I’ve been asked to put my latest Facebook adventure on the blog, so everyone can read it.
It’s been a busy few days since I wrote an open letter to Home Depot, and received an incredible reaction from the public. It was beyond anything I’d ever expected.
I’m not usually someone who courts controversy, but I do believe it’s important to have a voice, and stand up for what you believe in. In this case, I didn’t feel it was fair for a large hardware store in my city to be comparing my main product — Chalk Paint™ decorative paint by Annie Sloan — to a homemade version made with plaster of Paris and latex paint. Also, I didn’t like my shop name (plus the distance away of my shop, and the price) being named specifically as reasons to make-your-own.
I wasn’t angry, nor jilted…I just wanted to speak up about it, as I felt it was an issue that needed to be aired.
Before I put the letter here, I just want to add that I was very impressed with the reaction from Home Depot, and thought they dealt with it in an admirable way. Their reply will follow the letter.
If you want to see the original thing, and all the comments left, please visit the post on my Facebook Page.
Otherwise, here it is:
(Posted on Facebook February 26th, 2015)
Dear Home Depot,
Sorry to bother you. I know you’re hugely busy with your seven Ottawa stores. Just wanted to run something small by you.
A customer came in yesterday to our store (just our one-and-only little shop in a quiet west end neighbourhood) and told us she was surprised to find a booth set up in one of your east end stores telling customers how to make their own “chalk paint”. Your employee told her it was a great idea because it would save her a trip driving all the way to Malenka Originals in West Ottawa.
Wow. I didn’t even know you knew I existed! Thank you. I’m incredibly flattered!
I’ve spent many a day wandering the aisles of your 105,000 square foot store. It’s quite a change coming from mine that’s only 600 square feet. Imagine that! I could fit 150 Malenka Orignals into ONE of your stores!
I hear you have over 32,000 products for sale in each store? Incredible. I only sell two lines of specialty furniture paint and some assorted brushes, knobs and stencils. But mostly we specialise in teaching people all the beautiful things they can do with Chalk Paint™.
Yes, it’s our bread and butter. It’s really the main product that makes us able to run a small business and pay our employees.
I realise it’s hard keeping track of these things – after all, you’ve got on average 195 employees per store to take care of (I have three…part time) – but I thought you might want to know that you can’t actually make your own “chalk paint”. It’s not simply a paint with chalk added to it. It is not made by adding plaster of Paris or grout or even baking soda to an existing paint.
It’s actually a unique decorative paint developed 25 years ago by a lady named Annie Sloan. Have you heard of her? She’s very inspiring. She’s done something very unconventional in the business world. Instead of selling her products in box stores, she has nurtured a network of small businesses around the world. At last count, 1,250 shops. It’s not a franchise. Just small, independent businesses – largely female run – who love Chalk Paint™ with a passion and love sharing and teaching about it.
So, if upon further consideration, you reconsider telling customers to make their own “chalk paint”, we’d love it if you could send them our way. I know it’s a lot to ask, but we actually do that for you. Oh yes, I’m constantly telling customers they can find shop towels, stain, painters tape, sanding paper and many more items at your store that we don’t sell.
And I even spend a lot of my own money at your store. I mean, compared to your over $28 billion gross profit in 2014, I don’t have anything like that to show for my business, but I do spend a good deal of my budget on supplies at Home Depot.
Anyway, best of luck with your campaign to keep those customers from driving all the way to our shop in west Ottawa. I guess it’s better for the environment anyway.
The same day it was posted, I received a call at 4:30pm from Paul Berto, Home Depot’s Director of Corporate Communications. We had a really good conversation. We spoke again the next day, and he issued me with a written reply.
Here’s my follow-up on Facebook.
(Posted to Facebook February 27th, 2015)
A very interesting day! I spoke today with both the Home Depot Director of Corporate Communications and the store manager from the store involved. I’d like to thank Paul Berto, Director of Corporate Communications, for an apology (to follow) and for being open to the issues I raised in my letter.
Although this involved an incident at a specific store, in our conversations, I stressed that I wanted the wider issue to be recognised: larger box stores don’t need to have all the market share — they should share the market, especially when it comes to small businesses.
Everyone is free to play around with paints, make their own, experiment in their DIY projects. But when a specific brand exists, and helps to support a group of independent stores, that product should be respected and not encroached on by anyone.
We’re very grateful that #AnnieSloan made the incredible decision to exclusively sell #ChalkPaint in independent businesses. As I mentioned in my letter, this is an unconventional approach, which I hope other businesses/inventors/entrepreneurs will follow in the future. It’s high time for a revival of the Mom and Pop Shop!
I encourage all hardware/paint stores everywhere to help clear up brand confusion, not mislead customers, and acknowledge that Chalk Paint™ is a specific product only found in small, local, independent businesses.
Here’s the message I received from Paul Berto, Director of Corporate Communications for Home Depot:
“Thanks again for taking my call and as we spoke I would like to apologize for any disparaging remarks that might have been made in regards to your store in this isolated incident. You have an awesome operation and provide great service to the community. We need you to be a success as our businesses truly complement each other. I know that our paint associates recommend Malenka Originals as a source for the “Chalk Paint” brand and definitely appreciate how you also recommend the Home Depot for home improvement needs. Our leadership team wants you to know that we will continue to focus on our core strengths and will continue to be guided by our values in how we serve our customers and partners in the community such as your store. Again please accept our apologies, the comments that you outlined in your note are not how we conduct ourselves or our business.”
Thank you to everyone who got involved and made your voice heard either by sharing, liking or leaving a comment. Without this kind of reaction, I really don’t know if my voice alone would have been heard.
Great things happen when we all work together.