OK, I like good deals just like everyone else. There is a store with the initials B.B., right by my house, that specializes in, well, deals and markdowns. They sell TVs, computers, CDs, DVDs, washing machines, etc.
Duff McKagan is the founding bassist for Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on seattleweekly.com/reverb. His memoir, It's So Easy (Simon & Schuster), is out now.
I went into the store the other day to get a new DVD player that would also be Wi-Fi ready so I can get the Netflix and whatnot. The first thing I noticed was an almost Occupy-esque line to my right. Ah, the customer return line! Boy, was I glad I wouldn't have to get into THAT!
Unless you are a hermit, you've had to wait in one of those awful return lines in a big-box store at least once. You know the ones I am talking about: The people are sweating and shifting their weight, trying to keep aloft whatever box or doo-dad they have. The line never moves.
It's a funny thing: I never have any problem when I go into a store and need someone to help me buy something. It certainly is much easier to find someone to help you PART with your dough than to find someone to help problem-solve or rectify your retail problem du jour. But I was in luck, for I was in B.B. to part with my money. No problem there. Yet.
The second thing I noticed was the three salesman dudes in blue shirts all vying for my attention. I chose one and headed for the DVD players. My guy proceeded to dazzle me with brands and capabilities and factoids. I was overcome. Really, I just took the box he gave me and proceeded to the checkout line.
When I got home and tried to hook up my new toy, it became apparent that this apparatus was not compatible with my existing TV/stereo system. Oh, crap. I'd have to go stand in that line. This was not a good realization for me.
When I got to B.B. the next day, I was not disappointed by the size of the line . . . it was ginormous. I stood there like the good patron that I am. I shifted the weight of the box many hundreds of times. I shifted my feet. I put the box down. I picked the box up. I got thirsty, but would in no way leave this line. No one would have let me back in, I was sure of that. Everyone in the sweaty, long-ass line had that steely "don't-even-fuck-with-me-this-is-gonna-suck" glare in their eyes.
Workers behind the desk, conversely, were comparing new apps for their phones. Every time one of them got close to finishing one of their lengthy transactions with a miffed customer, another B.B. worker would sort of interrupt and tell their co-worker about what they did on New Year's Eve. Nice.
We are in the boom time of the year for customer returns. With Christmas barely in our rearview mirrors, we are now all going in droves to those stores to return and exchange items. The parking lots are full, but all of that extra Christmas help is gone.
We are a culture of consumers. We have a whole assortment of ways to buy stuff. From the high-end boutique to the huge megastore where we buy in bulk, we have it all. But in this day and age, it seems that the customer comes last. From cranky airline employees to shitty home-mortgage hustlers to simple crap retail give-and-take, we have consumed ourselves into a place where the stuff we want often comes with a caveat of pre-assumed blaséness from the buyer and seller.
I for one am going strictly online-shopping from here on out!