Saturday, March 31, 2012

Big Boxes, Salespimples, and the Great Backpack Caper


A friend of mine used to work at Circuit City, and was recently bemoaning its demise (this on the news that “Big Box Retailer with Oddly-Shaped Blue Sign” *, hereafter known as “BBROSBS” is collapsing, will re-do its business model, and will effectively become a kiosk – and – cell phone store.)

I'll tell you why I quit Circuit City (when it was in its heyday, I shopped at the West Little Rock CC, bought a lot of stuff there) for BBROSBS.

At first, the Circuit City stores were great; prices good (some better, some worse), nice displays, helpful salespeople.  Loved (and looked for) the "Open Box" specials.  But then sometime or another, they changed their business strategy, because suddenly you couldn't walk in the door without being ACCOSTED by a swarm of salespeople (in the old days, you'd stroll in the TV's, look for a minute or two; a salesguy would ask if he could help and if you didn't want any, he'd say ok, and that'd be it—but if you wanted to ask a question, he was nearby, friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful). The salespeople suddenly became much younger and less knowledgeable, while the attitude more and more resembled a used car lot.  Then the prices became higher than BBROSBS, and I quit.

“The COMPuter store which had USA in its title” had a good thing on computers and computer equipment, but they sank.  They got bought out by an online retailer and now have reopened a few stores, but I went one time and will not be back.

I have never been a big fan of BBROSBS; too big, too loud, too crowded.  I recently tried to buy a computer backpack there.  (Nathan had been telling me for months to get a backpack instead of a briefcase; I should have listened to him earlier.)**

Why BBROSBS, instead of the net?  Because I didn't decide to take action until 2 nights before a big (weeklong) trip.  YIKES!  I just –can’t- haul that sorry briefcase (genuine imitation fake pleather) the crappy computer company based in Austin, Texas (sorry, Ginger) gave/sold to my employer on ONE MORE TRIP.  Weighs 10 lbs. empty, has a bad shoulder strap, inconvenient to use, etc.). 

So, panic time!  I hurry up and do my online and word-of-mouth research and determine which one I want.  Check net.  Online retailers can have it here tomorrow, for basically twice the price.  I have already driven to one local place whose website says they have them; they don’t.  However, BBROSBS near me has 4, according to website.  Huzzah!

So I drive over there in the rain (in short--I need instant gratification).  Dig through the backpacks---nothing even the same BRAND.  Find salespimple.  He checks computer, they're supposed to have 2.  He looks.  He goes "in the back".  Nothing.  “Sorry, man (what happened to “Sir”?), we don’t have one.”  But he's checked the computer and the BBROSBS on Fry Rd. (10 miles away) has *15*.  "Ok, will you call them and have the salespimple there EYEBALL one, and put it away for me?” 

20 minutes later--during which time I sell a lady a “Book Reader from a Major Online Retailer which is inexplicably also sold at BBROSBS”, then take her over to my salespimple to ring her up--sure enough, "Dude at other store’s got it in his hand. Would you like to pay for it here and just pick it up at will-call? It’ll be faster." Foolishly, I do so.

So, I meander back through the mega parking lot in the rain to my wheels, drive 10 miles in rain in relatively heavy traffic on freeway to Fry Rd.  Meander back through enormous parking lot in downpour (now really wet), head for Will-Call.  While waiting for salespimple to get off personal phone call (“Oh yeah?  Yeah, baby, that’s gooood.  Then what would you do?”), I eye the will-call merch on the shelves behind him; I know what a backpack looks like and none of the items there are one.  He finally ends his conversation with his girlfriend/boyfriend (he’s getting off at 9, apparently, and can’t wait the extra hour to talk nasty with her/him), disentangles his tongue jewelry from his labret, and with a look of extreme disdain asks if he may help me.  Come on, now, Malvie, paste on a smile, honey draws more flies than vinegar, "Hi!  They're holding a backpack for me?"  He looks at the same shelves at which I’ve been looking for 10 minutes.  Of course it's not there.

He calls another salespimple, apparently back in the store.  “He’s looking for it.”  Then, "We don't have it."

