In Here, Out Over There
April 4, 2007 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Why do some "big box" stores have separate entrances and exits while other have them in the same place?

So my partner and I had to pick up a new blade and spark plug for our lawnmower today, and we decided to stop at Home Depot. Although he can walk and has no visible infirmity, he is disabled and has a lot of pain when standing for a long time or walking distances. He has a disabled placard that hangs on the rear-view mirror of our vehicle. This allows him to park in a handicapped parking space close to the store's entrance.

At Home Depot you do not exit the store at the same place where you enter. All of the checkout lanes are at the far end of the store, and you exit through there. And of course, you have to walk all the way back across the front of the store through the parking lot to get back to the handicapped parking places. The same thing is true of Lowe's.

At both stores, the Returns lane is close to the entrance. However, they do not process check-outs there unless you argue with them and make a bis ruckus. (I did this once and ended up boycotting Home Depot for six months. I finally went back due to the lack of close alternatives open at odd hours.)

When we go to Target or Wal-Mart, we find two combined entrance/exits and handicapped places close to both of them. And other "big-box" stores just have a single entrance/exit.

So why is it that Home Depot and Lowes have separate entrance/exits? And why aren't they more accessible? I've wondered if it has something to do with the lumber and building materials, although some smaller chains (e.g., McCoys, 84, Dixieline) have a single entrance/exit. So why don't Home Depot and Lowes have combined entrance/exits at both doors instead of forcing their customers to transit the whole store and parking lot?
posted by Robert Angelo to Shopping (17 answers total)
 
Ouch, I got the tags and title mixes up.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:30 PM on April 4, 2007


I don't know the answer to your question -- I'd guess it has something to do with security -- but I've never been stopped for exiting through the entrance. YMMV.
posted by acoutu at 5:39 PM on April 4, 2007


The HDs and Lowes in my area (Northern Calif) have combined entrance/exits--actually, generally three portals per store: garden, main, and lumber, each with disabled-placard-only parking up front and with registers just inside, (though only the main registers are consistently manned).

It's likely due to differences in disability access regulations, which can differ from state to state and from city to city.

One possibility is to call your local HD or Lowes and ask the manager if they have any motorized carts available for customer use: many of the big box stores around here have these.

Or, move here :)
posted by jamaro at 5:43 PM on April 4, 2007


I don't know the answer either, but I always park near where the lumber/construction/loading big sliding door thing is at Home Depot and enter and exit no problem through there; there's also a cashier there that no one but contractors ever seem to know about.
posted by chococat at 5:47 PM on April 4, 2007


I think there may be some issues with safety, too. A lot of people leave Home Depot and Lowe's (particularly on Saturday and other big "project" days), with carts full of stuff. Not having to dodge incoming shoppers while navigating with a cart you can barely see over or around is probably better for everybody.
posted by paulsc at 5:51 PM on April 4, 2007


In through the out door is the way to go. Not as many people park down there, either.

As for *why*, it doesn't make sense. I mean that literally. I believe that those places do things specifically to be cryptic. Why else would one HD stock 1 7/8" long sleeve anchors, but only in single packs, another only have anchors in 3 7/8" bulk packs, and another only have the short ones in bulk?
posted by notsnot at 6:00 PM on April 4, 2007


It may be mandated by law, e.g. the fire safety code.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:02 PM on April 4, 2007


We do sometimes enter & exit through the exit. Other times we park at the garden center, since the handicapped spots are close to the door. They don't seem to care about whether you are going in or out. The main problem is that the checkouts aren't close to the handicapped spots.

jamaro, I think you're right about differences in disability access laws affecting the parking placement. Texas is probably behind the curve on this. My partner hates using those motorized scooters, though I've suggested that to him a couple times. I wonder if they let you take them outside the store, if you're parked at the other end of the lot?
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:04 PM on April 4, 2007


Sort of riffing on Robert's question, has anyone noticed that at some of these big box stores (i.e., the Home Depot and Best Buy in my neighborhood), when you exit, the security guard stationed by the doors will glance at your receipt and then scribble on it? What does this accomplish? If one wanted to buck the system, one could simply scribble on one's own receipt. I don't get it.

As for the separate ingress/egress, I think it is for security's sake--i.e., with half the traffic, a dedicated exit is easier to monitor for theft.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:07 PM on April 4, 2007


when you exit, the security guard stationed by the doors will glance at your receipt and then scribble on it?

It's probably to prove he's doing the job when a secret shopper comes through. No scribble on the receipt is X number of points off the final evaluation.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:23 PM on April 4, 2007


Robert, I'd imagine you could either get someone from the store to walk with you out to your car to bring the scooter back (which is what my local grocery does with those cool firetruck-shaped kiddie shopping carts) or worse case, have your partner wait for you near the exit, in the shade, while you go fetch your vehicle.

Forgot to mention: as an aside, Target Corp is forever tweaking the designs of its stores, with each new year's worth of new build-outs/renovations the result of a few years of design trials, including quite a bit of customer focus group input. They really are the leader in this regard; I'm not aware of any of the other big box retailers devoting this much attention to customer usability (usability as opposed to product presentation). As a contrast, Walmart's store designs tend to focus only upon internal concerns such as merchandise security and labor cost-efficiency. It wouldn't surprise me much if HD and Lowe's are much the same as WM and do builds based on what they can get away with to met fed/state/local disability access regs and then go straight to internal concerns, with customer usability very low, if at all, on the list.

