Because we’re renovating we have been frequenting the kinds of stores you don’t tend to frequent unless you are in need of, say, home renovation supplies. This leads to new, interesting –sometimes puzzling– and often antiquated interactions with businesses who are still operating in a simpler time.
For example, yesterday we went shopping for cabinet handles.
The store (which shall remain unnamed) where we finally found something we liked had a big display, great selection but an oddly unexplained process where you were required to fill in a form and then walk to the counter, take a number that has been barfed out by a big red machine, and then go through some rigmarole to purchase what you wanted.
I filled in the form, walked to the counter, and the lady at the counter asks: “Are you a member?”
I say no.
“Do you want to become a member? It’s free.”
I hesitate and decline. “That’s ok.” She says. “What do you need today?”
I show her the form. I had requested 43 handles of the variety we’d chosen.
“Hmmm… you need 43?”
“I can’t give you 43 today.”
“Can I buy one?”
“Yes.” She says and disappears into the back to get the part. When she returns she scratched out the “43” I’d written on the form and replaces it with a “1”.
“How would I go about getting 42 more of these?” I ask, assuming it was not necessarily a stupid question.
“I can’t sell you 42.”
“Can I order more?”
“No.” She says. “They are in stock.”
“Can I buy 43 then?” I ask again.
She sighs heavily. “Why don’t you just become a member?” She says, exasperation in her voice, as if this is the most obvious thing in the world.
“If that’s what I need to do, ok then.” And I fill out the membership portion of the order form.
I hand it back to her. “Now,” she says, “we’ll fax that out and the ladies back east will put you into the computer and send you a membership number.” She follows this by handing me a set of doorstop-sized paper catalogs and then walking towards a cash til beckoning me to follow her.
“So I can’t buy 43 today?”
“If you like this one you can call in and order the rest.” She says flatly, and rings up my single handle. “How would you like to pay?”
Just take my freaking money and give me what I want to buy. Is that so difficult? To sum up, after driving clear across the city, we were the proud owners of a single cabinet handle…. uh… success?
We went home and ordered the rest off the internet. I expect those will be delivered before I ever find out what my customer number is.