Why Home Depot's cofounder chased unsatisfied customers through the store's parking lot in the retailer's early days

Courtesy of The Home DepotHe’d run after customers with a simple question: ‘Why didn’t you buy something?’
  • Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus would keep an eye out for customers who left his store without making a purchase in the early days of the company.
  • He’d run after empty-handed customers to ask them why they hadn’t bought anything.
  • Home Depot archivist Jennifer Wyatt said that if the shopper said that they hadn’t found what they wanted, Marcus would drive over to a rival store and pick it up for them.
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Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus didn’t like seeing shoppers leave his store empty-handed.

That’s why some early customers had the unique experience of getting chased down in the store’s parking lot by the businessman.

In his book “Built from Scratch,” which he cowrote with Home Depot cofounder Arthur Blank, Marcus broke down his approach.

Read more: Here’s what Home Depot looked like when it first opened in 1979

“What is it that we don’t carry that you need? Why didn’t you buy something?” Marcus wrote that he’d ask empty-handed shoppers as he followed them to their cars.

“If they said, ‘It’s because you didn’t have what I needed,’ then he would go and buy it somewhere else and take it to their homes,” the Home Depot archivist and historian Jennifer Wyatt told Business Insider.

After the business launched in 1979, Home Depot “had trouble convincing vendors to sell product to them,” Wyatt said.

She added that she tracked down longtime employees who had to pad out shelves with “empty boxes and empty paint cans” to avoid looking understocked.

But when shoppers encountered such gaps in the merchandise, Marcus always tried to intervene. He wrote that he’d personally head over to rivals such as West Building Supplies and Handy City (or a wholesaler), buy the product, strip it of its price tag, and then make a home delivery for the shopper at a reduced Home Depot price.

“There was nothing we wouldn’t do for a customer,” Marcus wrote.

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