Adm. Haddock: scribbling on the receipt ostensibly prevents someone from walked back into the store empty handed, picking out an item listed on the receipt, and then trying to either walk out with it (rare) or take it to the return desk for a refund (very common).
posted by jamaro at 6:30 PM on April 4, 2007


Admiral Haddock: I got curious about your question. I found:

Retail store exit checks

In addition to the reasons he mentioned, I'll bet there is some consumer research showing that just the knowledge someone will check you reduces shrinkage overall. That's the reason Wal-Mart has greeters - research showed that when people were looked at and noticed by an employee they were less likely to risk shoplifting. This guy mentions that in his discussion of loss prevention.

Sorry I can't help much with the HD question. The visibility/big-load idea paulsc mentions seems reasonable. It would be hard to proceed against the flow of incoming shoppers while pushing a wobbly cart or dolly with a bunch of sheets of drywall on it.
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on April 4, 2007


All of the checkout lanes are at the far end of the store, and you exit through there.

Ahh, and all those high margin things you see between the entrance and there. High visibility items always go farther, knowing that the customer will be forced to see more merchandise increases impulse purchases on things they never knew they need. Whether you walk through the back of the store, through the aisles or directly to the checkouts from the entrance, you see more items.

They might also make the case that people loading will park there cars where they exit so they can load large items without having to push it all around. Moving around the exit and entrance allows more space for docking.

the security guard stationed by the doors will glance at your receipt and then scribble on it?

Since checkouts and checkout clerks are not always right at the exit, it helps reduce skimmage by having that extra set of eyes. Could you get away with slipping a few things in there? Sure. If they see a receipt that says $100 and you obviously have a $600 generator in your cart they will see that.

Keep in mind that more than other big box stores, Home Depot has had some interesting changes. Each store used to be autonomous up until a few years ago. Things started to cool off in the construction industry and in the stores ability to grow. They could only open up in so many different markets. Home Depot shareholders demanded that the company keep the astronomic numbers from the go-go days so they had really only a couple options (1) open up new businesses, such as Home Depot for contractors and construction companies, (2) improve same-day sales.

GE got rid of Atom Jack and Nardelli, a GE company man who worked his way up from the bottom, was picked over. Home Depot offered an amazing package with a golden parachute. Nardelli wanted to impose GE bureaucracy on Home Depot's previous cowboy culture. This meant Six-Sigma, quantitative measurements of all kinds and a more mathematical approach. Nardelli knew from his GE days that using advanced methods of business (that is advanced statistics and other approaches that are rather non-intuitive, making business more like a science) can increase value to shareholders. GE really rocketed up after Jack went in there, started firing people and started tightening up GE's rather broad holdings. It worked really well for GE but did not for Home Depot due to Home Depot's corporate culture, a general decline in the market for big box construction stores, and Nardelli being an outsider and having no real support from inside the company.

He's gone now you are currently seeing the results of probably some over thought inventory management. I know you said that you boycotted the store but I have some bad news: they most likely already took into account the loss of sales and the gain from this outweighed this. Don't think for a second that they didn't look at the 1.5% loss to Local Hardware Store and then at the 5.5% gain and decided that they do not need you as a customer. Capitalism is like your mother, if your mother was Spartan. Come back with your shield or on it!
posted by geoff. at 8:20 PM on April 4, 2007


same-store sales, err too tired to write. Faulkner I am not.
posted by geoff. at 8:21 PM on April 4, 2007


Interesting stuff. Thanks to all who came through with answers to my piggyback question (apologies again to Robert--I hoped you found this thread as enlightening as I did!).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:29 PM on April 4, 2007


The state of Texas has TAS, Texas Accessibility Standards, in addition to the ADA requirements. According to the ADA and the TAS (section 4.6.3), Handicap spaces must be located nearest the entrance of the building. Texas also requires that the parking be distributed at all entrances to the store.

Wal-mart is defining their both their doors as being entrances and exits. (In fact, if you go to a Super Walmart, you'll notice they have two sets of sliding doors side by side... look over them. One side will be marked exit and the other entrance, even though both will work either way). Therefore they have handicap parking near both.

Home Depot and Lowe's are defining their doors as Entrance, Exit, and 'Pick-up' which is basically a ground level loading dock and not an entrance or an exit. This means they only have to put the handicap spaces near what they define as the store entrance.

If you take a look at the spaces at Home Depot and Lowe's, you'll probably notice that they'll generally have van access (the aisle that's usually yellow striped) between two adjacent spaces. If they spread out their spaces, they'd lose more room off of aisles because of the extra space needed to make non-adjacent van accessible spaces. That means fewer spaces in the aisles and that translates to fewer possible customers in the store.
posted by aristan at 10:41 PM on April 4, 2007


An add-on to piggyback on Geoff's response...

Having both doors defined as entrances and exits gives Walmart, which is usually a 24 hour store, the right to lock one set of doors during the overnight. They still have both an entrance and an exit open for their customers and are thus not breaking fire code. This allows them to control the flow of customers at 3am without having too many employees on the floor to do it.

Notice they'll close & lock the doors nearest the pharmacy, if they lock them. This means you enter and exit through the food side of the store, which is the farthest area from Sporting Goods, Electronics, or the Pharmacy areas. That means if someone stole something, they'd have to run across the entire store to get out.
posted by aristan at 11:01 PM on April 4, 2007


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