Photo: Getty

As a supplement to Home Depot billionaire Ken Langone’s new book “I Love Capitalism!”, we are publishing emails from Home Depot employees discussing what it is like to work in the company that made Ken Langone rich. They seem less than thrilled.

We have received hundreds of emails from Home Depot employees across the nation since last week. We ran our first installment yesterday.

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From a longtime Home Depot employee in California, who worked through the wildfires of 2017

Of course I jumped-in to pass-out smoke masks, ash sifters, sell generators, flashlights and gave a lot of hugs to our customers. Rhonert Park’s store manager was kind enough to authorize me to work as many hours as I wanted, as long as I did not go over-time. You see, my mother and I were evacuated from our home at the time and he understood my need to help our community and stay distracted, not knowing if we were going to have a home to return to or not. We did, by the way. Fast forward two months.

In Janurary, I made the mistake of incorrectly thinking I had a day off when I did not and did not call in. So, I did not know that until I came in the next day and was given a one and only final warning, which I thought I understood. What I apparently did not understand was that when I called in to let my manager know I became sick over-night six weeks later, that I would be let go, due to “not enough sick” time to cover my illness. Even this, I was not told for another two weeks and “then” I was let go after my shift. So, that is the “Hell” part of Home Depot for me.

This was a “full-filling job” in which I loved the physicality, fast-pace, and most of all pleasing my customers. As far as “respect” goes....half of the time... I was so shocked about my termination that I actually went back to my store to have my HR person try to explain it too me. Even with that, I still could not/do not get it. To the point that two days later I even called the main HR office in Georgia. How can I, an awesome employee, lose my position for not having enough sick time? It was unavoidable. I still do not get it.

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More on sick time

I have been working at home depot for 9 months now. I make $11 an hour. On an average day I walk approximately 15 miles while I work. I was told when I was hired at part time, if I worked hard I would earn a full time position. So far that hasn’t happened and I work very hard every day. Because I am only part time ( I work 35-38 hours a week) I only earn 2 hours sick time a month. No vacation time. I realize that $11 is much more than many Home Depot employees make around the country, but I only clear $1000 a month. It is very hard to live on one thousand dollars a month. I have been told that Home Depot doesn’t hire full time. If a full time employee leaves they hire 2 part time people to fill that position. After I was sick with the flu, since I was out 7 days I had to go on food stamps in order to buy food that month. Had I had Health Insurance I would have been able to go to the Dr. and shortened the flu to a few days, but I wasn’t able to do so. I was recently “Coached” about my absences and told that I couldn’t be absent for the next 6 months or I will be in jeopardy of losing my job.

Staffing issues

Up until last September, I was a supervisor at Home Depot. It was one of the most stressful experiences of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the people I worked with, including some management. As far as capitalism goes, it was no secret that if the store was over the hours it was allowed to use for the half, people were given the option to leave early. Why, do you ask? Why would people be given the opportunity to leave early and make the lives of those who stayed that much harder and making the customers experience worse?

Big Bonuses. Not to the frontline associates or supervisors (we get a small to moderate bonus based on sales vs. plan), but to management and above. It was no secret. We all knew it. If we had a call-out in our respective departments, we weren’t allowed to call in other associates to fill in the gaps and departments sometimes had no associates for HOURS!

I personally did not give a F*** and called in associates until I got called out on it (which I rarely did) because running one of the biggest departments in the store (Hardware), I refused to leave the associates that were there to have to deal with the madness short-handed.

I encourage you to go to a home depot in a big market towards the end of each fiscal half and notice the amount of coverage the store will have.

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Locked in

I ended up quitting the job, after I was written up by the same assistant manager for leaving after my shift each day after my area (lumber) was 100% cleaned up. The assistant manager wanted the employees that got their areas cleaned up at the end of the night 1st to help others clean up their areas before they would let us go home. I had an agreement with the main store manager when I was hired that I needed to leave within 30 min after the store closed night and there wasn’t a problem for the 1st year. Once this new assistant store manager started, he wanted to change that. He would lock everyone in the store and not allow anyone to leave until the store was 100% cleaned up. We already had to get ‘signed off’ in our areas before we could leave but now we were being held captive.

I threatened to go out the emergency door which sets off the fire alarm and dispatches the fire department if this assistant manager did not release me by 10:30pm when my area was cleaned up.

After talking to other former employees, and hearing similar stories, I am amazed anyone stays working there.

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Paid in respect

I worked at Home Depot part time for about three years from 2010 to 2013. It was a breath of fresh air compared to working for ExxonMobil in terms of how I was treated as an employee... Of course, as an electrician at Exxon I made about $34 an hour back then and $13 per hr as an associate in the Electrical Department at Home Depot. Wages and benefits were obviously better at Exxon, but the treatment I received as an employee in terms of respect and feeling appreciated was by FAR better at Home Depot. I really loved working there ( my Exxon co workers used to tease me calling it my “happy place”) but eventually the low pay and always working weekends took its toll... I always look fondly back to my days at Home Depot however the pay does suck and it’s beyond me how people make it on the low wages paid by retailers in general.

