually.

    There are a lot of "it depends", and how do you describe urgent?

    For instance no heat, "It wasn't working on Thursday AM, I thought it would be working by now (Friday evening)" ....some things are expected to fix themselves.
    Not urgent to me unless they have infants or elderly in the house.

    No cooling, to me this is just about never "urgent".
    For the most part, people are spoiled by AC, used to the inside temp being 70 or lower. We do not run our AC until it is over 90 amb for maybe 2 days, then button up and turn it on. 75-76 inside setting then.

    Again urgent for some of the elderly, but most like it to be 80 in the house all the time anyway.

    In addition to all of the above mentioned:

    Do they owe me money?
    Do they owe my friendly competition money? (we talk you know)

    I might give them the number of the not so friendly competition and if they say that they already called them and they will not come, well then.... I am pretty busy.

    But then this is a very small town and you are expected to help the old widow(er) out of a situation. Often confused by the tstat buttons or the battery needs changed.
    Little things that you pay forward because some day.......

    Now if they smell gas then it is all hands on deck, I will call the local gas guy, maybe if a strong smell I will shut off their meter after evacuating the house. Sometimes the fire department is needed. :o
    Mad Dog_2PC7060EdTheHeaterMan
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,472
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    Seems like an odd question. If you don't respond or return the call, it could be the last time that person calls your company :)

    What business are you in? Seems polite customer service should be universal regardless of the industry.

    If you are an employee blowing off customer calls, that may come back to bite you!

    Does this reporter return your calls or txt? Urgent or not ;)
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    Mad Dog_2ethicalpaul
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,887
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    For me everyone gets a call back who leaves a voice mail. Our clients with a service agreement don't care how much it costs, they care about when can you be there. Even though they're looking at the temperature on their phone from 70 miles away. "We're coming out this weekend so we need it done ASAP." Newborns are less pampered than half these people, so they get the live voice of reassurance. After they leave the voice mail. No voice mail, no call back. 

    Non agreement calls still get a call back. But just to tell them that the office will contact them in the morning, or on Monday if a weekend, to schedule a visit. And no matter how many times you say "schedule a visit", they seem to tell the office, "You're man said you'd be here today at 8:00 am." If they're adamant and urgent on the voice mail, they calm down once I tell them the after hours or holiday rates.

    Mad Dog_2
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,944
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    My cousin has a tech give him an ignitor and a long screwdriver to put it in so they didn't have to come out after hours.
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,915
    edited July 2023
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    What about when you've spent 5 years telling a customer the equipment is going to let them down and it's time to replace and they keep putting it off.  And then it fails during a cold snap or heat wave and you know why they're calling late at night on a weekend?



    There are good and bad contractors but there's also good and bad customers.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Mad Dog_2EdTheHeaterManCLambMikeL_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    I think the Great Flat Rate Guru, Frank Blau said: "The customer is NOT always right...but they're still a customer!"  Mad Dog 🐕 
    GGrossEdTheHeaterMan
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    I'm going through a thing as we speak.  I've been forced in to learning AC because of incompetence and being brutalized by local AC companies that charge exorbitant rates and never really fix anything...its an act... a dog and pony show...hoping you'll fold after 4 hours and go for the complete new system.  My family Dr's (RIP) 86 yr old widow has no AC for 5 days..They've called close to a dozen AC
    companies and solo guys.. One had the decency and professionalism to call a day later to say he's two weeks out.  Another guy who I got thru another fellow contractor
    Did come out, but now is MIA.for last 2 days..no texts no calls..Embarrassing..Ill never recd them again!!  text the folks..".Sorry not interested."  Professional & polite. Be a Mensch for Christs's Sake!  Not good out there...Professional Courtesy & Integrity is sorely lacking!  A Rare Breed...Mad Dog 🐕 
    CLambScottSecor
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,166
    edited July 2023
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    I grew up in the Oil Business. There is a certain sense of urgency in my DNA. You retained oil heat customers by providing service to the customer. If a regular customer called at night for emergency repair service, one of the Young boys would be there. As the company grew and my parents' generation inherited the family business, the company grew to over 5000 automatic delivery customers because someone was there to answer the phone after the office was locked up tight. I remember there was a night dispatcher that stayed until the last delivery driver parked the truck and closed out his delivery tickets for the day. Sometimes the would be 9:00 or 10:00 PM in the winter. After that the answering service answered the phone and was able to get the oncall night service man.

