Tuesday, October 10, 2017

This Looks Like a Job For...

Us.  Not a superhero; you, me and everyone around here who knows how to do stuff.

According to Zero Hedge, Home Depot suddenly realized that they were having to hang their business on the millennial generation and few of them knew how to use the products they sell.
While avocado resellers like Whole Foods only have to worry about creating a catchy advertising campaign to attract millennials, Home Depot is in full-on panic mode after realizing that an entire generation of Americans have absolutely no clue how to use their products.  As the Wall Street Journal points out, the company has been forced to spend millions to create video tutorials and host in-store classes on how to do everything from using a tape measure to mopping a floor and hammering a nail.

Home Depot's VP of marketing admits she was originally hesitant because she thought some of their videos might be a bit too "condescending" but she quickly learned they were very necessary for our pampered millennials.
In June the company introduced a series of online workshops, including videos on how to use a tape measure and how to hide cords, that were so basic some executives worried they were condescending. “You have to start somewhere,” Mr. Decker says.

Lisa DeStefano, Home Depot vice president of marketing, initially hesitated looking over the list of proposed video lessons, chosen based on high-frequency online search queries. “Were we selling people short? Were these just too obvious?” she says she asked her team. On the tape-measure tutorial, “I said ‘come on, how many things can you say about it?’ ” Ms. DeStefano says.
As if to underline things, Zero Hedge posts the Home Depot "How to Use a Tape Measure" video.  Let me tell you: it's not a new phenomenon.  Around 1980, I was running the Quality Assurance department in an electronics factory.  I was amazed that adults in my group, 20 or 30-something women for the most part, couldn't read a ruler.   

My first thought when I saw this was, "it can't just be Home Depot; what about all the other companies that cater to Do It Yourself crowd"  What about all the companies for home woodworker's tools?  What about the tool importers?  Sure enough, they report that Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has started offering gardening lessons for young homeowners that cover basic tips—really, really basic—like making sure sunlight can reach plants. 
Companies such as Scotts, Home Depot Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. , Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s West Elm and the Sherwin-Williams Co. are hosting classes and online tutorials to teach such basic skills as how to mow the lawn, use a tape measure, mop a floor, hammer a nail and pick a paint color. 
To be honest, this doesn't seem like that big of a difference.  For a long time, up until about '09, Home Depot's slogan was, "you can do it, we can help" and they regularly had classes in how to build a deck or put down ceramic tiles.  It seems they're starting a bit lower on the skills ladder, but they've always been in the business of helping the average guy buy their products.
Millennials are naturally the group that Home Depot and other retailers have to appeal to.  It's almost an iron law of demographics, that people spend more in their mid-20s to mid-30s than older populations do.  When a couple is just getting started, they spend more on getting into a house, spend more on fixing it up, spend more on many things than older people.  This slows down for a couple in their 40s to 50s because the older couple is more likely to have already spent their money making their nest they way they like it, or they don't have as many things left they want to spend it on.  Older still, and they're more likely to be deliberately down sizing in preparation for retirement. 
The data here are a little surprising.  As I expect, homebuyers by age tilt heavily toward the millennials; the percentage of homeowners who made improvements in the last year also tilts toward them, but not as strongly.  The other two plots: housekeeping supplies and household furnishings tilt exactly the opposite way, showing a strong lead to boomers, and I just don't expect that. 

Where I planned for this at the start is how we as people who do things can help.  Whether you're repairing your own car's - or lawn mower's - engine, pouring your own concrete, building a backyard deck, welding, or repairing household appliances, you know more than someone who knows nothing about it.  We can help teach.  Zero Hedge linked to an older article on their site full of ideas for things to learn.  I bet between us we've got it covered.


  1. It seems to me that Home Depot is foolish to try to train these grown children Millennials. These children will not be able to finish their first project and then not come back for the second... It'll be the contractors who Home Depot will need to continue to please as the Millennials will be happy to trade their money and debt for others to do their work.
    God help America and the pajama boy future.

  2. I personally have tried to teach basic skills to the younger kids and they are just not interested. Theirs noses are buried in they damn idiot phone and the number 1 answer if I have to learn it there is a YouTube video that I can look up... damn video doesn't cover which end of the hammer you hold or a wrench.

  3. This is a side effect of the "everyone needs to go to college and be a rocket surgeon" mentality that demands everyone be a white collar worker. Blue collar skills and jobs are considered to be beneath many. Of course, the problem is that there are not enough white collar jobs, nor are most people suited for work requiring complex thought.

  4. @Divemedic,

    Perhaps, but...

    Back in 2012, I was working part-time at a pizza joint before my heart problems and I had an 18 year old girl who had no idea how a mop worked!

    She drove a Full-size Humvee from her house to work, which was like 5 blocks away.

    Her dad was a well to do Heating and cooling guy, who had his own business. Well, it turns out he had never taught her anything! She never helped or cleaned in the storefront/showroom they had.

    I have seen this as a trend with blue collar types and farmers, not teaching the family trade to their kids.

  5. The tenor of the comments so far tells me that people who know how to do things are going to make good money in the coming years. Supply and demand. If you can fix a sink or air conditioner or anything, you'll have work.

    There's a new app I hear/see getting sold on radio/TV called something like Tak'l, sort of like an Uber for getting things done. If you can do these jobs for people, you sign up with the company, then when someone is searching for help with fixing their whatever, the app gives them your contact info.

    Someone who doesn't know how to use a mop is either going to hire a cleaning crew, learn how to do it themselves to save money, or have a God-awful messy house.