From a cashier

My real plight with my job is the metrics. A.K.A. How many poor souls have been financially ruined by that 21.97% APR credit card I signed them up for because corporate told me to? How many of those people also took the survey for the chance at a $5,000 Home Depot gift card they will never have a chance in hell of winning? How many of them gave a rat’s arse enough to say a good thing about me? How many items am I painstakingly scanning one of, over and over, because the customer only got 9, and not 10? How fast are these customers checking out with me? And if I slip on one of those, or, god forbid, I have a bad day and don’t smile at someone and say I’m doing wonderful, I could wind up closely under supervision by my department head; who begs people to sign up for credit on her hands and knees and suggests we all do the same...

I feel, with my company, they do a lot of anti-union brainwashing. We don’t have the right to assemble or seek a union. We have some health benefits- even as part-timers, but nothing that will help you escape from the crippling back pain you will encounter for standing perfectly still and upright for hours on end on solid concrete warehouse floors.

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Overworked managers

I have worked for Home Depot for 10 years now and have been a salaried assist manager for 8 of those 10 years. Over my time with Home Depot I have seen the company go through many changes... take Obama care, Home Depot had to change its business model to accommodate for this we are at a 60/40 split. 60% part-timers and 40% full time. As a salaried manager it’s extremely challenging to persuade that 60% to perform and care about their job, not to mention all of the red tape that’s involved, and to include the pressure that is put on us to make them perform. As a salaried manager your hours are horrible. There are three primary shifts 5am-4pm, 8am-7pm or 1pm-12am. So work life balance is out of the question, and your shift changes each day. You are supposed to get 8 hours off between each shift but that doesn’t always happen. For instance we have a corporate walk coming up and the salary staff is on a mandatory 20 days straight to get ready for this walk. To say the least I am losing faith in this company because its direction now is all about the bottom dollar and not about it people. I am currently seeking employment elsewhere.

Wages

The only real problem I had with Home Depot is the Low Low payscale.. If “The Man” is able to amass billions of dollars, then he is not paying his employees enough.. I am thankful that HD hired me, but a 54 year old man CANNOT support himself and his wife on $9.50 per hour working 40 hours (no over time allowed.. That’s $20,800 gross per year working the hardest physical job (I worked in the Garden Dept) I have ever worked.. More money for those people...

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A message to Ken Langone

Hello, I am currently employed at home depot and I do have to say it has more downs than it has ups. I’ve been working there the past few years as a part timer just so i can get through college. Don’t get me wrong the scheduling is great but the pay sucks and the “success sharing” is a complete joke. Home depot is somewhere I can never imagine working long term or making a career out of. They make the full timers life hell and i honestly do feel sorry for them, because I have met some great people with my time at home depot. I can tell you a lot of home depot employees do not share this man’s optimism towards capitalism and they should definitely be compensated a lot better. It makes absolutely no sense for a man to say what he says when he never even worked an hour in the stores of a company he profited off of.

Values vs. reality

I’ve worked for HD for a little over 9 years now. I started working for HD right at the economic down turn when I lost my Job working for Dish Network. I had recently been separated from the military and my “Highly valued and much sought after skills” had yet to land me the high paying job that they try to sell all the soldiers on. Grass is always greener and all that. I felt a certain loyalty to Home Depot being one of the only company’s that returned my call for a interview and being a company that supported veterans also served to draw me in...

The sad truth behind HD is a grim and dark one. Like many companies HD has a set of core values. Principles that we are to use in dealing with customers each other and our leaders. We have guide lines and practices designed to help associates work toward the HD goal of being the number 1 customer service retail in the world. However these values are often overlooked or out right ignored. I’ve seen many toxic leaders come and go but mostly come and spread their toxicity like a cancer within the body of the company. In my market I see practices that don’t work constantly being implement at the expense of the every day associate. They are the ones that are generally performances out when things don’t work out. New leaders are not given the chance to grow and learn before being tossed into the deep end of the business. Growth with the company is treated as something that is obtainable through hard work and dedication. The truth is it’s all about who you fake it to and actual performance doesn’t matter... Our pay band is a joke compared to other retailers and does not keep in line with the actual work I’m required to do. Nor does HD work in the community as they claim to. I also don’t think of HD as a particular safe company to work for...

HD as a whole and especially my location talks constantly about how well we’re doing both as a store and as a company. I know that I am only a small slice of HD. One small market in one part of a much larger whole. I may work in one store but I routinely visit dozens of stores in the area. With as good as we claim to be...we could be so much better if we just took care of our associates and actually do the things we claim to value.

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Thanks to all of the HD workers who have written in. We will run more excerpts of your emails in days to come.