    I remember getting that night shift for a week, every other month. The city is a different place on the night shift. I liked it.



    When I went off on my own in Cape May County, I still had that same work ethic. I remember at least 4 Christmas Eves when I was called away from Santa duties to fix a heater for a customer. That unassembled bicycle was still there when I got home late that night. That got finished before I went to bed, only to be awakened by two excited children an hour later.

    I don’t know about my competition, but my regular customers could depend on me. I didn't think that air Conditioning was as important as Heating. So I would talk to the No-AC customer on the phone at night to make arrangements to get there the next day. But you have to answer the phone. At least you did back in the day! Today, you just need to have an automatic text assistant make a generic reply for the most part.

    In a wheelchair I can't climb up the attic stairs to repair my own condensate drain. It really bothered me to pay retail service rates for that stuff. But I appreciate what the company needs to do and paid dearly for a repair that was scheduled entirely over the text messaging system. Never talked to a human until the Tech showed up at my door. And I was satisfied that someone was servicing my needs. Even without Stephanie's warm, calming, (and somewhat sexy) voice over the phone.

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    Mad Dog_2CLamb
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,944
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    Mad Dog_2 said:

    I'm going through a thing as we speak.  I've been forced in to learning AC because of incompetence and being brutalized by local AC companies that charge exorbitant rates and never really fix anything...its an act... a dog and pony show...hoping you'll fold after 4 hours and go for the complete new system.  My family Dr's (RIP) 86 yr old widow has no AC for 5 days..They've called close to a dozen AC
    companies and solo guys.. One had the decency and professionalism to call a day later to say he's two weeks out.  Another guy who I got thru another fellow contractor
    Did come out, but now is MIA.for last 2 days..no texts no calls..Embarrassing..Ill never recd them again!!  text the folks..".Sorry not interested."  Professional & polite. Be a Mensch for Christs's Sake!  Not good out there...Professional Courtesy & Integrity is sorely lacking!  A Rare Breed...Mad Dog 🐕 

    Normally i don't recommend yo learn anything from a video but this guy is really good:
    https://www.youtube.com/@davida1hiwaaynet/videos

    About 90% of split system problems are the compressor run cap, another 8% are problems with the blowers and fans and controls and like 2% are sealed system problems.
    Mad Dog_2PC7060
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,944
    edited July 2023
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    Understanding the sealed system is about the same level of complexity as understanding steam and few people that work on them really understand them.

    If you really want to know, read this:
    https://heatinghelp.com/store/detail/modern-refrigeration-and-air-conditioning

    I think i might have drifted off topic @DanHolohan.
    Mad Dog_2GGrossRobert O'Brien
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
    edited July 2023
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    Thanks Matty.. yeah, I'm seeing that. The only thing that's moderately involved is evacuating and filling the new system with the tank and Guage rig.  I followed a step ny step list from a top AC engineer at work and emptied the old one, then ripped out AHU in attic and condenser. Rerouting Linesets to punch right out the back of the house, run them in that white track covers and keep in all accessible.  The original installers (I DID pick the best of the Lot!) Ran all linesets in my interior walls because house was gutted (easier).  I came to check job at end of day and the installing mechanic was using Taramet sterling (my favorite solder!).  I asked why not silver-brazed which is ALL I've ever seen done. He insisted it was fine, but the boss liked it because it was cheaper than 15% Staysilv...Lo and behold, a few years in I developed a leak....I had 5 companies and a very sharp guy in.  Could never isolate the leak for good.  Now that R-22 is being phased out and a fortune, Its ALL getting ripped out by me, installed by me and my buddy will come direct me on the fill and purge.  

    HVAC (Furnaces, AC, Ductwork) is a separate trade that I did not or need to learn...until I did...Gun to my head!  The first floor zone (Both Lennox) has worked flawlessly for 21 years, with zero attention.  Its twin next to it started the nonsense 7 yrs in.  Its a sore spot in my fambly!  "C'mon, you're a plumber...you STILL can't find someone that can fix this???"  Or what's the big deal??..is it really THAT hard to work on?  Do I have to get someone in here???...thats it!  I'm buying window ACs!!!"

