bradpotts

Frustration at the lumber yard

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I was picking up some 8/4 African Mahogany the other day and got frustrated. There supply was on the short side. They have more in the back but only bring new wood out when the stacks start to get low. Here is where my frustration starts. The previous people that picked through the wood didn't re-stack the lumber. Therefore, it looked like there was a lot more there than there really was. In turn, I didn't have as good of options as I might have otherwise had. I am sure that the people at the lumber yard get just as frustrated as I do about this. I know first world problems!

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Now I am curious, I always restack.  How does it cause you more problems Eric?

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20 minutes ago, Eric. said:

Don't get me started.

 

tumblr_nwo6i5h3GP1tq4of6o1_400.gif

 

To be perfectly honest, the people who DO try to restack actually cause me more problems than those who don't...but at least their hearts are in the right place.

Drop us some knowledge, what's the problem you get and how can we as the guy wanting to stay on the right side of the staff do it right?

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Well it's probably different from yard to yard...but at least at mine, the owner is super anal about keeping the stacks tidy - "presentable" to a first-time customer.  So he wants the show end and both sides of the stack to be pretty much perfectly straight.  When the average customer restacks, the ends tend to be sticking out all over the place and the sides either run out or run in.  Also they leave a lot of space between the boards in the stack.  So ultimately, even though they did make an attempt to restack, now I actually have to REMOVE the boards they put back, then restack them...it's easier when the mess is just laying on top of an adjacent stack and I can just slap it back together quickly.

It's not rocket science but people are just unaware.  Not a capital offense.  Some people are just slobs though, and they'll completely destroy a stack for a couple boards.  If you come in and buy a hundred board feet, you can do whatever you want and I'll happily clean up behind you.  Just use common sense and common courtesy and we don't have a problem.

Recently we've implemented a "three row rule"...which is basically: if you can't find the ONE board you're looking for in the top three rows of the stack, you're probably not gonna find the right board in the fifteenth row either...so don't do it.  I don't usually enforce this rule but Craig does from time to time...he spends way more time cleaning up stacks in a given week than I do, so I think his patience has run a bit more thin than mine.

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I only go to the local self-pick place if I am buying a couple boards, and I can usually find what i need in the front of the stack.

All of the primo stuff (quartersawn or figured) is separately binned so I don't know what people are looking for when they move whole stack. 

If I am doing a whole project, I order from a local wholesaler sight unseen or go to the mill.  

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The boards at my yard are stacked vertical. So the problem is that people pull the boards out and don't push them all the way back against the wall. This makes it look like the stack is full but there are just a few boards pulled all the way away from the wall. Here is a picture http://co-lumber.net/columber/DSC02153.JPG

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3 hours ago, bradpotts said:

The boards at my yard are stacked vertical. So the problem is that people pull the boards out and don't push them all the way back against the wall. This makes it look like the stack is full but there are just a few boards pulled all the way away from the wall. Here is a picture http://co-lumber.net/columber/DSC02153.JPG

I've seen this at my lumberyard as well for the surfaced materials...but I typically go with rough lumber and they are stacked horizontal 

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Guest Randy
On 6/2/2017 at 1:53 PM, Eric. said:

Well it's probably different from yard to yard...but at least at mine, the owner is super anal about keeping the stacks tidy - "presentable" to a first-time customer.  So he wants the show end and both sides of the stack to be pretty much perfectly straight.  When the average customer restacks, the ends tend to be sticking out all over the place and the sides either run out or run in.  Also they leave a lot of space between the boards in the stack.  So ultimately, even though they did make an attempt to restack, now I actually have to REMOVE the boards they put back, then restack them...it's easier when the mess is just laying on top of an adjacent stack and I can just slap it back together quickly.

It's not rocket science but people are just unaware.  Not a capital offense.  Some people are just slobs though, and they'll completely destroy a stack for a couple boards.  If you come in and buy a hundred board feet, you can do whatever you want and I'll happily clean up behind you.  Just use common sense and common courtesy and we don't have a problem.

Recently we've implemented a "three row rule"...which is basically: if you can't find the ONE board you're looking for in the top three rows of the stack, you're probably not gonna find the right board in the fifteenth row either...so don't do it.  I don't usually enforce this rule but Craig does from time to time...he spends way more time cleaning up stacks in a given week than I do, so I think his patience has run a bit more thin than mine.

