Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How May I Help You?

I consider myself more patient than most people. I typically avoid things and places, like the super-center  that I know will likely annoy me. If I go into a super-center  then I do it during off-peak hours and for only one or two specific items. That was the case today and I went straight to the garden section. It was only 9:00 AM so I expected that the store would not be very busy.

The first thing that I noticed in the super-center was that the employees weren't wearing those ridiculous vests, with the sign on the back that reads HOW MAY I HELP YOU? I've been a firm believer that it should read CATCH ME IF YOU CAN because they’re always running away from me. I have never experienced a super-center employee volunteering assistance unless they thought that I was a 911 possibility. Even then some of them had tunnel vision as I sat on a merchandise shelf with my head hanging in the boredom of waiting on my wife.

I found the plastic garden hose fittings that I wanted in the garden section. I prefer plastic fittings as our well water contains sulfur and tends to corrode brass and copper fittings. When I got to the check-out in the garden section there was a woman waiting in line in front of me with groceries.

I understand why customers bring non-garden section items to the cashier there. It’s one of the main reasons why I avoid the super-center. There is always a log jam at the check-out.

The sheeple don’t seem to mind waiting in lines 4-8 sheeple deep. However, real people, who value their time, are naturally going to seek an alternative, such as the jewelry counter or garden section cashier if they only have a few items. Therein is the reason that I became annoyed.

The woman in front of me, at that garden section check-out, had the shopping cart chuck full of, what must have been, her full week of grocery shopping. I usually don’t complain. I just leave and don’t come back, at least, for a long while.

I put my stuff back on the shelf and left. As I passed the grocery shopper on my way out I couldn't resist saying something.

“That’s bullshit to bring that much stuff in here.”

She babbled something about letting others go ahead her but she just had to get going. I showed her the back of my hand with four of my five digits curled and tucked into my palm. No, I’m not proud of it. I always get angry with myself when I let my temper dictate my actions.

There was another super-center a few miles away and near a home store that I planned to stop at. I was calmed down when I walked into the second super-center garden section. Unfortunately, the specific fittings that I wanted were not in stock on the shelves. I left for the home store.

When I walked into the home store I was greeted by a friendly fellow who offered me a shopping cart and asked if I needed help to find anything.

“I’m specifically looking for a bladder tank for my well system I know the general area where they’ll be. If you can narrow it down more, I’d appreciate it.”

“Uh… a bladder tank… uh… that would be in plumbing!”

“Hey, that’s great! You’re even more help than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest.”

The guy looked confused. I doubted that he had picked up on my sarcasm. I nocked another arrow and took better aim.

“Was your previous job at the super-center?”

His face twisted even more. It was as if his face was just a paper target over an emptiness incapable of receiving and holding anything that was sent into it.

On the way to plumbing, I was intercepted by an air conditioner tout. One the local air conditioning service and installation companies is in bed with the home store to fatten the margins of both companies. The air conditioning people use the home store as a backdrop to give themselves more exposure. In turn, the home store gets a cut of sales.

“ I've talked you people before,” I told the guy. “You should put my mug shot up on your wall with a note that says to leave me alone.”

“Why? What happened?”

I told the story of how one of their people had chased me down the aisle until I agreed to get an estimate for a new energy-saving air conditioner. I was having air conditioner problems at the time but couldn't afford a totally new installation. I was told that the only way to do the job was to replace the entire unit at a cost of $4200.

I disagreed and asked for an estimate to repair or replace the leaking evaporator coil. That estimate was $2200. I ultimately got the job done by another service for $1100. The guy laughed.

“One of us thinks that is funny,” told him. His grin faded and I walked off.

I found the area of the two plumbing aisles, near the pumps, where the bladder tanks should be but didn't see any tanks. Two store employees were stocking shelves in other plumbing aisle. I walked over to them and realized right away that I forgot to leave my Harry Potter invisible cloak at home.

“Can you tell when to find the bladder tanks?”

Luckily, they could near me, even though, they couldn't see me.

They’re in the next aisle over.” He pointed to where I just came from.

“Okay, I was just there. I must have walked by them.”

Now they acted as if they were deaf as well as blind.

The bladder tanks were, in fact, near the pumps but six-feet up on a shelf. No wonder that I didn't see them. To make matters worse, they were double stacked so I had to reach another two-feet. With my finger tips, I inched the box off until it fell and then I caught it before it fell to the floor.

On my way home I decided to go a little distance past home and stop at another super-center  I really needed the plastic garden hose fittings. It turned out to be a bad idea.

At the check-out there was a customer at the register and man behind her who had come in from the main store. I was behind him. There were two registers and two store employees but only one employee was working a register. I assumed that the other employee was a leak in the payroll.

I don’t know what the issue was but the customer at the register was taking much longer than a normal transaction. Meanwhile, the line was getting longer with more customers from the main store. When the line was about ten people deep, the payroll leak decided to go to work. She opened the second register and offered to assist the next customer in line.

That was the man in front of me. He simply nodded to the people at the end of the line who were nearest to the second the register and told them to go ahead. The people at the end of the long line hurried up to the second register with their non-garden section items.

It’s not their fault. If there wasn't a log jam in the main check-out then they wouldn't need to come to the garden section check-out. Nonetheless, by now I had experienced all of the fun that I could stand for one day. Everyone has their limit.

I tossed my garden hose fittings onto the top of the soft drink cooler beside the check-out and walked out. I may get over it someday but right now I’m prepared to starve, go naked and without garden hose fittings if the super-center is the only place on earth where I can buy food, clothing and gardening supplies.

The super-center boasts of being the largest retailer in the world. So was Sear’s once upon an ancient time. If their history isn't enough make the super-center rethink their retail practices then they might be advised to review the Kmart syndrome.

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