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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Death of the Salesman

I'm so tired. I hardly feel able to post this rant, and as stories go, it's nothing new. It's the typical bad shopping experience of today's age, deriving its title from both an Arthur Miller play and the notion that customer service in the U.S. has fallen out of style.

My experience, today's latest in a series was at Safeway (a grocery store). One annoyance is that their automated checkout system has no routine for deducting the tare weight of an already-present shopping bag from the gross weight of the items scanned later, hence it complains that a bag is an "unexpected item in the bagging area." A bag in the bagging area? How unexpected!

I've been in quite a bit of pain lately from what seems to be a shoulder that did not seat in the joint properly after being dislocated. As it heals, I've tried to institute procedures that will minimize discomfort, but Safeway always seems to be able to undo my efforts with some new policy that would unnerve even a healthy, young athlete.

Today I struggled with the automated checkout and did receive some assistance from a cashier, though it changed no outcome. Nonetheless, it was a charming good-will gesture. Of course, I still have to carry my groceries home (yes, it's still done in the city), so the battle was not over for me.

Nor is it over for me now. I just posted this story plus whatever lines I wrote before and I received a "Posting Error" message. Of course, everything I typed beyond this point was lost, so I have to write it again.

Not having my former youth and vitality and also recently injured, I had decided to bring two canvas bags with the semi-rigid plastic bottoms, one for heavy items and another just for 4 loaves
of bread that I would carry with my bad arm. It was in the lighter bag that I put my receipt for easy retrieval. To my surprise, as I exited, a young lady working in the store requested this very receipt (something which has yet to happen with me in that store).

I extended my arm so that she might see the contents of the lighter bag (4 loaves of bread and 1 receipt, clearly visible) and before even looking she said, "I don't see it."

I told her, "It's in the bag." She looked at me as though I were mad for expecting her to look, but I was already at a walk next to the exit and there were no tables where I could relieve myself of my burden in order to take out the receipt for her. All she held was a clipboard, and she seemed to be young and in excellent shape.

In response to her demeaning glare I asked, "You do want to see it, don't you?" She extended a single fingernail to the edge of the bag as though she might contract a horrible contagion from reaching into it and without positioning herself to look into the bag, she repeated, "I don't see it."

I quickly understood that this wasn't about producing a receipt: It was a matter of a member from the ranks of today's amateur police abusing whatever minuscule power she was given over someone weaker than herself.

Sparing myself and them the pain of raising hell right there and then, I opted to treat the harassment as though it were no more than a fly buzzing about my head and I quite slowly and deliberately walked out of the door and down the street toward the building where I live. I didn't expect anyone to pursue me, but if someone had, I'd have simply offered my receipt again, hopefully to a more cooperative person.

Since I've had little success in lodging a complaint locally in the past, I came to my laptop to report the incident to the website. Naturally, my online account information had been lost. I called the website's customer support facility where an operator noted that my current loyalty card had been in effect since 1999, but there was no sign that I'd ever registered an online account (and I doubt that there is any source that documents my full 35 years of patronage and the vast sums of capital I bestowed upon Safeway in that interim).

He reported the mysterious disappearance of my account to the support staff in their IT department, but somehow I don't think all of this will resolve cleanly.
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