How (not) to buy a wheelbarrow

Johnny has finally moved onto post stabling, and surprisingly, he seems to enjoy his new digs. He spends a lot more time in his stall than I would have imagined, but then again, I threw down a solid 6″ of fluffy shavings over a floor of absorbent pelleted bedding. Heck, I wanted to lay down and sleep in it! I’m lucky there’s no one in the adjoining paddock–he’s allowed to freely roam between the two and thus has a fairly large area to himself.

Because he’s been pasture boarded since I’ve had him, my only mucking tools are a standard muck bucket (for my non-horsey friends, it looks like the big rubbermaid tub with two rope handles that Wal-Mart sells) and a pooper scooper (otherwise known as a Dura Fork). The first day I cleaned his stall and paddock, I filled the muck bucket about halfway. The muck pile is on the opposite corner of the stables, which equates to about 300 yards(ish). I figured I could drag the tub across the grass, but it was a little heavy, and I didn’t want to uproot the sparse vegetation. So, I wrestled the tub up to a semi-comfortable carry and took off towards the pile. By the time I had crossed the distance, I was huffing and puffing. I had decided against buying a wheelbarrow because, hey, that’s a lot of money for something that’s just going to be hauling crap (literally). However, I changed my mind as I dumped thirty pounds of manure onto the pile. I justified it–it could be washed out and used for hauling other stuff besides Johnny’s, uhm, crap.

When I got home, I spent the better part of an hour researching wheelbarrows. I read reviews, compared construction materials, and looked at pricing and availability. I finally decided on a middle-of-the-line steel wheelbarrow with decent reviews and a reasonable price from Lowe’s. The bonus factor there was that I’d get a military discount (woo-hoo) and Ryan had mentioned they had pantry shelving.

I wasted no time looking around–I found the first available associate and asked him where I could find the wheelbarrows. He directed me out to the front (how did I miss them?), and I set off towards the main doors. I did get a little sidetracked when I passed the organization sections, but since I ended up with kitchen shelves and a cheap set of shelving for my tack room, I figured it was okay. I left my cart at the front door while I went to grab a wheelbarrow. The Lowe’s website had said the wheelbarrow was available at my local store, but when I got out there, the stall for that model was empty. They had at least four of every other wheelbarrow. I grumbled under my breath, but I figured they had more in the back. I found another associate who assured me they had plenty in the outdoor lawn and garden area. So, me and my ridiculously loud cart wheeled back to another of my favorite sections. At this point, I had been in Lowe’s for maybe 15 minutes.

I easily found the wheelbarrow section, and spotted the model I wanted. All the display models were zip-tied to the shelving above the parts for building a wheelbarrow. These were the non-pre-assembled wheelbarrows, but I’m pretty handy, so I looked for the parts I needed. Once again, I found all the other models, but none of the one I wanted. I grumbled a little louder under my breath and looked for another associate.

A nice lady, we’ll call her Joan for the story’s sake, came over to see if she could see what I had missed. Honestly, why is that always the first thing they do? If I tell you I’ve looked for something, do you think you’re going to find where I just looked? After confirming that, no, there were not any mid-line wheelbarrows, she took off to retrieve “Mark” for further assistance. Mark came over to see if he could magically see the invisible wheelbarrows, and when he confirmed we weren’t two bat-blind crazy ladies, he checked his tablet for guidance. “It says we have ten on-hand. Let me go check the back and see if they are in receiving.” Okay. I was willing to wait. I wasn’t leaving without a wheelbarrow at this point. While Mark when on  a scavenger hunt, I sat down and waited. After another fifteen minute wait, a new associate, “Jack,” showed up to visually confirm there were no wheelbarrows available under the display and to inform me that Mark was still looking in the back, but there didn’t appear to be any on hand after all. I kindly informed him that he could sell me the display model, or sell me an upgraded model at the same price. Not surprisingly, he told me they would be happy to sell the display model, but they’d need to figure out how to get it down. He left, and shortly thereafter, Joan returned with a rolling stepladder that looked like it would reach about halfway to the display shelf. Mark returned as she discovered that ladder would not complete the mission. And yes, she had to roll it up all the way to the shelf to figure that out. Meanwhile, Mark was still checking his tablet and calling people on his radio trying to find the 10 invisible wheelbarrows…

