I’m old enough to remember when shopping was a relaxing pastime. I can remember trips to the local hardware store with my dad – checking out the bikes, pedal cars, and Radio Flyer wagons while he got a quart of paint or a pound of nails. “Marketing” in those days was pretty much limited to window banners, in-store displays, and little things designed to catch your attention. I recall a display on the counter of the hardware store for some sort of super-epoxy adhesive – it was a little man made out of golf balls, bolts, nuts, glass marbles, and other odds and ends all glued together with this wonder putty. I suppose the fact that I can’t remember the name of the stuff proves what a marketing fail that was.
I imagine today that same epoxy would be hawked by someone of the likes of Billy Mays (only slightly more living) – loudly extolling the virtues of this space-age polymer, while in the background, paid actors would demonstrate scenes of epic fail using inferior products. (In black-and-white, of course. All back-breaking or frustrating scenes in infomercials are depicted in black-and-white.) But wait! Act impulsively and overpay for this thing you don’t need – NOW – and we’ll double the order! You just pay twice as much for shipping and processing!!
This is what I feel like now, every time I enter a store. No longer can one simply browse – waiting for an idea for a gift or a home improvement project to jump out and inspire. No, now I must be helped, guided, cross-sold, pressured, concierged, coerced, and/or guilted into buying something. I am plied with samples, trial subscriptions, email alerts, Facebook ‘Like’ requests, surveys, credit card applications, and – in the case of the hopefully-soon-to-be-departed Best Buy – a dogged attempt to get me to switch cable providers.
JUST STOP IT!
I turn down the aisle in the grocery store, and there’s a little TV screen telling me how great Hormel chili is. Sometimes they even sense when I pass by and disgorge a coupon. “Here, take one. Take it. TAKE IT!!!” This sort of tactic makes me wonder what’s so wrong with this chili that they have to take these steps to get it off the shelves. Maybe we’ve become so desensitized to TV and print ads, or our collective attention span is so short that we need these immediate, impulsive tactics?
I know that salespeople and cashiers are only doing what they’re told to do by their management, but it has led to my creation of a Little Voice that’s not a very nice person. I’ve been able to keep it to myself so far, but I’m afraid one of these days, the words that form in my head will spill out past the old oral firewall. The Little Voice goes something like this:
“Can I help you find something?” Yes. Enough room to think for two seconds?
“Would you like to put this on your Blundermart credit card today?” No. Can we put it on yours?
“Did you find everything you were looking for?” Where do you keep your self respect?
“How did you hear about us?” There’s a 22-foot tall sign out front, plus you send me a circular every day, emails, TV ads, radio ads, and you sponsor a sports team. How can I avoid hearing about you?
“And could I have your email address?” OH, HELL NO!!
“Would you like to sign up for our Rewards card?” Do I look like I want to come back?
“If you go online and fill out this short survey, you could win a $1000 gift card!” Yeah, and monkeys could fly out of my butt. Not gonna happen.
And you know what, retailers? I don’t want to listen to commercials about your store – in your store! You won – I’m there. Now just keep pumping that secret poor-decision gas into the ventilation system and let me make my purchases and get out. I’m not interested in no interest until 2087, or free delivery, or the in-home service plan. I already know you put the milk at the back of the grocery store so I have to pass everything else to get it. I am not going to impulse-purchase lip balm, Martha Stewart Living, or 48 D-cell batteries.
Since you retailers all seem to have the need to get in my face, let me break it down into terms you can understand: