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This started out with a very simple need, A Gravel for new steps to our house. The answer was similarly simple; head over to RONA in Parry Sound and pick up a yard of A Gravel to start. We live about a kilometre from RONA so this was not a big deal. Checking on the internet I discovered that a yard of gravel weighs about 2500 pounds, or about 1200 kilograms. The trailer we have is rated for 1100 kg, close enough I figured since it was downhill to our house.

So, on Wednesday we headed to RONA for the A Gravel; one yard please. It took a little while to get service; they were a bit short staffed with summer students just getting up to speed. An older gentleman helped us. He grabbed a Bobcat with a scoop and proceeded to put two scoops into our trailer. While he was doing that another yard person came over to help and watch. He confirmed that it was a yard of A Gravel. The cost? $59.99, plus HST for a total of $67.79.

We unloaded that yard of A Gravel. It’s heavy stuff and it took 10 wheelbarrow loads to empty the trailer.

We needed more. I decided to head over to Adams on Williams Street for the second yard because it had been suggested by a knowledgeable person that I should have used them instead. It’s about the same distance away, so I thought – why not. Service was slow at RONA so I figured it would be faster at Adams. That’s when it got interesting.

I headed in to the office at Adams and ordered one yard of A Gravel. The price was $30, and with HST it came up to $33.90. I was thinking that I had scored a big savings at this point, but that was only half the surprise.

When I pulled up with the trailer to get filled up the yard man told me he couldn’t give me a full yard in the trailer. He said the trailer didn’t have brakes and that they were liable for accidents. Safety came first. I explained that I had bought a yard from RONA without an issue. He saw I was confused and brought out a safety officer who shared the same information. He explained that he would give me a half yard and I could come back for the other half yard. He then went over and hopped in a front end loader and picked up his half yard bucket. He said that Adams had it custom ordered for a half yard. When he filled it into the trailer it looked exactly the same as the full yard I receive from RONA. I was getting suspicious, very suspicious.

Getting the load home it was wheelbarrowed to the project. It took 10 wheelbarrow loads. I went back for the other half yard, it didn’t seem to be quite as much. It turned out to be 8 wheelbarrow loads.

So, a yard from Adams is 18 wheelbarrow loads and a yard from RONA is 10 wheelbarrow loads. Something is wrong here and I have my suspicions and concerns.

A little bit of arithmetic for those so inclined. Our trailer is a galvanized Hyland you see running around every so often. The inside is 99” x 50” x 14”. That amounts to 1.37 yards filled to the ‘gunnels’. A full yard would have completely filled the trailer, corner to corner, to within 3.5” from the top edge of the trailer. The yard sold by RONA was a pile in the middle of the trailer that tailed off into the corners. I was nowhere close to filling up the trailer. The half yard from Adams filled up the trailer about the same amount as the “yard” from RONA.

Net/Net

I’m pissed, and it’s not about the price difference. Companies can sell their products for whatever price they want to and customers have the right, and seemingly the need, to shop around. If RONA wants to charge twice as much as Adams, good for them. Shame on me for not shopping around.

But, a yard of material is supposed to be a yard of material regardless of the price. I feel cheated. The project will probably take about 2.5 to 3 yards of A Gravel. The total cost for 3 ‘yards’ of A Gravel from RONA would be $324 (not including HST). The same 3 yards from Adams would be $90. About half the difference is related to what Adams and RONA considers to be a “yard” of material. Imagine if you went to get gas and one station decided that a half litre was close enough to a full litre. You would figure it out pretty quickly. I’m also sure that a contractor showing up with a trailer would quickly tell if what was being sold as a yard wasn’t a yard. As a ‘civilian’ I can’t, at least not until I decided to do a little bit of arithmetic.

All I can do is tell you my story and how I ended up reaching the conclusion I have. You may come up with a different conclusion and that’s okay with me. I know where I will be doing my business.

If I feel cheated in one area I will assume that I’m being cheated in all the other parts of the business. You know the rule of thumb. If you do a good job, that information will be shared with a couple of people. Do a bad job and it will be passed on to twenty. We have worked with many suppliers in Parry Sound and have generally been pleased. When we weren’t we passed on our thoughts to the supplier and moved on to another, sometimes sharing the experience with others.

Errata:

Why didn’t I just order up the 3 yards and have it delivered. It’s not just about the delivery cost. There are two reasons. When you start a project like this you really don’t know how much you need. I don’t need more, and I certainly don’t need less. But the real reason has to do with moving the A Gravel. It’s much easier shoveling gravel from a trailer bed that is 20” off the ground than a pile dumped in the driveway.

We have bought yards of material in the past from RONA, and upon reflection the amount in the trailer was always about the same as was the case as this past Wednesday. That brings to mind the song by Ace, “How Long Has This Been Going On”. Here’s a link to the You Tube video. Enjoy!

Follow Up:

A copy of the draft of this email was sent to the RONA folks before posting with a request for comments and corrections. They responded promptly and courteously. In the response they apologized for the delay and the price and offered to refund the difference. Neither of these points really were an issue for me. I was understanding of the delay, it’s only the start of delays in Parry Sound, especially if you shop at Sobeys. The pricing wasn’t an issue. I learned my lesson and while $30 isn’t chump change it was my error, not theirs.

On the issue of what constitutes a ‘yard’ the response was to suggest that Adams was “very generous”. My little bit of arithmetic suggests otherwise, but I leave to you to make your own decision. I have made mine.

Have you ever noticed the inspection stickers at the gas pumps? There is a reason they are there. Unless you have a 5-litre container to fill and can check what was delivered against what the pump reads you have to trust the pump.