I sort of understand your frustration about people who just destroy stacks to get to one board. However, why aren't the people who buy smaller amounts of wood entitled to the same quality of wood as someone who buys a larger quantity. I buy smaller amounts many times because I am trying to avoid accumulating hardwood that isn't used for a particular piece. I have several sources and the one that provides the best wood (not at the best price though) always provides someone to assist and really doesn't restrict me in my search whether I buy a couple of boards or a larger amount for a bigger piece. That's the way it should be given the prices that we pay for good hardwood. Of course, people should respect other's needs by restocking but all buyers have the right to have access to the best wood possible. Just my opinion and I try to be careful when restocking would regardless of assistance.

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4 minutes ago, Randy said:

I sort of understand your frustration about people who just destroy stacks to get to one board. However, why aren't the people who buy smaller amounts of wood entitled to the same quality of wood as someone who buys a larger quantity. I buy smaller amounts many times because I am trying to avoid accumulating hardwood that isn't used for a particular piece. I have several sources and the one that provides the best wood (not at the best price though) always provides someone to assist and really doesn't restrict me in my search whether I buy a couple of boards or a larger amount for a bigger piece. That's the way it should be given the prices that we pay for good hardwood. Of course, people should respect other's needs by restocking but all buyers have the right to have access to the best wood possible. Just my opinion and I try to be careful when restocking would regardless of assistance.

Everyone is entitled to the same quality wood...but they're not entitled to create $20 worth of cost for the lumberyard (in worker labor) to clean up a mess for a $20 purchase.  This is where common sense and common courtesy come into play.  Like it or not, the guy who comes in and spends 3k on 500 bf of lumber simply has more right to dig through the stacks and make a mess than a guy who only wants one board.  Every customer is treated with respect...as long as that customer treats the yard with respect.  Knowhatamean?

If I knew what you did for a living I'd give you an analogy you could relate to.

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I guess I think more like a business person and I try to respect a business owner's margins.   If I move a whole stack to find a $20 board, then the business owner has lost money on that transaction because 1) he needs to pay some guy to restack it and 2) other customers will have a harder time finding what they need.  

Now, if lumber is properly graded and priced there should be no reason to move a whole stack, and it is on the business owner to make sure his inventory is properly graded.   If I am buying 50BF of FAS cherry for a project I should be able to pick 50 random BF and have enough for my project (allowing for 10-20% waste).  Maybe that is a fantasy, but shop around a little and you will find that some dealers are more honest about grading than others.  

It is also the customer's responsibility to understand grade and if you go in expecting to find 100% clear 100% heart boards sold at normal FAS prices then you are greedy, ignorant, or both :) 

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7 minutes ago, Mike. said:

Now, if lumber is properly graded and priced there should be no reason to move a whole stack, and it is on the business owner to make sure his inventory is properly graded.   If I am buying 50BF of FAS cherry for a project I should be able to pick 50 random BF and have enough for my project (allowing for 10-20% waste).  Maybe that is a fantasy, but shop around a little and you will find that some dealers are more honest about grading than others.  

It is also the customer's responsibility to understand grade and if you go in expecting to find 100% clear 100% heart boards sold at normal FAS prices then you are greedy, a moron, or bith :) 

Both excellent points and totally relevant at our yard.  Almost all of our stock is FAS...which is why the owner sometimes implements the "three row" rule...because if you can't find what you want in the top three rows, most likely you're not gonna find what you need at the bottom of the stack either...because it's basically the same damn stock from top to bottom.  The biggest problem we have is with cheap asses who, instead of accepting like a half inch of waste on a board, decides to dig ten rows down to find a board that's EXACTLY 7-1/8" wide so he doesn't have to pay the extra 75 cents for the extra waste.  That's unreasonable in my book, and it's gonna not only get you a dirty look, but any "friendly discount" you might often find yourself getting when you're cool with the yard workers...is out the window.  So you're cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Also...please don't haggle over knots and checks.  The yard paid full price for that board from the mill, and you can bet your ass that cost is gonna be passed on to you...just like EVERYTHING ELSE in the world of consumerism...lumber is no different.  If you don't like that board, pick a different board.  Lumber is like family...you gotta take the bad with the good.

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Guest Randy
2 minutes ago, Eric. said:

Everyone is entitled to the same quality wood...but they're not entitled to create $20 worth of cost for the lumberyard (in worker labor) to clean up a mess for a $20 purchase.  This is where common sense and common courtesy come into play.  Like it or not, the guy who comes in and spends 3k on 500 bf of lumber simply has more right to dig through the stacks and make a mess than a guy who only wants one board.  Every customer is treated with respect...as long as that customer treats the yard with respect.  Knowhatamean?

