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I have been building a deck in my backyard this summer, right now I am placing the finishing touches on it. Before I built my deck, I looked through different deck plans, and compared the different kinds of deck materials and figured out pretty much what I needed. Then I went to three different stores that advertise every week in the paper about having great deck materials. All the ads from these stores promise that buying materials from them is easy as 1,2,3.

Now, the great thing about each of these stores is they all have a computer program that helps determine the materials needed for the deck. What you do is you give the salesperson details about the size and materials of your deck and -- wha la -- the computer spits out a list of materials and a pretty accurate cost estimate.

So I go to the first store and ask the salesperson if she can help me. She looked around to see if anyone else was available and seemed a bit hesitant. Seeing her hesitation, I told her I could wait for someone else to help me, "No, no, no, I can help you, I use the deck program all the time, its just not my favorite thing to do." "Uh oh, this doesn't look good", I thought. Well she works up the numbers -- wha la -- a cost estimate....except as we look at the printout there is all kinds items that I don't need on my deck. After finding several problems with the estimate, I asked the salesperson to get someone else to help her figure this thing out. But, no one else could help. So, I thanked her for her time and went to the next store.

After having a little bit of trouble find out exactly where I get the estimate for decking materials, I was directed by a nice young man to a counter in the back of the store. I told the lady behind the counter that I was building a deck, and that I needed an estimate. She told me she wasn't available to help me. I looked around, and in the entire lumber area the only two people that were there were this woman and myself. She wasn't helping anyone else, in fact she was just sitting there. So I asked, "Is this the place where I get a estimate if I want to build a deck?" "Yes, it is", she replied. "Well, can you help me put together an estimate for a deck?" "No...well...yes I can help you.....but....Frank is the one who usually does that." "Ok, where's Frank?" "He's at lunch." So I sat down and said. "Let me get this straight, this is the place where I go to get an estimate to build a deck, and you're the person who is at the place to give an estimate for building a deck, but you can't help me, only Frank can, and he is at lunch." "Oh, no, I can help you. I give deck estimates all the time...but Frank, he usually does the decking estimates." "Well can you help me then, since Frank is not here?"

At this point, the lady behind the counter just stared at me.

So I said. "I understand". And started to walk away. As I was leaving she shouted after me, "Frank will be some time...."

Ok, as...

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