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Retail Store Annoyances

What happened to the good old days, when you could walk into a retail store, make a purchase and walk out? Maybe you had a salesman or associate try to sell you and extended service plan, or talk you up to the next best model. Maybe you had to haggle on occasion. No big deal. All things that we could deal with. After all, we are the ones in the store making the purchase, and the store is looking at maximizing their profit with me. When this done on the sales floor, it's fine. After all, that's the sales associates job. That is not the job of the cashier clerk. So, I've made up a list of 3 things that bother me at retail stores. More specifically, this list are things that bother me at the register, when I would like to finalize my purchase. So, here they are:

1. Eight Free Issues:

When I get up to the register, the LAST thing I want is to hear the cashier clerk trying to sell me on further purchases and sales. Listen, no offense, but I'm NOT standing at the register to make more purchases. So, I DON'T want to hear:

"Would you like to receive 8 free issues of Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, or US Magazine?"

There are so many problems with this on so many levels. First, the 8 free issues are in fact free. It's the 9th issue and greater that they get you. At they don't communicate this at the register. In fact, they are told NOT to explain this, unless the customer asks. The way it works, is, you give one of these magazines your credit card number, then, if you don't cancel within the 8 free issues, they auto-charge your card for each additional issue after that. Yes, it's written in the fine print, but not advertised. Why? Because, the next 8 issues, making a total of 16 (8 are free, 8 are charged to your credit card), are more expensive than if you were to sign up for a 16 magazine subscription. See? They're making their money, and their using your vulnerability at the register to do it. You already have your card in hand. 8 issues are free. "Why not?" you think. You see, the retail store gets a percentage of profit for every subscription they sell. That's the motivation.

The second problem with this, at least for me, is if I wanted magazines, I would've gone to my local grocery store or bookstore to get them. It seems to make more sense at a bookstore (read "Barnes and Noble"), for this type of behavior, then at an electronics store (read "Best Buy"). What's funny, though, is Barnes and Noble are not making that offer to me, and Best Buy is. What's wrong with this picture? Not that I want Barnes and Noble to start making the offer, because I don't. But don't you find it ironic that an electronics store is trying to sell you magazines, while a bookstore isn't? Huh.

Finally, why is the cashier selling me the magazines? Why didn't the floor associate? Because, as stated earlier, the retail store is trying to manipulate a vulnerability. Think of how silly this sounds (from the salesman on the floor):

"You've made an excellent choice. This TV will make you happy for years to come. Now, how would you be interested in 8 free issues of Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly or US Magazine?"

Uh, wait a minute... What does a magazine have to do with the TV I just selected? Absolutely nothing. But, at the register (with you credit card in hand):

"With your credit card, you can get 8 free issues of .... ".

See how much easier it is to make the sale. It's manipulative, deceitful and completely dishonest.

2. Save 10% Today:

At least this point is somewhat relevant to the establishment, but it doesn't make it any less annoying. Back in the day, if you wanted to open a credit account at a retail store, you would go back to the credit desk, and open an account. You made the effort yourself to do so. Now, when at the register, you are bombarded with guilt and pressure. The pitch goes something like this:

"Would you like to save 10% on your purchases today by opening a credit account with us?"

I guess just having the credit applications silently at the register isn't doing it, so they have to start asking you, making absolutely 100% sure that they offer a credit account, just in case you weren't aware.

Let's not get this confused with memberships. I don't mind being asked at the register about yearly membership dues. For example:

"For $30 per year, you can open a membership with us that will save you 10% on every purchase you make in the store. Would you be interested?"

That pitch is fine, because 1) they aren't pulling your credit, and 2) that's better than coupons, because I am always guaranteed discounts. So, if I shop at that establishment a lot (like I do at Barnes and Noble), it makes sense for me to save money. BUT, I am not interested in you pulling my credit, so I can save 10%, or maybe even 20%, on just one purchase. At least give my sky miles, so I can go on vacations.

At any rate, the problem with this, is the company is pressuring you and placing guilt on you. See, the subconscious thinks "I'm saving 10%. That's a good deal. I can just pay it off with my checking account when I get home, and close the account. Then I just easily saved money. I would be stupid for not doing this." The retail store knows that's what you're thinking, and they love it. Well, they won't love it if you pay it off quickly and close the card before you even receive it in the mail, because they want a percentage of the interest profit that you are paying, which they get, and is the whole motivation for pitching it to you to begin with.

Also, you're not thinking clearly either. What do you do during the Christmas Holidays when spending the whole day out shopping? Open a credit account at every store you walk into? Any loan officer, bank attendant, or someone with a head on their shoulders, will tell you that you are killing your credit score, and making your credit look bad. That's just not a good idea. You see, when pulling up your credit account via Experian, Equifax or TransUnion, the credit officer will see all this requests in a short amount of time, and what that translates to in the officer's mind is "They are getting themselves into quick debt. Does their income support this debt and will the be able to abide by the terms and pay it off?" In the long run, when trying to purchase a new car or house, you've killed your credit score, and you're debt-to-income-ratio is rising, by splurging during the Christmas Season. Now, when getting that house or car later in the year, you may not get the loan or interest that you are looking for. I know. I used to be a credit officer, and I saw it day in and day out.

3. Your Phone Number:

The worst one of all. Actually, I've begun to see this less and less lately, so retail stores must be wising up. However, I still see it from time to time, and I always give them an automated response. But first, a story.