If I knew what you did for a living I'd give you an analogy you could relate to.

I think the response was a bit harsh. I don't need an analogy. I completely understand the problem with someone who comes in and pulls out 50 boards to get to 1 and then doesn't even make an attempt to re-stack. I personally try to pull out boards and keep them together on the side so that they can, more or less, go back the same way they came out.  I don't agree, however, that the person who wants 1 board shouldn't be able to look through the stacks as far down as he wants with the qualification that he should be respectful of others and re-stack. I also understand that it may not be stacked the way you want it when you come in but, in a perfect world, no one would even have to look for an acceptable piece of wood. Also, if I had to hunt that far down in the stack to get to a piece that is acceptable, I probably would find another lumber source. I usually find what I want where I go within 5 - 10 boards and usually need much more than 1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I'm sure yours comes from bad experiences. I've been a woodworker for 40+ years (hobby not for a living) and have bought a lot of wood and a little bit of wood in a single visit, have had both good and bad experiences, so I just take what is there. 

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2 minutes ago, Randy said:

I think the response was a bit harsh. I don't need an analogy. I completely understand the problem with someone who comes in and pulls out 50 boards to get to 1 and then doesn't even make an attempt to re-stack.

Well...that was the point I was making.  And you seemed to push back against it...how was I supposed to respond?

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3 minutes ago, Randy said:

I also understand that it may not be stacked the way you want it when you come in but, in a perfect world, no one would even have to look for an acceptable piece of wood.

Yeah well, we don't live in a perfect world buddy.  Wood is a natural material and people need to have reasonable expectations.  You should feel lucky if you have a yard that lets you pick out your lumber at all...because they don't all do it...for the reasons that I'm laying out.

I don't want people to get the idea they aren't welcome to peruse the inventory at our yard...quite the contrary...the business is aimed directly at the small-time hobbyist and we promote customer choice...I mean the business's name is U-Pick.  We have a reputation for having a very friendly and casual atmosphere...people love us for that.  The problem customers are in the vast minority...but they do exist...and they ARE in the wrong.  If you're respectful and reasonable you have nothing to worry about.

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I must be spoiled. I drive to a supplier about 45 miles away in NH, and it's well worth it. I could easily go to one of the 3 big box stores in my home town, :( or one of the 4 contractor yards that would have a nice selection of maple, oak, pine etc. But this supplier is huge, 60' x 200'. Each bin is 4' x 4' x 12'+ and are usually 3/4 or more full. They have rough stock. FAS, and even an area for short bins 5' or less at 25% off. They also offer discounts on 300+ BF. They stock 1/2" FAS Cherry, Maple, White Oak, etc. from 3" up to 10"+ wide. I can spend an hour going through a single bin, or a couple hours total looking for a board or boards to spark the creative juices, I treat the wood with respect, and in return, the employees just laugh and ask if I'll ever arrive with a project already planned out. As I restock the wood, and take care not to damage it, I reply to the employees, Were would the fun be in that! :)  In the winter time though, I do arrive with a cut list, mainly because it's really, really cold in there. I like to blame / thank Philip Lowe for telling me about the place!!!

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On 6/2/2017 at 1:42 PM, Eric. said:

 

 

tumblr_nwo6i5h3GP1tq4of6o1_400.gif

 That is the look my wife gets when I ask for something.

 

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At first glance I thought you said, "that looks like my wife." :D

I love Judge Judy.  She don't take no crap from nobody.

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Guest Randy

I don't even know why I'm responding to this further. It appears to me I was misunderstood. I don't actually disagree with @Eric  about people leaving the stack as they found it. I do that all the time and expect others to do that. As for big customers getting the advantage over little customers. In terms of pricing and assistance at the lumber yard, I would agree. They spend more, they get a better price and deserve more assistance. As for better lumber, that's a matter of opinion. I probably have at least hardwood places I could go to easily, maybe more. I frequent the one that provides the best lumber and assistance if I need it. I always have tried to restack just as I took it off the pile. As for "Yeah, well, we don't live in an ideal world 'buddy'." I guess that was misunderstood also. I don't expect that but it seems that others do. It appears that, if we don't restock, we're wrong and if we do, we're wrong if we don't do it exactly the way that individuals want. I try to restock as I took it off the pile so, I can't do anything else. Sorry that this became more difficult that I intended. Hopefully I haven't misunderstood any of the comments and was merely curious why a small buyer is less deserving of good wood than a big buyer. The small buyers usually pay more per board foot than the big buyers. We just don't agree and that's OK.