I am still in work clothes, wet, tired, hungry, and have driven 5 miles one way to one location of BBROSBS, then driven 10 miles the other way in traffic and rain to the other BBROSBS, have waited on, been disrespected by, and flat lied to by salespimples, my debit card is hot in my pocket, all in search of instant gratification, and I am not instantly gratified.

I calmly and quietly demand the manager. 

He arrives.  I tell him the story.  He looks in the computer -- they have 8 (notice all the numbers are different).  He calls the original salespimple; he had been looking at the wrong one.  He gathers a platoon of salespimples and they scour the store (30 minutes) while I wait.  Finally he calls the original salespimple and tells him I can have 10% off any other backpack they have (I don't want their others, I want the one I went after....).

And this is but one of my unfortunate situations with BBROSBS.  This is not counting my three lousy experiences with their "Nerd Herd" with its cutely painted small car parked out front in Little Rock, wherein I swore I wouldn't make THAT mistake again...


The world’s largest Big Box Retailer?  Well, it and I share a home state.  I used to go there all the time.  I supported them when others dissed them.

Their stores are awful here; the crowds, the filth (dirty stores), the parking lot, the interminable lines (why have 60 checkouts if you only use 4?  Even at Christmas I’ve never seen them all used).  They’ve re-arranged their store and I can’t find anything any more.  It seems they want to be that OTHER Big Box Retailer, the one out of the north with the big red sign, which seems to be emulating the one down south---it’s enough to make your head hurt.  In any event, I go to the blue one twice a year now---I load up on personal hygiene stuff (shaving cream, toothpaste, deodorant, razor blades) and things like soap, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, etc. I spend about $300 a pop.  Then I never run out and don’t have to go very often.


Meanwhile, I bought a Kenmore 90 Washer and Dryer from Sears in Hot Springs in 1998.  They're still in my laundry room, chugging away, 14 years later (and I need to be loading them right now instead of doing this).  If/when they finally die, I will go directly to Sears and buy another set.  I buy tools and ALL things like lawn mowers, blowers, hedge trimmers, etc. from Sears.  My surround-sound system came from Sears.

I'll just be a Sears customer for stuff like that.

Dillard's has a terrific fat man -er, Big and Tall- department, so as long as they hang around I'm good (wait for sales unless somebody dies and you've just ruined your best white shirt).

JC Penney’s Arizona brand jeans fit me great and they have them up to 60 inch waist in a variety of washes.  All set.

Otherwise, I’ll just buy on the internet (mostly Amazon and teh ebays).


Oh:  where did I get the backpack?  Two doors down in the shopping plaza at Office Max.  They had 4 of each type the brand I wanted offered.  And they were cheaper.

And I don't care if BBROSBS goes out of bidness or not.


*Why change the name?  To protect me from any suit-happy lawyer who might Google this.  The real names I show above—well, I figure they won’t mind free advertising from a satisfied customer.  And po old Circuit City is dead.

**The backpack has been the best personal-convenience item I’ve bought in forever.  It holds all my stuff—computer, peripherals, CPAP, iPod, noise-cancelling headphones (a must on the airplane), Kindle (yes, I’ve converted, but that’s another blog post), prescription drugs, portfolio—EVERYTHING I need to sustain my life somewhere if nothing else follows.  I rarely check my “big” bag, but have to do so sometimes.  With the backpack, the computer and CPAP are EZ-out, EZ-in at Security (“ALL LAPTOPS MUST COME OUT OF YOUR BAG! SIR! SIR! IS THERE A LAPTOP IN THAT BAG!?!?”  sigh).  All the stuff inside is within easy reach without removing the backpack from underneath the seat, where it fits.  I love being able to put it over my shoulders and just walk off the plane; this also is very convenient in the men’s room (sorry, it’s indelicate, but having to find some place to put the briefcase so I can use my hands---and knowing what the briefcase is sitting in---).  And, the car keys are on a convenient little clippie so no more fishing for them in the bottom of the briefcase in the dark at the airport parking deck.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this before!!! 

Oh, which backpack?    This one rat cheer

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