I was at an electronics store, of which I can't even remember the name. They've since closed their doors filing bankruptcy, and aren't around anymore. But anyway, I was purchasing some RCA cable for my stereo system, and a PDA. We're talking about a $500 total purchase. When I got to the register with my merchandise, the cashier asked me for my phone number. Being security conscious, as always, I told him that I won't be giving it to him. He then told me that I could not make my purchase until I gave him my phone number. Shocked, I still told him no. Eventually, the store manager came, trying to explain to me that my phone number was needed to track my purchases for returns. I told him that is what receipts are for, and I won't be giving out my phone number. Finally, I gave in, and provided him with (333) 333-3333. I told him, that if the store wants my purchase, that's as good as it's going to get. Otherwise, I'll go elsewhere. They took the number, and I was on my way. I couldn't believe it! The retail store was trying to keep themselves from making money all over a phone number. *BLINK* *BLINK*. Wow. No wonder they filed for bankruptcy.

At any rate, the only reason that retail stores want your phone number, is to sell it to soliciting corporations. It's how the industry works. Retail stores become reliable phone books for anyone who wants it. Your information up for grabs to the highest bidder. What you don't realize is the amount of information that is sold:

  • your purchase
  • the date and time of purchase
  • the purchase total
  • your phone number
  • your name (if you paid by check or card)
  • your address (if paid with a check)
  • the store the purchase was made
  • and how many times you've been in

That's a lot of info, and in some cases, very sensitive. You think it's just your phone number, but you're sadly mistaken. The marketing department is smarter than you give them credit for. How do think you get so many solicitors on your phone? By sheer coincidence?

So, when presented with this, I learned my lesson from that electronics store many years ago. If they ask for your phone number, pay with cash, and give them "867-5309". Yes. If you're smarter than the average fruitcake, you'll recognize that number from a song, under the same title, by the artist Tommy Two-Tone. The funny thing is, most cashiers are NOT smarter than the average fruitcake, and type it in straight away. After handing that number out to retail stores hundreds of times, I've only had one person call me on it. "Isn't that a song?" Whaddya know.

So, there you have it. My 3 personal annoyances that bug me beyond no end. The great thing is, I am going to have a shirt made that says right on the front:

  1. I don't want 8 free magazines.
  2. I don't want to save 10%.
  3. My phone # is 867-5309.

Let's see how that goes over this Christmas Season. :)

{ 10 } Comments

  1. Mackenzie using Internet Explorer 7.0 on Windows XP | March 27, 2007 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I've worked in a store where we took phone numbers. We never gave them out. We had one use for them: "hey you bought a Dimebag Darrel wah pedal last month, so we thought you'd like to know that Nick Catonese is going to be in the store giving autographs next week." Usually we sent out postcards instead though.

  2. Mackenzie using Internet Explorer 7.0 on Windows XP | March 27, 2007 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    and I'm not a Windows user...I just saw that it shows that. I'm at work, and I don't have the choice to use Feisty here.

  3. maniacmusician using Firefox 2.0.0.2 on Ubuntu | March 27, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Good one, I liked it. I think I may just start giving out the same phone number. I never really thought about giving out my phone number up till now. I don't go shopping much so I haven't been asked often. In fact, I only recall one time where I was asked for my phone number, and I gave it at the time.

    My phone number is now 867-5309 as well :)

  4. HiddenWolf using Firefox 2.0.0.2 on Ubuntu | March 27, 2007 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I'll bet you they'll try to sell it to you anyway, and something else besides. :)

    Not too many very smart, very motivated people end up on store floors at least on this side of the pond.

  5. PurrBall using Firefox 2.0.0.3 on Windows Vista | March 27, 2007 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree that stores are just trying to use you to make more money. It is so annoying. :(

  6. dave using Safari 419.3 on Mac OS | March 27, 2007 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I've noticed a drop in phone number requests as well.

    I think it's important to ensure they're aware of my displeasure with the practice. I never give my phone number to cashiers; I refuse every single time. When they press, I politely let them know that if they require a phone number for the sale, there will be no sale at all. In most cases, they suddenly don't need a phone number, although I suspect the cashier simply makes it up.

  7. Kevin mark using Kazehakase 0.4.2 on Debian GNU/Linux | March 28, 2007 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    You think that's bad... I read recently on boingboing.net about a car dealership that would not sell a car without the consumer giving them his thumbprint!
    -K

  8. Nicholas Butler using Firefox 2.0.0.3 on Windows NT | March 28, 2007 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    Amen, brother .. Preach it.
    I to am getting annoyed and the ever ongoing sales pitch of vanity and hope which I am subjected to at the point of sale. When in the super market I want to see a Cash Only No Questions just pay and go, Till , theyd be backed up round the store I bet.

  9. Russ using Swiftfox on GNU/Linux | March 28, 2007 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I think you give cashiers too little credit. I suspect that if you'd given (333) 333-3333 to begin with, you'd have had no further trouble. As a former cashier, the thing to keep in mind is that their job basically sucks, pays little, and is easy to get, so the end result is that they just don't care. If you say your phone number is 867-5309 and they recognize the reference (I would have,) what motivation is there for them to "Call you on it?" I wouldn't have. It might have ended me up with a pissed off customer on the other side of the counter, and that's the last thing I wanted to deal with.
    And of course don't blame the cashiers for offering you "free" stuff, or credit accounts, or asking for your phone number. Cashiers are the bottom of the food chain. They're told they must do X, so they do X.

  10. phoenyx using Firefox 2.0.0.2 on Ubuntu | March 28, 2007 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    It seems that the job of marketing/sales is to push people and annoying enough, but not too annoying. I wonder if more people showed more annoyance if stuff like this would even happen.

    867-5309 is a valid phone number in my home town. It is for a pawn shop.

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