Friday, August 24, 2007

A Moment at Mervyn's (Retail Hell)

So we’re at Mervyn’s buying me some work clothes when we get the call that Joe the fix-it guy is at the Viking waiting for us. So we scramble to finish picking out the clothes and then rush to the register to buy.

The cashier is a skinny kid, about 18 or 19, with a flipped up collar that tells me something about him is fundamentally unserious. We watch as he starts scanning our purchases in slow motion. He stalls for a moment as the machine refuses to scan one of our items. With a puzzled look he slowly rescans, then scans again.

We have plastic smiles on as we mentally urge him forward, man, forward.

Then the phone rings.

“Men’s department,” he says. “Tuxedo shirts? Let me . . .”

Erika grabs my arm to keep me from using it to strangle him.

“. . . call you back, ‘cause I’m with a customer right now.” The youth finishes, and lays the phone down. Erika is satisfied that she has kept me from killing him for no reason. Then before he rings up another of our items he’s back at the phone with a blank piece of paper. “What’s your number?”

Another clerk drifts into range. “Have these been rung up yet?” she asks.

“You tell me,” Erika says. “You’re the one with the screen.” She looks back quizzically, no doubt wondering why these strange Americans are always in a hurry.

Meanwhile, our clerk is still on the phone. “Is that a land line or a store phone? ‘Cause I can’t call out on this phone. . .”

Finally Erika can stand it no more. “Hey,” she bellows, “finish with us. We’re the ones paying $134 here.”

I pout because the clerkish child does not look penitent enough as he returns to finish ringing up our order.

“Do you have a Mervyn’s Card?” he asks politely, no doubt as taught in retail sales school.

“No, and I don’t want one,” I snap back.

“Why not? You’ll save 30 percent.”

Surely he’s aware that all debt management gurus say to avoid store cards like the plague. I simply say, “no time,” grab my things and race out the door with my family close behind.

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