Friday, December 2, 2011

I survived Black Friday, by not shopping.

Ah, the joy of the season, not the Advent season, but the shopping season. These are two very different seasons, although they span roughly the same time on the calendar. Stores and advertisers use Black Friday savings to bring out the primal, caveman, hunter, survival instincts in people. Thousands of years ago, people could track wild game over vast frozen desert tundras.  Today people smell the savings that can be had, and they pursue with cunning viciousness.

Shopping is rough, even in the best of circumstances. A few years ago, on a lovely warm spring day, the kind of day that begs you to get outside and enjoy it. Shortly after lunch, I walked to the nearby Big Box Stuff Mart. This was a mistake. No, not going for a walk, but going to the store. I only needed three or four items, but it seemed that I would have to tour the entire store to find them. It would be an amazing thing if a store could figure out how to put all the items I need to purchase in one easy-to-access aisle. Then I would not have to see the store’s inventory of periwinkle penny whistles, or their latest snack craze of Queso con Fromage, or walk through 15 rows of Chia pets.

After I found the items I needed, I stood patiently in line waiting my turn to be cashed out. While I was waiting, the very important head cashier huffed and puffed up to the lines of people waiting with me and announced, “I cannot have this, there are too many of you in line. Please come down here and use the self-checkout lanes. They are fast and efficient.”

I blinked--I blinked a few times. All the while trying to process why I needed to check myself out. Was the store going to ask me to stock their shelves next? Or unload their trucks? Or shovel the walk? Where would this madness end? I contemplated these things as I tried to get the beepy thingy to beep when I swiped each item over it. Eventually, everything was beeped and bagged, and I swiped my credit card and signed the screen. Then it happened. The checkout lane spoke. In that gentle authoritative, slightly stilted mechanical woman voice, “Please wait for attendant to check your signature.”

The attendant came over to check my signature and I asked her, “Why do you need to do this?”

“To verify that you are the cardholder.” She answered.

This seemed odd to me, since I was obviously holding the card. It was right there in my hand, and since I had wanted to wait in a line for one of those human cashiers, but I was told to use self-checkout instead. Thus far, I failed to see how this was faster or more efficient. Especially, since I was watching the steady stream of people walking out the door that had been cashed out by a real live human being.

Finally, I was ready to leave the store. I began to walk through the door when lights began to flash and claxon alarms sounded like there was a prison break. I froze. A woman from the service desk said she had to look at my bag. Dumbfounded, and my patience starting to wear thin, I handed her the bag. She pulled out an item, exclaiming, “This is it!” and proceeded to show me how I hadn’t swiped it properly across some nondescript pad to deactivate the security device. “This is how you should have done it, you need to do it properly to deactivate the security tag.”

I grumbled in response, “This was never covered during my training; I hope you don’t expect to dock my pay over this.” 

She gave me an odd look as she handed my bag back. I left the store, hurrying home in the dusk of early evening. As I walked, I realized she had never looked at my receipt to verify I had actually paid for the item I hadn’t swiped across the pad properly. I could have stolen the item and she would have been aiding and abetting me in my malfeasance! I found this maddeningly funny.

 When I got home, I was still fuming, so I went to the Big Box Stuff Mart website to find an email address to send my complaints regarding my experience at their store. I found no address, only an online form to fill out. I filled it out, and hit the submit button.

My browser crashed, giving me some error about bad code in the webpage.

Epic fail.

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