I’m closing on my first home this Friday. I’m really excited and have a ton of projects I plan to work on. The first of these projects is to paint the living room walls and ceiling and get my closets organized.
Today I visited your Forest Hill Avenue store in Richmond, VA with list in hand. I’ve had a now well-worn Olympic brand paint chip in my bag for about 6 months. That’s how long I’ve been looking forward to getting a certain shade of grey mixed. I also purchased an old bar cart this weekend and needed some primer and gloss enamel spray paint. While I was browsing the spray paint, one of your sales associates (tall man with tan skin, dark facial hair and glasses) walked up to me and made a comment about me not knowing what I was doing. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and figured he was joking and I told him that I did indeed know what I was doing and thank you. Not 5 minutes later he was back saying, “I thought you said you knew what you were doing.” I wasn’t finding the color I wanted in a gloss enamel (your color selection in all brands but your in-house brand Valspar is pretty weak, which is an obvious ploy to bottleneck customer’s options with other brands). He showed me that the different finish on the caps indicated if the paint was flat or glossy. This was his only helpful tidbit of advice after he steered me to Valspar gloss spray paint – which is not enamel, which is what I wanted. Of course, the color I wanted was out of stock. We exchanged a few more words about me trying another Lowes and if I needed more help. I told him I was buying my first house and that I was just browsing around. He said congrats and moved on.
So, as I was filling my cart with the Zinsser ceiling paint and the Olympic brand satin paint I wanted, and reaching up to get a gallon of paint I could barely touch, trying to have it not fall on my head, your salesman was back. He yelled at me from the end of the aisle and instead of helping me with the paint, he yanked it from my hands, “You don’t want this paint!” He went on and on about how the Zinsser ceiling paint was unnecessary, because I could just use Valspar, and how the Olympic paint I picked was no good and pulled the other 2 gallons in my cart and placed them back on an empty shelf. I was rendered speechless but since I couldn’t get a word in, it really didn’t matter. He went on and on about how I should use Valspar paint… comparing the Olympic I had chosen to a more expensive gallon of Valspar, saying the price difference was nominal and that the Valspar had primer built in and had low VOCs and odor. Just so you know, the Olympic paint had these features as well, which I pointed out. It didn’t matter. I told him I really didn’t care if the paint had primer since the walls are already painted white. He kept preaching about Valspar.
He called over the paint mixing associate and they both tag teamed me, fast-talking about the superior nature of Valspar paint. When I finally had a chance to speak, I told them that I hadn’t heard good things about Valspar paint and that I have also had bad personal experiences with it. I was then given a lecture on how I must have heard about the lower end lines because there are 6 different grades and of course, it was only the inferior grades I must have heard about. Then there was another lecture about the Zinsser ceiling paint, a brand I have had great experiences with. According to your salesman, I didn’t need it because the regular Valspar wall paint would be good enough. I told him that I wanted to get my wall paint tinted grey and wanted a white ceiling paint with one-coat stain-blocking abilities. I pulled out my paint chip. This was yanked out of my hand and promptly given to the paint mixing guy, who was told to find a similar Valspar shade. He wrote notes all over it and walked away. Someone was going to find a “similar” shade after I have been carrying around this particular paint chip for months? Hell no.
At this point, I was infuriated but I’m a lady so I thanked everyone for their help and decided I had had enough. I went to get my paint chip back, and I see that “flat” had been written on it when I had told then I wanted satin on the walls and flat for the ceiling.
No one was listening to me. No one cared about what I wanted. No one let me speak my mind and make my own choices. I can guarantee that if I were a man in the same position in your store, I would not have been treated like this. I was treated like an incompetent child. I am a 35 year old professional woman. My father is a contractor. I have grown up around construction sites and ran my father’s construction company for 15 years. I have painted with every brand of paint and I know an inferior product when I use it. I also know a blowhard sexist pig when I see one.
I will be following my father’s advice (who is a European craftsman who would rather die than use a builder grade product) and will be purchasing Benjamin Moore paint from a local vendor who will treat me with respect. It will also be a cold day in hell before I set foot in a Lowes store again.
I understand that one bad apple shouldn’t ruin the bunch. The thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve been harassed and talked down to by men who work in your stores. In case you haven’t noticed, women are pretty competent with home improvement projects. Have you taken a look on Pinterest or DIY and home decor blogs? Women are spearheading creative and inventive online tutorials for taking matters into our own hands instead of waiting for a man to do things for them around the house.
You may want to consider some sensitivity training for your employees because, I promise, one day one of your employees is going to rub a particularly litigious woman the wrong way and your legal team will be settling for millions of dollars outside of court for sexual discrimination.