Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why do some many things suck so bad?

The visit to the pharmacy had been a model of efficiency. I’d stopped in while I was waiting for some take-out lunch Chinese a few doors down.

I’d bought a $4.69 anniversary card for my darling and for me one of those 59 cent pingpong ball-size blueberry creme swirl lollipops I get when I know I can enjoy one home alone and in peace without the little whiners complaining about me never getting them squat.

I approached the register. The friendly older woman smiled and began her interrogation.

“Find everything you need?”

I had.

“Any coupons?”

No, ma’am.

“Do you have a Wellness card?”

I did not. In fact, right then all I had was a growing desire to complete my transaction and vacate the store before any of my neighbors saw I was a grown man who likes to lick lollipops.

“That’ll be $5.57.”

I gave her $6.

She gave me 43 cents as the obligatory receipt began to unspool. For my two-item purchase it was as long as the distance from my wrist to my elbow, or about what you used get when you’d purchase a used car.

She picked up a pen and circled a paragraph and informed me if I went on-line and filled out a customer satisfaction survey I’d have a chance to win $1,000. “And you’ll be eligible for great store discounts and sales!”

Whoopee, I thought

“Thank you,” she said, “and have a nice day!”

Too late. She’d already ruined it.

I’d already begun to calculate just how much a once-simple cash transaction has begun to suck.

It sucks she had to ask me three questions before she began processing my purchase. It sucks to environmentalists like me that stores feel obliged to hand over wasteful receipts for every single transaction, even ones involving cards and candy, knowing they’ll be in my possession for the three seconds it’ll take to stroll to the nearest trash can.

It sucks to have someone try to tempt me to their corporate website where the suckfest of a transaction will be multiplied ten fold.

I guess it could have been worse. At least she didn’t ask to “like” her on Facebook.

When did so many things begin to suck so bad?

Even though we can only skim the surface, let’s break a few of ‘em down:

Shoelaces — I guess back when they were made of simpler materials they used to be shoestrings, but now they’re made with some kind of expensive high-tech polymer that fails at its priority function of keeping shoes tied. I bought some expensive Merrell Gore-Tex shoes and the laces are always coming untied. It’s infuriating. 

U2 — I used to love ‘em. Now, I’m ticked when I see an ad that tells me they have a new album and I can get it. For free! Does everything they do have to seem so contrived? 

Reading long news stories online — Hard copy will always be preferable to online as long as every online is embedded with links and ads designed to get you stop reading that story and begin reading something else. Even though I know they are mostly idiots, I’m still surprised that the people who produce newspapers don’t realize they are destroying one of the most essential components of their business: readers with attention spans that have yet to be atomized. The people who produce online content don’t want you to read. They just want you to click. 

Bags — The wastefulness of making sure everything at the grocery store comes with its own bag drives me nuts. Even though I carry my own bag, clerks will sometimes try and sneak already self-contained items into individual bags to put in my bag. It’d be like the pizza shop giving you a box to carry home your boxed pizza. I have word for this kind of behavior. It’s bagnanimous.

Surrendering to commercial characters/catch phrases I swore I never would — Capitol One finally broke me. I now I think I’m being uproariously witty when I break any lull in the conversation with the question: “What’s in your wallet?” And, God help me, but I recently had a sex dream about Flo. She was wearing nothing but her holstered Progressive Insurance price gun. I haven’t had a sound night’s sleep since.

Business who think me “liking” them is good business — The sign outside the local tire store is asking me to “like” them on Facebook. Really? I’m going to like a tire store? It’s all so counterfeit. Give me good tires and friendly service and I’ll do more than “like” you. I’ll shop there and tell friends about you.

Our collective future — My 13-year-old daughter came and told me in a lesson about scarcity she heard some estimates gauge the world will run out of drinking water by 2050. I want to tell her not to worry, that everything’s going to be all right. But I don’t believe it. Instead, I tell her the problem will solve itself if all the 13-year-old girls in the world simultaneously stop taking 20 minute showers.

I asked my wife for her list of things that suck. Here it is: Meanness & disrespect in politics, Facebook angst, movie theater commercials, strip mall ubiquity, metrosexuals, litter and men with ugly feet wearing sandals with toes showing.

It’s a good list and I’m relieved she didn’t include “being married to you.”

Of course, any reasonable list of things that suck ought to include Ebola, prejudice, ignorance, poverty, ISIL and Roger Goodell.

And because I believe rampant negativity sucks, here’s a list of things that don’t: My Bose wave radio, Derek Jeter, love, joy, Christmas, children, grandparents, and you because you’ve taken the time to read this blog.

Oh, and 59 cent pingpong ball-sized blueberry creme swirl lollipops.

Funny, isn’t it?

One of the few things that these days doesn’t really suck is something I could sit and suck all day.

Related . . .


Anonymous said...

Maybe one of your best posts ever--and that's saying something!

By the way your pharmacy experience is emblematic that chain or corporate businesses by and large have entrusted fundamental aspects of marketing, dialogue and the customer experience with folks so narrow-minded and souless that they can't see the forest becuase of the trees. From simply tracking the SKU's of your purchase I'd have learned at least 80% of what really matters to my company (at least in this case for a retail operation) about your consumer behavior, customer loyalty and fondness for lollipops.

But no, the minions of non-integrated thought thumb their nose at the great Italian Pareto--and his ubiquitous and accurate rule--and instead ruin your desired moment of brevity for another datum, a self-serving pat on the back, Christ anything to remind them that they are not the corporate automatons so plainly seen by us. God help the poor clerk who was instructed to deliver her three question inquiry lest she be reminded by someone a mere-half-step up the food chain that she was "underperforming". In the emerging era of "Big Data" how is it that marketers and businesses in general have more and more data than ever before yet also less and less understanding about their markets, customers and principle commerce?

Chris Rodell said...

Now, THAT'S a compliment. Thanks, Jawny. I know and appreciate your stalwart readership.

Your description of the people who are inflicting this on us as soulless is right on the money -- money being the operative word. And you do hate it for the clerk, too. I can just imagine the training session where they had to drum that into their heads.

To hell with 'em!