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Mailbag: For lack of screws, the sale was lost

Mailbag: For lack of screws, the sale was lost

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I have a lesson for the modern business leaders and bean counters.

When someone starts singing the praises of “just in time” or “lean manufacturing” or any of the other business models that suggest you can double inventory turns by halving the inventory, don’t listen. Let me tell you how that works in the real world.

I had a pump house that needed a new roof. Knowing that the price of strand board had lately gone through the roof, I was opting for colored metal roofing. I also need insulation and framing lumber.

I went to my big box store, where CEO bonuses and stockholder dividends are more important than satisfied customers, as evidenced by the lack of help. I wrestled the metal onto my cart. I sorted through their firewood, looking for lumber adequate to do the job, and loaded it onto the cart. I then looked for the colored screws used for fastening down the metal.

Not only did they not have any at that time, they don’t stock them at all. No doubt the result of some computer program telling a computer-bound manager there were not enough turns to warrant keeping them in stock.

Net result? They not only lost a $300 or $400 sale for the lack of a five-dollar box of screws. They also got to re-shelve the merchandise on my cart.

Frank Lathen




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