Mark seemed reluctant to sell me the display model, so I mentioned again that they could always sell me another model at the same price. He said, “Well, I probably could’ve done that, but it shows we have 10 on hand, so I can’t.” To which I replied, “Yeah, but you don’t actually have ten on hand, do you?” To which he agreed, but maintained that because his inventory showed ten on hand, he was stuck. At this point, I got a little frustrated and tried not to take it out on the two associates who obviously had no management authority. Thankfully, at this point Mark went off to find a manager. Joan, who apparently had nothing better to do, stayed behind to offer morale support. She told me that she and Mark were only part time temporary employees and their area manager had called in, so they were a little out of sorts. I wondered how much she and Mark were getting paid to devote all their attention to finding a wheelbarrow. I did the opportunity cost math in my head and figured it would probably have been cheaper for Lowe’s to have sold me a $100 wheelbarrow at the $49 price at this point. Finally, Joan wandered away, and I spent another ten minutes waiting for Mark and “Jim” to show up. Jim brought a much taller ladder, and he asked me, “Would you be willing to buy the display?” No, you twerp, I’ve been standing here waiting for thirty minutes because I want to leave empty-handed. Well, that’s what I wanted to say, but I replied, “Yes, that would be fine.” I bit my tongue really hard. Jim climbed up the ladder, leaned over and began trying to cut the heavy duty zip tie with an inadequate box cutter. He and Mark had a nice long conversation about this, and Mark took off to find something sharper while Jim sawed away at the plastic as he hung precariously over the safety railing. Mark returned with a serrated hacksaw, which did the job, and Jim handed down the last remaining mid-line wheelbarrow to Mark. I briefly thought, I better not have to return this darn thing. I had Mark load it upside down on my flatbed cart, and I noisily made my way to the front of the store.

The associate in the checkout line was one of those friendly types who carries on a conversation while she rings up your merchandise, and although at this point I was borderline angry at my wasted time, I found myself smiling and talking with her. As she rung up my wheelbarrow, though, I noticed it asked her to make a decision: was the wheelbarrow assembled or unassembled? I saw a $10 charge associated with assembly, and I asked her if I was being charged for assembly. She assured me I wasn’t, but I figured I’d check the receipt anyway. We loaded my shelving and a broom into the wheelbarrow, and I assured her I could load it all into the truck myself. I took three steps toward the door before I realized the tire was flat. I tried not to scream out loud. Thankfully, she was on the ball, and she immediately rang for a manager while I waited. And I waited. Apparently Lowe’s was either short managers that day, or they were all engaged with other dire situations, because it was another ten minutes before someone finally came to see me. By this time, I had already confirmed that I had, in fact, been charged a $10 assembly fee, and I was just about thisclose to pulling a Smith tantrum. However, I gave “Bob” the benefit of the doubt and gave him the short version of what I’d just endured and told him I wasn’t paying the assembly fee, since I had purchased the display. He began, “Well, I’ll check the back to make sure we don’t have any back there…” I didn’t even let him finish. I was not going to let them take that route again. I assured him that several people had already checked the back, the front, and in between, and I was tired of waiting. So, we unloaded my shelving and broom, and he took the wheelbarrow back to fix the wheel. I had now been in Lowe’s for at least an hour, maybe longer.

Apparently Bob was a manager who had some authority, because while he was gone, a new associate (are you keeping a running count?) came over to tell me I could head over to customer service to have the $10 assembly fee refunded. Checkout girl “Tina” offered to watch my purchases while I did so. I was ushered to the front of the line, and “Thelma” made quick work of the refund, which the register returned in cash, even though I had asked it to be returned to my card. Oh well.

Finally, Bob returned with my wheelbarrow, sporting a newly inflated tire. He helped me load my shelving and broom into said wheelbarrow, and I headed out before I decided to deck anyone.

The next day, I put the wheelbarrow to work and prayed that two hundred pounds of grain, fifty pounds of alfalfa cubes, and my shelving wouldn’t break it down. I did not want to return to Lowe’s that soon. Andrea (the Hunt Club President) said, “You do realize you can drive your truck up to your tack room?” Yep, I knew, but after the ordeal I’d just been through to buy that wheelbarrow, I was going to put it to good use! Thankfully, it held up to the task, though I did have to cart the feed in two separate trips.

I wish I could say I learned some sort of valuable lesson or gained some valuable tip about buying wheelbarrows, but sadly, all I learned is that I’m as stubborn as my dad but not nearly as tempermental.

Just in case you’d like to buy the same wheelbarrow (in which case, I offer a hearty “Good luck!”):True Temper Wheelbarrow

Incidentally, it’s doing its job quite well, and I give it good reviews for maneuverability.

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