Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gender Bias at the Hardware Store

The only thing still keeping our new range hood/microwave off the wall is a toggle bolt. I told Dan that I would run to the hardware store to pick one up, because I know that he never will. I can tell that my comment offended him, but it is true. He's not that great at getting hardware. He often comes back from such an errand saying that they didn't have it. When I enquire if he asked the staff if they knew where it was, he says no. Why is it that men can't ask for driving directions and they'll rarely ask for help in the hardware store? Is it a sign of weakness to admit that you don't know where the 1/4" x 4" toggle bolts are? Are you admitting failure when you ask which silicone caulking can be used below 10C? Instead, you save yourself time and often money. If I browse around the store looking for the correct caulking, I end up buying all kinds of extra stuff that I didn't really need. (But I do like that circuit tester I got a few weeks back. It is just like the one home inspectors use!)

Maybe it is easier for women in the hardware store. Maybe the gender bias works in my favour. When I walk into my new favorite Home Hardware, they ask me right away if I need help. Is it assumed that as a woman that I wouldn't know what I'm looking for, or is it because I'm always trying to make eye contact with them, so that they will help me. Or is it that they just want a break from all those contractors? I find that they also share all kinds of useful tips too. Are they as willing to share their knowledge with another man? Does a female customer give them a chance to show off their handyman knowledge?

I have to admit that I do love hardware stores. I particularly like the old ones with a slight musty smell and the warped wooden floor boards and big boxes full of screws that you buy by weight - not an electronic scale, but a gravity scale with the little sliding weights. And I love the smocks that they wear, and how everything is so organized. Bolts, copper pipes, light switches, big spools of chainlink, slug poison - all neatly stacked up to the ceiling. I love it. I can spend hours in there, just looking at all the stuff. But usually I'm in a hurry and want to make sure that I am getting the right thing, so I take their help whenever they offer it. Now I know this is a generalization, but why can't men do that too, rather than coming home claiming that they didn't have it?

I'm starting to get to know all the staff at my fav HH, at least by face anyway. And today, while waiting at the cash, I noticed a poster in the window. Attempting to read it backwards, I slowly figured out what it said: Apply Today. It was a Home Hardware recruiting poster. It showed four different people in those red smocks and with big smiling faces. They ranged in age from 20s to late 60s. There was even a grey haired woman. And then I realized that when I'm supposed to be retired but forced to keep working because I don't have a pension, maybe the Home Hardware would be the perfect place for me. It would keep me out of trouble, and I'd be able to ride my bike to work. Sounds perfect! I worked retail in high school and hated it, but maybe I'll soften to it in my older age. Afterall, by then, the gender bias should be almost completely gone. And I can help young men figure out which silicone caulking would work on day like today, even if they don't have the courage to ask.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like smocks too. Especially, men who really try to understand what you need while wearing a smock.