Let’s Count Something

Today I went to Lowes and Home Depot to collect pricing and availability data for the supplies I need for two of my upcoming experiments. Some of the items (i.e. lumber, plastic, and ground fabric) were easy to price. The tough one turned out to be the screws.

I need about 1200 3″ deck screws. Unfortunately screws are sold by the pound, not by quantity. As I looked at the boxes and pails of screws I felt like I was guessing the number of M&M’s in a jar. They were difficult to estimate. And no one knew the answer.

I talked to customer service representatives in the hardware departments at both Lowes and Home Depot. The conversations were eerily similar. Here is a paraphrase:

Me: Excuse me, I have a question for you.
Rep: What’s that?
Me: I’m constructing something that requires 1200 3″ deck screws. I’ve noticed screws are sold by the pound, and I have no idea what poundage would fall close to this number. Do have a chart or estimate of how many 3″ deck screws are in a pound?
Rep: (Laughs, shakes head while smiling.) I hear that question almost every day. I have no idea. Sorry.
Me: Ok, thanks anyway.

As I had these conversations I realized something about myself. If I worked in the hardware department at a building supplies store and I frequently was asked questions about the quantity of different size screws per pound, it would be impossible to stop me from creating a chart to estimate this. I would buy small packages of the major sizes of screws, determine how many were in a pound, and create a chart to estimate how many screws were in the common package sizes.

I couldn’t leave a common issue like this unresolved.

And every time a customer asked a question about screw quantity per pound I would revel in passing on the knowledge that my brief investigation had produced. In fact, I’d probably make copies of the chart that I’d keep on hand to pass out.

When I purchase the screws for this project you can be darn sure I’m going to weigh out a pound to see how many it is.



Filed under General, Thoughts

4 responses to “Let’s Count Something

  1. Carol

    I ran into the same problem at Home Depot when I needed to purchase 1500 finishing nails for a school project. The customer service rep and I opened a box at my request, dumped them onto the counter and counted them.

    • I thought of this, but I was not planning to buy the screws on that day. I would have felt bad opening a package, counting the screws, then leaving. The customer service guys I talked to were friendly, but they seemed perfectly happy to leave my question unanswered.

  2. Jules

    100 screws for every pound *

    (* on average)

    • After doing some internet research I’ve found similar numbers, though for long screws (like the 3″ deck screws I’m getting) the estimates seem to fall around 75-85 per pound. This leaves me with a difficult choice, for it is far cheaper to buy the screws in the larger weights (25lbs) than the smaller ones (1, 3, or 5lbs). If I get 80 screws per pound, 15 pounds would be exactly right, though three boxes of 5lbs cost nearly as much as a 25lbs pail.

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