Home Depot had to eat a little lead this week, when it issued an apology to a carpenter from Lawrence, Massachusetts, who was doing business at a Home Depot store in nearby Methuen, when store officials accused him of shop-lifting a pencil from a cash register. Michael Panorelli, 51, was banned from shopping at Home Depot anywhere in the world because of the pencil incident. Panorelli was using Home Depot’s precious pencil to do some quick math as he checked out some lumber he bought. He was with a client at the time. According to the Associated Press account, he absent-mindedly pocketed the pencil and was followed into the parking lot by a Home Depot loss-prevention worker who asked for identification. Panorelli was handed a letter saying he was banned from Home Depot, and another advising that he would be hearing from the company’s lawyers. Panorelli took his story to the Eagle-Tribune newspaper in nearby Lawrence, which published it. Home Depot issued a written apology from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, saying the incident was prompted by a narrow interpretation of its shoplifting-prevention rules. “We will not be pursuing any claims against Mr. Panorelli for this incident,” the Home Depot statement said. “We welcome Mr. Panorelli back as a customer in our stores at any time.” But Panorelli said he’ll never do business there again. “I have no intention of going back in there,” Panorelli said. “Why should I put money in someone’s pocket when they treat me like this? I think they took company policy a little too far.”
If Mr. Panorelli had sharpened his pencil and done his homework, he would know that Home Depot goes “a little too far” in everything it does. It pushes communities too far, it pushes jobs offshore too far, it pushes its workers too far, and it goes over the line with its own customers.” This seemingly minor story about one pencil is really emblematic of how the whole company is structured. The fact that they would hound a customer over a pencil that cost perhaps 2 cents or less, says more about the people who run this company than any multi-million dollar ad campaign. Their slogan used to be, “Good Things Happen When Home Depot Comes To Town.” Mike Panorelli found out the hard way by what happened to him. Shopping with a local merchant might add up to a better result for him — and his community. Please remember the short tale of “Panorelli’s Pencil” the next time you find yourself in a Home Depot parking lot. For other stories about why Home Depot goes too far, search Newsflash by “Home Depot.