    In the last couple of months, my wife and/or I fixed a switch on our microwave oven door, fixed our gas oven that was heating really erratically, fixed our bathroom sink, and I'm sure I'm forgetting things. Nobody is born knowing how to do these things, but people who know how to fix anything have an advantage when they have to fix something new because knowing how to troubleshoot is a universal skill.

  6. SiG, have to tell you, I prefer the Mike Rowe approach. Teach people who want to learn, and they will be the ones who will do the hard jobs industry needs. As for fix-it guys or gals, well, I think that is tilting at wind mills. Best to let economics play out and let "necessity be the mother of invention" or something like that with this crew.

    They think they are so hip and part of the cool crowd, well, lets see how hip they are when reality bites'em in the ass. I'm not saying I'm the perfect Mr. Fix-it because my bugaboo is procrastination. But being older hasn't done good things to my strength or my knees. I was lucky. My father had me out in the driveway helping him take out the engine of our VW Beetle and doing other repairs so I learned a bit about using tools. Schools are definitely not doing this generation any favors as many really shouldn't be wasting their time in college. They should be learning how to do stuff instead of poking a phone in their face all day long. Talk about no imagination!

  7. Ignorance is expensive, and the subject of your post is one of the finest examples around. If you can't figure out how to do the simple things, your $80K IT job is going to perform like a $9K Walmart job because you will be forking over big, big cash to keep your car going and keep your house from falling down. Perhaps this is why so many millenials a) don't own a car, and b) rent?

    If I couldn't do things like replacing a water pump, fixing a heating system, or doing small remodels then I would be out many tens of thousands of dollars per year.

    Knowledge is power and wealth, security and happiness. How have these feral children so completely missed that?

    1. Knowledge is power and wealth, security and happiness. How have these feral children so completely missed that?

      Christian religion says an early human civilization mistake was eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. American civic religion, taught by government schools and government TV channels, says leave it to the experts and the ignorant savage is morally superior. Knowledge takes effort for scholarship and experiment. Don't act White, it's not cool.

      Instead, power and wealth comes from giving the moral system of the formerly-dominant Western Enlightenment culture an autoimmune disorder which grows into cancer. There are no more real threats, starvations from crop failures or plague diseases, left to battle. Therefore, the White system should attack itself with Asthma, Irritable Bowel, Feminism, HotColdWetDry, and White Guilt.

    2. Because your generation didn't teach them..

  8. for the past 60,000 years, the dying generation has bashed the maturing generation.
    you'd think we would all be dead by now...

  9. Video ideas:

    How to sequence remodeling work to hide it from street view, so your neighbors won't squeal on you for not getting a building permit, using expensive licensed non-illegal contractors, etc.

    How to illegally dump construction waste at a convenience store dumpster.

    How to bribe a building inspector to sign off on a reasonable result achieved with a nontraditional approach.

    Tax and other overhead cost savings of doing it yourself vs. earning yourself to hire another.

    1. Ummm, I built my last house on a bare naked lot, doing everything except pouring the garage floor. The design was mine. We worked with the building inspectors all the way, in an area where they are insanely picky (Puget Sound), and we ended up with a wonderful house for a third the cost of the equivalent built by a contractor.

    2. I believe you, and I suspect the saneness of the regulations and inspectors varies widely between regions.

  10. I really believe someone got their stats wrong. I know I spent literally ten times as much as an adult in my fifties than as a young man. When I started working when I was living on my own, my first jobs paid $1.0 an hour (hospital orderly in the ER, assisting doctors with patients, setting up in-house traction throughout the hospital, being part of the ER Code Team, responding to cardiac arrests throughout the hospital). $1.20 working as an EMT for an ambulance company, operating a mobile ICU, working in a hospital pharmacy, a hospital OR and an ER. In my thirties and forties, I worked in law enforcement, earning around $16,000-$28,000. In my fifties, as an RN making between $$42,000 and $70,000, when I decided to retire.

    When my wife and I were both working (she retired a few years before I pulled the plug) we spent quite a bit remodeling our home, building a large vegetable and fruit garden, along with a lot of landscaping. We spent money on a 22' sailboat, firearms, a full wood shop including a dust collection system - in a 24' x 32' workshop we had built to house the system and all our other tools (mowers, roto-tillers, garden tractor, etc.). Most of this was paid in cash. Even the workshop was built through a home equity loan that we retired in less than two years.

    When we retired, we took the extra equity we got from selling our place near the top of the bubble, and went cruising on a sailboat starting in Daytona and down to the Keys, across to Bimini, the Berrys, and the Bahamas for seven months.

    Anyway, I guess I'm trying to say that I don't see most of the spending being done by people in their twenties and thirties because they don't (well, they didn't in my day) _have_ the money. Even friends who did graduate work at various colleges, who came out with much better starting incomes than I had, also had enormous student loans they needed to pay off. They didn't have much in the way of disposable income either, not at that stage in their lives. PLUS the cost of the families they started. Raising kids is damned expensive, from what I've seen (I never had any, so I'm going by friends and family who had children).

    I suppose it is possible things have changed, and mature adults aren't spending now they way they did when I was growing up, and that - somehow - millennials make a lot of money in their twenties and thirties, and - somehow - escape the expenses of loan debt for college, homes, cars, kids, etc. Or perhaps I simply am confused about how the statistics were determined for this generation.

    As an aside, considering how all of Bernie's young admirers want free college, free healthcare, free housing, a universal guaranteed income, etc., I think it would be an excellent idea to provide them with those "rights" - along the lines of Logans' Run. I don't quite recall how the population was maintained (was it through in vitro conception, with the infants raised in creches?), but if they will agree to the same terms as in Logan's Run, I say "Go for it!"