Hardware Holdouts: Why Amazon Is Winning The Hardware Store Wars

A few weeks back, on the hottest day of the summer, my icemaker stopped working. It was certainly not essential. I put a few ice cube trays in the freezer and went back to work.

As the days wore on, I realized that I really like my icemaker. It’s a luxury for sure, but it’s something I’d come to depend on.  I enjoyed the tiny clink of ice being made and deposited into the freezer ice drawer.

So, with a bit of trepidation, i pulled out the fridge, set some dry newspaper on the floor, and waited to MacGyver the source of the water. And then all was revealed. The water line from the pump to the freezer was leaking at the coupling. OK, truth is, a few handy YouTube videos helped me find the source of the leak, but repairing it would be simple. All I needed was a new quick-connect water hose coupling,

So, here’s where the past and the future collided.

I went on Amazon, and two clicks later there was the part I needed: $5.95, free shipping (with Prime) and it would arrive in two days.



I paused. I wanted to be a good citizen, and I wanted it fixed today. There was a hardware store right across the street, so I’d go get the part. I took a picture of the old part and set out to collect it.

Over the years the hardware store had evolved from an old-world collection of screws and hinges and such into a more upscale housewares store. But down the back steps, there was still a room of tools and bits of hardware. I was 100% sure they’d have my water line coupling.

The hardware store employee looked at the picture of my part, and then said, without a bit of irony: “That’s a replacement part. We don’t have that.”

Huh? Isn’t that the actual purpose of a hardware store? I swear he almost said under his breath “Have you searched on Amazon?”

Not to be put off, I left the store and searched “quick coupling” on Google. Zing! A photo of my prey -- and it was IN STOCK 10 blocks away at Ace Hardware. Twenty minutes later, I arrived and showed the employee the Google page. He nodded, and back we went to a wall of tiny drawers. Five minutes later he shook his head.

I showed him the Google search. “Maybe tomorrow?” he said, without any sense of confidence. There were alternative parts, but none that matched my picture. Then he added, "You could try the plumbing hardware store a few blocks west. They’ll have it for sure.”

Off I went to hardware store number three, in search of the $5 part. It was a Saturday and the sidewalks were bustling. But hardware store number three was… CLOSED. It said so on the list of hours on the door. I was incredulous. When does anyone who works for a living go to replace light bulbs, fix a broken tile, or repair their ice machine? SATURDAY, for sure.

I trudged home, the journey a failure, the icemaker leaking on the floor -- and, as you suspected, an order placed for Amazon to deliver it on Monday.

Next time what will I do? Will I support my local hardware store(s), or will I just default to Amazon, which is among other things the home of every appliance replacement part in the known universe?

I was a hardware holdout. But if hardware stores aren’t going to stock hardware, it’s hard to remain loyal.

Next story loading loading..