    So, I'm ready to learn a related trade...I guess its due.: plumbing, Hydronics and The Steam and now AC!  Mad Dog 🐕 
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 930
    edited July 2023
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    For me, any time the phone rang, that company or person received a call back since 95% of our work was for a school, hospital or a commercial building. I was ready to go anywhere if needed. Sometimes I could trouble shoot the problem with a knowledgeable customer. I never put them in a questionable or dangerous situation by having them do something that they should not have been doing. I had a fully stocked truck, "loaded to the gills" with replacement controls and parts and even a few obsolete parts that were no longer available. I knew a lot of the customers we serviced and knew "first hand" the condition of their equipment. In my 34+ years, they never heard me say that I would see them the next day if they needed my right now. I do not know how they operate now since I retired in 2007 but I know it is different.
    SlamDunk
  • Tim_D
    Tim_D Member Posts: 129
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    I have always called back, even when it is someone that we had history with and no longer wish to service. Word of mouth can be your best or worst advertising.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,547
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    mattmia2 said:

    Understanding the sealed system is about the same level of complexity as understanding steam and few people that work on them really understand them.

    If you really want to know, read this:
    https://heatinghelp.com/store/detail/modern-refrigeration-and-air-conditioning

    I think i might have drifted off topic @DanHolohan.

    It's all phase change!
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    mattmia2
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,774
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    Urgent, they get a call back or email depending on how they contacted me and whether they are a current customer. Whether current or not I respond shortly after I receive. I don't want to leave them hanging in what they consider and urgent need. Sometimes they just need talking off the ledge. I would hope they would do the same for what ever they do for a living.
    Tim
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    I gotta hand it to ya Paulie...WE AGREE 👍 💯.  As long as your not going to blow up your family with Gas or burn your house down...or poison the blocks water supply...This is America 🇺🇸..Go for it!  Yeah and my buddy who recommended the one guy that is not answering calls defended him!  "Relax....He's probably busy!!!"  No @%h÷ Just send a text...its takes 5 seconds  common courtesy 🙄 Mad Dog 🐕 
    ethicalpaulWMno57
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,166
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    Mad Dog_2 said:

    I gotta hand it to ya Paulie...WE AGREE 👍 💯.  As long as your not going to blow up your family with Gas or burn your house down...or poison the blocks water supply...This is America 🇺🇸..Go for it!  Yeah and my buddy who recommended the one guy that is not answering calls defended him!  "Relax....He's probably busy!!!"  No @%h÷ Just send a text...its takes 5 seconds  common courtesy 🙄 Mad Dog 🐕 

    A helpful neighbor caused this but the contractor and LP company paid the price. I remember when this happened. you may need to scroll down past the blank area to read the story.

    https://www.nj.com/cape-may-county/2013/12/nj_couple_sues_after_propane_explosion_destroys_home_causes_injuries.html
    Scroll

    The next time I saw someone from The Shore Guys as the supply house, I asked then about the new advertising campaign.

    Our Service Will Blow You Away

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    Lucky to be alive...There is a Bumper Sticker that Long Island 🏝 Electricians have:
    "Wiring is No Hobby..call a Licensed Electrician."  The Fuel gas industry neede to come up with our own.  Mad Dog 🐕 
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,104
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    I can't quote chapter and verse (other than common sense), but doesn't some code require any disconnected gas lines to be plugged/capped.

    IIWM, I would have capped inside and disconnected the tank outside and capped the lines there. But then that is time and money isn't it?
    CLamb
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    Absolutely.  Gas needs to be taken back to the to the branch tee and plugged.  Some municipalities want tee removed as well and put back w a left/right coupling.  With oil to gas conversion, fill & vent cut out and holes cemented.  As to leaving open pipes...
    The Great John J Nolan of G.F. Sheridan and Wolf & Munger NYC   always said:
    "Never leave open lines...they WILL come back to haunt you! "   Mad Dog 🐕 
  • realliveplumber
    realliveplumber Member Posts: 354
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    Yes, any disconnected gas piping needs to be capped "gas tight"

    I personally know of a basement that was flooded with oil after a tank was removed, and the fill and vent pipes were left behind.
    Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    Yup...thats happened in NY plenty.  Mad Dog 
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    Its always good practice to remove disconnected pipe when feasible to avoid some hapless plumber down the line connecting to it and causing flood damage or worse.  I knew of a situation in a NYC high rise hospital 🏥, where a House guy trying to affect a shut down, opened a ball valve in his efforts and unintentionally flooded out an active operating room -during a surgery!  They wanted to blame him, but legal & financial liability & blame was assigned to a recent contractor who cut pipes and never capped them because he ASSUMED they were all cut free and left  "dead on the vine."  You cut a pipe....cap or plug it...or remove it....Mad Dog 🐕 
    CLamb
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,104
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    Read of a fire investigation where a NG clothes dryer was removed, the stop was
    shut off but the outlet not capped.

