12 Things Ace Hardware Employees Won’t Tell You

Ace Hardware delivers quality materials in convenient locations. But savvy shoppers know there are always tricks to get a little more bang for your buck! Here are 12 tips that your local Ace Hardware employee won't tell you.

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Separately Owned

The key to making the most of your Ace Hardware spending is understanding that Ace doesn’t function like other hardware stores. Ace works on a co-op model, in which many private owners band together under a single brand banner.

In other words, if you don’t like the pricing or service at one location, simply try another! Because the ownership is completely different, your buying experience may be, as well. In addition, they are more sensitive to customers switching stores than a big box store.

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You Can Be Paid to Shop There

So, if all these stores are independently owned, you may be wondering how they ensure quality at each individual location. The answer is a network of secret shoppers. Ace Hardware corporate employs consumers to make purchases at Ace Hardware stores and rate their experience and compliance with standards.

If you’re interested in becoming an Ace Hardware secret shopper, look for secret shopper organizations that operate in your area.

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Local Connections Make Good Networking

Because Ace Hardware is a locally owned co-op, the ownership tends to be very involved in the community. If you have a charity or nonprofit fundraiser, your neighborhood Ace Hardware is often one of the best places to start your business outreach.

Also, if your Ace Hardware store has a bulletin board, check it for business cards if you’re looking for someone to help with a project. Often the store employees know these tradespeople and can provide a recommendation.

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moving furniture

Move-In Specials

If you’ve recently moved, keep an eye out for welcome packets, which often have a coupon for your local Ace Hardware. These packets will sometimes show up at apartment buildings or they can often be found at U-Haul or other moving supply retailers.

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Ace Hardware store
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Not Everything Is the Best Deal

Ace Hardware stores tend to be located in neighborhoods that can’t sustain a big box store. This is fantastic if you want to get to a hardware store quickly, but it’s not so great if you need to pick up something bulky. Because Ace Hardware stores are significantly smaller than the most home centers.

The typical Ace Hardware store is about 1/10 the size of a big box store, according to Forbes, so they have to be pickier about what the stock. Storage costs are a concern at most Ace Hardware locations, and that cost gets passed on to consumers.

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Reward Points: Use Them or Lose Them!

The Ace Rewards program is fairly customer friendly. You receive 10 points for every dollar you spend, and additional bonus savings on select items. Since you get a $5 in-store credit for every 2,500 points you accrue, it pays big to make small purchases. But keep an eye on those store credits, because they come with an expiration date!

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You Say It’s Your Birthday?

Many Ace Hardware stores send out bonus coupons and savings on or around your birthday if you are an Ace Rewards member. In reality, they don’t care when your birthday is, so long as they’re only sending out one per year. Fill in any date to get on the birthday list but keep your real birth date private, for security reasons.

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Return Policy

As great as the Ace Rewards program is, there is one area with a lag behind some other retailers. The return policy is not nearly as generous as Lowe’s and The Home Depot. But, as long as you keep the receipt and packaging, you shouldn’t have a problem.

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key duplication

Services, Not Just Shopping

Most Ace Hardware stores also offer services, such as key duplication and window screen replacement. These are often some of the best deals in the store, and can save you a bundle when compared to the same services at other hardware stores.

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Bargain Bins

Ace Hardware bargain bins are a treasure trove of cheap tools perfect for dirty projects that could damage or destroy your favorite hand tools. Plus, if you pick up a deeply discounted tape measures or voltage tester, you won’t feel so bad if you ruin or lose it along the way.

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Online is Not Their Thing

Another result of the co-op model is that the Ace Hardware online experience is different from other hardware stores. While you can certainly buy items online, the goal of the Ace website isn’t to sell you goods directly, as much as it is to drive business to a brick-and-mortar store. That said, they do have a website, and many individual stores offer some kind of delivery, especially for landscape items such as mulch or trees.

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Tool Rental Tricks

Ace Hardware isn’t primarily a tool rental store, so they don’t have the biggest items or the widest selection. But, on the plus side, their rentals are used less frequently than bigger stores, so are less likely to be damaged, dull or otherwise worn down. So, if you want to grab a smaller power tool like a Sawzall, chainsaw or a floor sander, you can find a good deal at Ace.

Even better, remember how each store is privately owned? If you want a great deal on a used tool, talk to the owner or manager and see if you can pick something up when it’s being retired.

Dan Stout
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.