I warn you, this rant will be lame because my brain is just beginning to recover from the assault upon my logic and patience.
I should have known better.
I swore that I was going to do all of my holiday shopping online this year. I didn’t want to deal with all the hassle. I should’ve followed my instincts.
Enter tlw to one of the Brooklyn branches of a large, national office supply chain store, the one whose name rhymes with the plural form of the kind of tree from which one gets syrup.
Why, I’m not sure, because what I went to purchase (a specific brand and size of whiteboard for Mr. tlw’s office, a Christmas present) can be purchased online and shipped and doing so would’ve presented much less of a hassle than making the transaction in person. But I love office supply stores. Putting me in one is like putting a food addict at an all-you-can-eat buffet, or Imelda Marcus in an unguarded shoe warehouse. In fact, while I waited for the lovely guys in shipping to pull the whiteboard out of the great nebulous “back room” and bring it up to the cash register, I made an impulse decision to also buy a fax/scanner/copier/printer. See, addict at a buffet!
I found another salesperson and gave the word to send another order back to the lovely guys in shipping, and went up to the cash register so that I can get out of there before doing any more damage to my bank account.
Fortunately the store wasn’t busy, so I didn’t have to wait in line. The cashier I chose was a bland young woman with a bored expression and a nasty propensity for cracking her chewing gum. She rang up the items I chose, cracking all the way, then turned to me.
Cashier: “Your home :crack: telephone number starting :crack: with area code please.”
“I need your :crack: home phone number starting :crack: with area code.”
“I’m not giving you my phone number. There’s no reason to.”
“Well, I have to :crack: tell it something.”
“So tell it your number. Tell it the store’s number. Tell it 123-456-7890. I don’t care.”
“Uh, I don’t :crack: know…”
“Look, I’m not giving you my phone number.”
:crack: :blank stare:
“If this is a problem for you, why don’t you call your manager?”
:crack: :picks up phone: “Manager to front, please!”
I respond with an exasperated sigh.
We wait… She cracks the gum almost nonstop.
We wait some more… I wonder why her jaw hasn’t locked.
Finally, nearly eight minutes later, the manager manages to make his way to the cash register.
Cashier: “This lady doesn’t want to give her phone number.” (Note: the gum has gone miraculously silent.)
The manager glares at me. “It’s just a demographic survey, ma’am.”
“That’s not true.”
“What do you mean?”
“If it were just a demographics survey, you’d ask for my zip code. With my home phone number, you can do a cross-directory check, assign a name to this purchase, and then use that information to track my purchases and ‘target’ market to me. I am not interested in helping you to do that.”
The manager responds with a blank stare.
I motion toward the door “If you’d prefer that I take my business elsewhere…”
The manager turns to the cashier. “Just hit enter and it’ll skip the question.”
The cashier blinks and says, blandly, “Oh.”
I reel. It was that easy to skip the whole question all this time, and I’ve had to stand there and wait and argue? And now I’m going to give them a few hundred dollars? I must be turning into a sap in my old age.
The manager stalks off, making sure to look back over his shoulder to shoot some silent visual daggers my way for throwing a spanner in the works and thereby interrupting his nap or whatever he was doing in his little hidey hole in the front corner of the store.
The cashier hits the enter key and another question pops up, this time, the zip code inquiry. She turns to me.
“Will you give :crack: your zip code?”
"But you said… " :crackcrack:
She hits the enter key and finishs entering all of the purchase information. She gives me the total, and I hand her my credit card. I could almost sense that she was trying to memorize my name so that I might be added to the “Do Not Admit To the Store Under Any Circumstances” list. She begins pressing buttons, and a receipt issues forth. She rips it off, and I believe that she’s about to hand it to me to sign. But no, she places it atop her register, and then another question comes up on the register screen. And she turns to me, and she asks.
“Is your purchase :crack: today for business :crack: or personal use?”
It was at this point my head actually burst into flame.
So screw you, oh office supply chain whose name rhymes with maples. Screw you, bland gum cracking factotum with an intellect the size of a gnat. Screw you flatfooted manager who finds actually interacting with customers to be such an imposition on your day. Screw you guys, from now on, I’m staying home. No more impulse purchasing, like the scanner/waffle iron/fax/VCR. Or my Palm Pilot. Or the 8’x8’ corkboard that cost a small fortune. Or the 3-line, two base unit, caller ID enabled cordless phone. You blew it.
And don’t call me. I’ll be applying burn salve.