USB Cables - Are they over there?

We needed a 6-foot USB cable. Doesn’t sound exotic, does it? Doesn’t sound like it should be expensive, either - cheap doo-dads of all sorts come with 3-foot USB cables in the box as a “freebie” - something twice as long should cost about one and a half times much as the freebie. The wire itself is cheap - the ends are where the cost comes in. I don’t know exactly how much half and again of free would cost, but it shouldn’t be a whole lot.

So what is my nearby mass-market computer haven charging for a 6-foot USB cable? Well, step one is finding them. A small “end-cap” sign over yonder says “cables” but there aren’t any cables near it. Just a stack of Wi-Fi routers - the perfect anti-cable. I track down someone dressed approximately like a store employee and they tell me the cables are “over there.”

Ah yes… the ever-popular concept in might-as-well-be-self-serve retail known as “they’re over there.” Over there, where by the time you get over there, that clerk will have disappeared, so you can’t find them again to say they’re not over there? Over there, where the big wall graphic says “Printers”? Yup. I head over to what looks like should be a passel of printers. Sure enough, there’s cables over there, and no printers.

Find the six-foot USB cables on a rack that has even less organizational sense than the bins of bolts at a hardware store after a kid has been nearby. ::blink:: ::gulp:: $22.95! I once bought a no-name USB hub for $25, and it came with one of those freebie 3-foot cables and a power supply. Yes! half a pound of copper wire and transformer core, plus all the technology involved in producing a circuit board, putting the hub components and connectors on it and wrapping it in a purpose-designed plastic case, all for two bucks more than just a cable. No way am I paying that much for a damn piece of wire! On the way out, I see the printers - they’re under a sign reading “Service Department.” I don’t even want to guess where the service is.

The next day, I go to an independent shop that’s closer to my office than the other place, but in the opposite direction, and what am I greeted with? A big red sign hanging from the ceiling proclaiming “CABLES” and underneath it, a rack full of cables. Aha! Accurate signage! Even better, I find what I need. One six-foot USB cable for…$4.75! And it’s even USB 2.0!

I pull the package off the rack and head over to the cash register. Yes, this is such a small purchase, that I will be paying cash. But…there’s no cashier there. I look around for someone who may be impersonating an employee. Unlike the chain store, there’s no uniform polo shirt and engraved name tags here. I come across someone looking appropriate and say that I want to buy this cable. They say the cashier is… get ready… “Over there.”

But it’s the WRONG over there. They need to be at the other over there as there’s not a cash register at the over there where they’re at. A 3-watt lightbulb sputters to life in this person’s head and they call out to the cashier over there to get over to the over there where they’re needed.

In anticipation, I go toward the wrong over there where the cashier is and meet them half way and escort them to the cash register where a growing line of less-resourceful shoppers has accumulated. I may be the last one arriving at the line, but by God, I’m the one that found the cashier, so I’m paying first and getting out of there!

The answer to “Over there” is the cold stare and the statement “I’m sorry, I didn’t see them. Can you show me?” and stand there, staring until they do.


Ya gotta love the 400% markups the big chains put on cables. Astonishing.

As to the independent stores, if you can find somewhere that has good prices, good quality and good service, check your pulse. You’re probably dead, and are being rewarded for leading a good and noble life.

Well written & entertaining OP. I was with you every step of the way. I’ve been there. I mean, over there. :smiley:

Oh boy, I’m in for it now.

For another computer here, I need a USB hub. Shouldn’t set me back more than $95 or so. At least I know which store to head straight for! :smiley:

Actually, needing a USB hub is making me think even more strongly of just getting a new PC - the one I’ve been eyeballing has four ports on the front, and four more in back. That will keep me going for a while.