Monday, February 06, 2006

Fear and Loathing at Wal-Mart

There's been a trend afoot at major retailers for quite some time now, and it really torques me off.

I really, really hate being treated like a crook.

At first it was the CDs. I don't think there was ever a time when they weren't packaged in such a way as to prevent use by their legitimate owners. That, at least, has gotten a bit better. Back in the day they used this industrial-strength Kryptonite stick-um that would never, ever come off the case. These days at least you can get the goo off. But it still takes two or three minutes of dedicated, painstaking effort to open the damned thing. All because the retailers are convinced that everyone entering their store is just aching to exercise a bit of five-finger discount.

Buy a clue, dolts. Not everyone is a thief.

The latest offense was, I suppose, at least partly my fault. Naive rube that I am, I dropped $20 on a new watch at Wally World without bringing along my Gerber Multi-Plier, acetylene torch, and other assorted cutting tools.

I remember a time when you could buy a watch, take it out of the box, and you were done. Not so. No, now the damned thing is secured to its packaging with not one, not two, but THREE nylon straps. Nosiree, no one's walking away with one of these babies without a fight!

But what of the poor consumer who just wants a way not to be late for something important? There's nothing for it but to use your teeth and car keys in ways that neither God nor General Motors really intended.

Now, I don't object to a bit of active loss prevention here and there. They've got a right to get their fair due for their merchandise, and I've known one or two people in my time who'd steal for sport, to say nothing of necessity. But surely, in the modern day, there are less offensive ways of doing it? Some way that won't actively diminish my enjoyment of the product?

In my more optimistic moments, I envision a day when store security can rely on RFID tags on all their merchandise. If you try to walk off with something, it'll cry out for help all by itself. You won't have to watch the merchandise. It'll watch itself.

In my more pessimistic moments, though, I imagine that the damned sadists LIKE doing this to me. They ENJOY your pain. "Welcome to Wal-Mart, shopper. This head-vise is a preventive security measure that we only extend to our most valued customers." "Oh, that boot to the groin was just a courtesy detail." "Molten sand enema? Anyone?"

On-line shopping looks better and better all the time. At least that way, I can be sure to have all my tools at hand when I have to open the damned box.

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