Letter to Lowe’s

Marvin,
     I know the chances of you even reading this are slim. Far less are the chances of you responding but I figured that maybe, just maybe, there was a chance that you or someone who could make a difference could read this.
     My name is Harrison. I was born in Simi Valley and have lived here most of my life. In my 27 years of life, I was taught the incredible value of hard work, instilled within me a strong sense of dignity and vigilance, and pride in my work. I owe that to my father, who, to this day, is one of the smartest and most wise I have ever known, despite him never having finished college. From him, I discovered that there are seldom any problems that you cannot overcome without strength of spirit and heart. I watched as he gave his blood, sweat, and tears to the companies that employed him, only to see his hard work taken advantage of and unappreciated.
     You see, hard work and diligence DO get you far in life. Farther than I think we may give credit. But without careful nurturing and growth, even the most patient and hard working of us begin to slowly give less and less. I have seen countless associates fall by the wayside because managers abuse their hard working hearts by asking more and more and more. What was once a paragon of customer service and product knowledge withers into laziness and ineptitude,  not because they suddenly turned lazy, but because they CHOSE to give less and less.
     The good news is that this malaise is easily remedied. We need to prevent managers without an ounce of leadership in their bones from becoming 
 hard working associate killers. I have seen employees promoted as well as individuals taken from outside the store without so much a lick of what it takes to truly LEAD others. At the store level, full and part time associates, such as myself, do not need bosses. We need leaders.
     I am not sure if you saw the Farewell post of our last CEO, but there was a particular comment that caught my eye; not necessarily because it was rude or perhaps angry, but because it carried within it the feelings that plague most of if not all of the associates I have come to know and respect. The comment was this:
     “”18 years ago, Lowe’s recruitment program loudly pitched the slogan “Retire Rich” to its prospective hires. I was one of those hired during that time. Since that time, almost two decades ago, I, and others like me, have incurred reductions to both our compensation and retirement security because of corporate decisions resulting in the following: 
Lowe’s termination of the Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) 
Lowe’s termination of the 401k Performance Match (which temporarily replaced ESOP) 
Lowe’s termination of Holiday bonuses 
Lowe’s termination of Spiffs and Commissions earnings 
Lowe’s termination of the “Lookback” feature of our ESPP which permitted Lowe’s employees the potential of a greater discount on the purchase of Lowe’s stock 
Lowe’s termination of our employees ability to purchase SOS items @ 10% over cost 
Lowe’s termination of Mutual Fund offerings in our 401k program
Good to see one of us Retiring Rich after all, Bob.”
     This feeling of resentment is far too real and common down at our level. In recent years we have seen Lowe’s take away just about everything that made it a privilege to work for Lowe’s. There simply is NO investment, and, perhaps even worse, incentive for investment, for full and part time associates. Add in a dash of incompetent and spiteful Service Managers who have no business telling another human being what to do and Store Managers who could care less about how associates feel about their job and you have a recipe for disaster.
     I will be honest with you. At the store level where the only thing that comes between a customer and the product they are looking for is the hourly associate, there is little in the way of providing for the associate. Although it is true that the customer pays for our paycheck, without satisfied and well-looked-out-for associates, the negativity and anger that we are breeding into the next generation of associates will undoubtedly wear off on the customer.  As a consumer myself, I find the signs all too easily observed if you pay attention.
     One of my role models is Sir Richard Branson. Not only does he tote one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the world, but he also holds the one of the highest associate satisfaction ratings. He was once quoted saying, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.” I could not agree more with this statement. Instead, we see a much greater emphasis of creating “customer value” and “an easy shopping experience” and other corporate buzzwords that, while sounding nice, don’t actually translate AT ALL at the customer level. Service Managers, ASM’s, and Store Managers don’t see the customer as having a family and wanting to create the perfect birdhouse for their son, they see numbers and how much we a can nickel-and-dime then into oblivion with credit cards and EPP’s and other nonsensical plans that offer little value to the customer. This inorganic approach to customer service creates an incredibly toxic work environment, to the point where associates feel an immense pressure to act as inhuman as possible just to line the managers pockets with quarterly bonuses while the associate gets next to nothing for their efforts.
     One of the associates at my store is an absolute GENIUS at generating credit card applications. So much so, that she was consistently netting about a hundred per month. This continued for about two years, and she saw nothing for her hard work. She finally drew the courage to ask for something; nothing major, just some sort of recognition that she was failing to receive. The next day, the Service Manger for that day gave her $20 gift card. I have never seen a woman more ashamed and insulted in my entire life. So overcome with anger and embarrassment she refused the gift card and refused to sell any more credit cards. Every now and then, when the managers threaten her hours unless she generates more credit cards, she gets ten or twenty at a time. It’s an incredible skill she can simply turn on and off, yet is taken advantage of.
     I saw the blog that was posted stating how you had taken the time to work for a day at the Texas store, as a Pro Service Associate. This would allow you to see how we can help customers at the associate level. What I think we are failing to see is how we can help the associates at the store level. These people have beautiful, wonderful lives that do not always revolve around Lowe’s. That is the simple truth. What will be done to help them? What programs can we create that will motivate them to be the best associate that they can be? Doesn’t it makes sense that when we create a harmonious atmosphere that the only logical step is that positivity will shower onto the customer? Isn’t this what we want? Or are we really not about helping people love where they live? How we can promise that, if we aren’t first helping our associates, our lifeblood, love where they work?
     My name is Harrison, and I work at the Simi Valley store, number 1971. Our EOS score is a 47. I don’t know about you, but the last time I got a 47 on something, I had to retake Chemistry. This is your chance to change this company for the better, Marvin. I’m just a 27 year old nobody, but I can tell you that I have met some of the most beautiful, fascinating, and amazing souls at this place. Help us, Marvin. Help us love where we work, and I promise that it will only enable us to help our customers love where they live.
Thank you.
~Harrison Dalrymple
Lowe’s Simi Valley #1971
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