I have been in the market for a good stoneware crock. There are some at the Vermont Country Store, but the one gallon one is $36.95 plus shipping, plus an extra shipping charge of $5. And they are made one state to the east of mine! Surely I could do better.
So I tried Amazon. Yes, there were crocks, from secondary sellers, including Ace Hardware. They wanted $21.52 (yay) plus $19.99 shipping (boo).
So I went right to the Ace Hardware online site, where the same stoneware crock was available for $19.99 plus FREE shipping to the store.
But where was the closest Ace Hardware? The phone book listed two, neither of them exactly close to my house, but one I drive past whenever I make a mulch run. Maybe they had them in stock. I called. Thanks to my diminishing hearing, I didn't hear exactly what the young woman said when she answered the phone, but she put me on hold while she directed me to the person who could answer my question. Except the hold "music" was a commercial for Do It Best. Huh?
Someone finally came on the line and told me that, no, they did not have any stoneware crocks. I asked him if this was still an Ace. No, both of the Ace Hardware stores in town were now Do It Best stores. The closest Ace is in a town north of here.
The next day, my SO and I headed for Wisconsin. We stopped in Plymouth for some lunch, and right there, in the strip mall next to whatever fast food joint we ate at, was an Ace Hardware. It couldn't hurt to look, so we did. They did not have stoneware crocks, but they had knock-off Crocs for two bucks.
I figured I could always use them for gardening, if I don't mind the resulting dirty feet.