Disturbing Trends

“Get up, Stand up
Stand up for your rights”
Bob Marley, Peter Tosh

Howard BealeThis week I bought a new iPod Nano. Despite not being a huge Apple fan, I love this thing. So, yesterday I visited a large electronic superstore near my house. This place is geek heaven and has a great selection. I wanted to purchase a Nano armband and a pair of sport earbuds. I found and purchased both without any problem at all. However, I did have a problem as I was leaving.

This store, like so many these days, has a policy of apprehending their customers as they leave, and demanding that they prove that they have not stolen anything. I pondered just walking past rather than being treated like some lowlife who was suspected of stealing a Toby Keith CD from WalMart, and I am sure that one of these days I will do just that. However, this time I felt the anger bubbling up and shoved my receipt in the face of the employee unfortunate enough to have been assigned the task of insulting departing customers. He stepped back, I stepped forward, keeping the paper in his face and announced quite loudly, “See? I am not a thief, and this PISSES me off!”

While I feel bad for the guy whose job it is to carry out his company’s unfortunate policy, I am fed up with paying to be insulted. Like Howard Beale, I am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.

What makes this insult to the customer so much more ridiculous is that from the point that a person pays at the register to the time they reach the door, there is no opportunity to steal anything. They claim that this is done to keep prices low by preventing theft. How? Not to mention the fact that most merchandise stolen from big stores like these leaves through the back door, not the front.

All that righteous anger made me work up a hunger so my wife and I headed to a new concept restaurant that opened not far from where we were. The reviews from friends and family about this place were very mixed and we were curious to see it for ourselves. A little background on this place; it is the creation of a gentleman who has made very impressive amounts of money in other, unrelated businesses by bucking conventional wisdom and redefining how things are done. He is attempting to do the same thing now in the restaurant business.

I applaud his audacity, but not his implementation. We pulled into the parking lot, and despite it being half empty, all of the closest parking spots were blocked off for valet parking. Now, the weather was nice and we are both healthy and perfectly capable of walking to get to the building, so this bit of pretentious nonsense was more amusing than annoying.

As we approach the quite impressive entryway to the building the door bursts open and a very friendly gentleman welcomes us cheerfully and holds the door for us. Upon entering we are again cheerfully greeted by five more cheerful employees all standing behind and around the desk. Individually. One after the other, forcing us to smile and greet each one of them in return. Individually. After all of that work I was starting to work up an even bigger hunger. Maybe that was the point, I don’t know.

Once we figured out which of the assembled throng was our hostess, the nice young woman inquired as to whether we had a reservation. Her smile faltered just a bit as we replied that we did not. She then asked for our name. So far so good. I have one, it isn’t a secret, and it was a perfectly reasonable request for a restaurant to make. Then she asked for a phone number. As I am standing right in front of her, I can think of absolutely no reason why she might need to call me. I stand there staring at her, not saying a word, half in disbelief and half trying to decide whether I am ready to tilt at yet another windmill so soon after my last joust.

She explained that it would allow them to call us if sometime in the future there was a problem with our reservation. Huh? This is my first visit, but they are presumptuous enough to assume that I will be back? Being hungry and not in the mood for another pointless confrontation, I relented. So, now my cell phone number is permanently ensconced  in who knows how many marketing databases.

Once we had that intrusion out of the way they asked us to cool our heels in the lounge while they prepared our table. That seemed reasonable as we showed up on a Friday night without a reservation. They were probably quite busy and we had to wait for a table to open up, right? Wrong. After 10 minutes in the lounge, we were escorted into a very large dining room that was barely half full.

So, did we get banished to the lounge as punishment for dropping in unannounced? Was it so that we would spend additional money on drinks while we waited? I am guessing that is the reason. I can not begin to list all of the reasons that is a stupid thing to do to a customer, but here is one from near the top of the list; if I order a glass of wine prior to even seeing a menu I now have the choice of either choosing my food based upon my blind choice of wine, or I can order another glass. When I am paying $10 a glass for wine that retails for $20 a bottle, I don’t particularly like those choices.

In short, I am tired of being insulted and manipulated by businesses that want my money. While there are certainly bigger fights out there, and more aggregious violations of our rights that need addressed, these ones are in our faces on a daily basis, and I take it as a personal affront. I highly doubt that the restaurant will ever get a dime of my hard earned cash again, and the above retailer will only see me when I am too impatient to wait for something purchased from an online retailer. I hope that their door person has a thick skin, they are going to need it when they insinuate that I am a thief.

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