    The washer, while in the spin cycle walked around a little and opened the ball valve.

    Some source of ignition and the room went up in flames.
    Mad Dog_2
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,565
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    Retired and loving it.
    mattmia2Larry WeingartenErin Holohan Haskell
  • FStephenMasek
    FStephenMasek Member Posts: 88
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    Great job of being extensively quoted! I'm grateful that I was inspired back in 1991 to focus on commercial, industrial, and government clients, not homeowners.
    Author of Illustrated Practical Asbestos: For Consultants, Contractors, Property Managers & Regulators
    Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    Congratulations 👏 Dano!  Well done...Mad Dog 🐕 
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,565
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    She and her editor were so delighted with you all. What was to be a 600-word article grew to 1,200 words, and all thanks to you sharing your experiences. Thanks. 
    Retired and loving it.
    Mad Dog_2mattmia2Erin Holohan Haskell
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,600
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    A follow up story could be : " Why are Lowes and Home Depot so popular" 😃
    Mad Dog_2
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,915
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    SlamDunk said:
    A follow up story could be : " Why are Lowes and Home Depot so popular" 😃
    What's your opinion on the matter?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Mad Dog_2
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,600
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    My opinion? It was in the article. Sometimes, a homeowner has to decide whether to learn how to fix it themselves, or ignore it and let the problem get worse.

    Say that I have a toilet leaking, can't find anyone who will help me, you know, there is a shortage of skilled plumbers and there is a very high demand; this is a nickle job, in an old house and it may turn into an can of worms,noone returns my calls.

    And, while I dont consider myself a cheap homeowner, I do have a limited budget. My income hasnt kept up.

    So, I go online and find this awesome website Heatinghelp.com, ask for advice, and get great advice from kind people who understand reality, go to Lowe's, purchase a wax ring, pull the toilet hoping it doesnt turn into a can of worms and replace it. Fingers crossed and Hope for the best.

    It worked. Yay. It cost me six hours online, an ulcer, and ten bucks. Sure, it could have went south, cost me a week's labor and a several hundred dollars. But my choice was, let my home become a hovel because I couldnt find anyone or learn to keep it up. Hence the popularity of big box stores - and Heatinghelp.com!

  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,915
    edited July 2023
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    @SlamDunk

    But hardware stores etc have always carried wax rings.   Lowe's/Homer aren't required for that.


    Perhaps I missed the point.  I'm sorry if I did.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,600
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    In this area, there arent any hardware stores left.

  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    My take...

    1) HD & Lowes (Lowes a bit better) are my LAST choices.
    2) Good luck trying to find ANYONE to help you.  If you do "capture" someone you have to follow them around the aisles with 4 or 5 other "Lost puppies" till its YOUR turn..
    3) Bins are all messed up with mixed stock in them.  Skus often missing.
    4) I try Mom & Pops Hardware Store or my plumbing supply first...even if its out of the way. I'm a Huge Supporter of American Small businesses.  Shop Local!  
    5) When "Help-yourself-Depot" came around in the early 1990s, they put many small hardware stores out.  Only the strongest 💪 survived.  Then,  small chains Like ACE and Best have crept back, doing a thriving business...open on Sundees!  Folks that go there AVOID The Big Box stores like the Plague too!  
    6) I hate going to the big box stores.  I get very keyed up, bracing for the frustrating experience.  That being said, who else is open at 8pm on A Saturday nite? Opens at 6am??  No one!!
    I AM grateful there ARE there.  Mad Dog 🐕 

  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    Remember when Home Depot opened up???

    A sales assistant in EACH aisle that KNEW the trade ..."Good morning 🙏 Welcome to Home Depot...how can I help you??,?"

    This lasted 2 months.  This Was the "Welcome Wagon" that traveled the Country opening the new stores and getting them on their feet....Ya don't see them No more! 
    Mad Dog 🐕