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13 minutes ago, Randy said:

curious why a small buyer is less deserving of good wood than a big buyer

Nobody ever said that.

All the wood is the same from the top of the stack to the bottom.  The only point was...if you destroy the stack for one board and leave twenty minutes of work behind for the employees at the yard...you're a jerk.  That was the only point being made.  Not sure how that translated into "you don't deserve good wood."

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The yard I go to, the wood isn't the same top to bottom.  They stack everything that is, for instance, 8/4 cherry in one bin, so you have boards from 5" to 12" wide and from 8' to 16' long in the same bin.  So you are trying to find the right lengths and widths for the project.  So with all of the lumber stacked on top of each other you can't tell if a board is 8' or 16' without exposing it.  So you need to find the correct widths (which you can see from the ends, and then try to find the lengths (If you doing a 5' table top, you want boards over 10' as a 8 - 9 footer would be too much waste), I try to find to be neat, but with this system, you do have to do some more digging to find what you need, and sometimes three boards deep won't do it depending on where the longer or shorter boards are to be found.

 

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At the place I go most often the quality in a stack isn't the same "top to bottom". The first row or two is usually made up of the rejects that other people deselected. Two rows down you're into representative material and there's no need to go down much further, unless you're looking for some particular feature in the grain or trying to match color on a dozen boards. The hardwood selection is limited, so we're not talking about numerous packets of domestics. We're talking about racks with perhaps 200 to 600 BF on each.

The guys at the yard are casual. If I want to go through the stack I can, and they don't look over my shoulder the whole time. In fact it isn't often that they even ask me if I need some help or greet me in any way, now that I think of it. I'm just one of the hundreds of "regulars" who come in. I go into the hardwood section and I start picking through. I pull out prospective boards and lay them on the floor to see if they meet my needs. I pull out as much as I need to get what I'm looking for, and I put the stack back the way they like it (not necessarily the that way it was when I came in). It's fairly easy to see how they would like the stacks. They recently started labeling the ends of the boards with the length and width and generally arrange things by width. Take it from me, it doesn't take a genius to make a neat stack.

I once went to a non-local hardwood dealer that is something like 90 mins. away. When I showed up there was nothing going on and several employees were hanging around doing nothing. Let me tell you, this was a singular experience. I've never walked into a lumber yard that wasn't "bustling". So, just for something to do, one of the guys took me on a complete tour of the facility. We checked out all the stock on hand. And I mean everything. Without doubt, it was impressive. One 20" wide, 16' long, 8/4  Mahogany board in particular was amazing. When we got to the 8/4 Walnut I wanted I was somewhat embarrassed that he went through all that trouble when I only wanted two 10 foot boards. I was driving my Crosstrek and I would need him to chop them in half too! To my horror, he had to go get a fork lift to take the 4/4 stuff off the top of the 8/4 stack and then he stood there sort of hovering in the background watching me go through the boards. I got into the second layer mulling over the grain and the straightness of the stock but under his scrutiny I lost my nerve. I quickly selected two of the better boards in the second layer and started re-stacking the pile. He quickly interjected that there was no need for me to do that. I could tell that he thought I would do a crappy job, and he would just have to do it over, but after I willfully misunderstood him and stacked on a couple more boards he saw that I "got it" and jumped in to help me finish off the re-stack. To be honest, I liked the lumber I purchased but I've not been back to that yard. I would rather go to my highly over-priced and woefully under-stocked local place where they leave me to go into the stacks all by my lonesome.

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Yeah I'm not a helicopter yard worker.  I give everyone the time and space they need to make decisions.  I mean I agonize over every board I purchase too so I completely understand that sentiment.  If I can tell someone is gonna give a stack a horrible thrashing, I just say, "if you wouldn't mind, try to do this or that with the stack"...and I leave them alone.  Ultimately it's a business and cash is king, and if we're not giving people the opportunity to have an enjoyable and relaxed buying experience, that's just bad business.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually intervened because the mess they were making was so outrageous...usually I just hope for the best and curse them after they leave while I clean up their disaster.

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