Thursday, February 14, 2008


You know, I'm forever battling retail anxieties. I don't even know if that's a proper diagnosis. But I can tell you this, I don't spend a lot of time shopping because, well, I'm not really that good at it. Being that I'm not that good at shopping, if you put me in specific retailers, I shut down. In the same way that I've come to terms with the fact that I suffer from internalized anger which led me to a life as a bruxer (do your research, kid), I've realized that my aggravation with the retailers below is rooted in a deeper, more intense sadness that is almost suffocating. I like going into retailers that vibrant, exciting, helpful (or they can't be helpful--absent), reactive. In these places, not only do I feel comfortable giving them my money, but I actually feel good about it. But in the seven retailers below, I feel deep sadness when giving them my money. My lovely wife has encouraged me to put their stock value next to them in order to illustrate that, while I might completely detest the retailer, including the stock value might help make a fair case for the retailer. The thought being that the higher the stock value, the healthier the company and while they might be sadnessmongers, other people value the company. Fair enough.

7 LOVES TRAVEL CENTERS (not publicly traded)

Truck stops, by their very nature, attempt to fulfill the needs of all. And, while they do so rather well, they are emotional vaccuums. One such truck stop (or the more affirmative "travel center")in this area is the deceptively-named Loves. There's a definitive transient feel to this place--the feeling that in the dark corner, you'll get shanked or, worse, kidnapped and taken for a ride (maybe I'm the only one that thinks it would be better to shanked and killed). Otherwise, there's nothing weird about a place that sells wooden sculptures of bald eagles, plush pink bears, sleeves of beef jerky, DVD's and CD's for $2.99 and then, when it's all said and done, you can take a shower and still smell like fried chicken. As much as I hate them, they're a freaking trap. You'll always end up in one saying, "Damn, I probably do need new wipers." Loves represents the very darkest side of impulsive purchasing and, like all binging, you'll feel completely unfulfilled and deeply saddened miles down the road.

Tuesday Morning is a classic case of a retailer trying to create an impression or a facade to deceive you into thinking, "Ah, now this is a place that's like Dollar General, but feels like Pier One." Look, Tuesday Morning is a closeout retailer and they carry only garbage that is given to them at a fraction of the original price. What that means is you're getting the crap that no one else wants and, while cheap, no one else wanted it. It's a freaking garage sale. The sadness lies in the fact that you can walk the aisles and hear the haunting moans of product developers who failed to make it with their melon-scented foot oils, their make-up kits, their BBQ basting sauce, their compilation of reggae. It's like walking through a museum of retail failure and there's hardly any one shopping. Which means that what failed the first time around is also failing the second time around. The local store doesn't even play music in the store. It's the hum of electricity and the sound of your feet shuffling. It's incredibly depressing. And, in the back, there's pallets of plush product. I can't help but think, "Why do we still make plush products for anyone older than three years old?"

5 BIG LOTS ($18.00)
Big Lots is like Wal-Mart Jr. They carry a little of everything, but specialize in absolutely nothing--except pissing me off. The second I walk in, I'm almost knocked over by the smell of plastic and cellophane. A headache sets in. I'll make this as short as I can because that headache quickly upgrades toward unbearable depression. Big Lots specializes, also, in closeout product, but also just takes old food and drink product so they can offer a well-rounded inventory of both slow-moving, unpopular product from Fisher Price and Igloo as well as expired consumables from Nabisco. Like Wal-Mart, you can even make larger purchases from Big Lots like furniture (which smells like cardboard, oddly) or patio furniture (which looks like it would fall apart in a light breeze). And, when you go to the front counter to check out, look at the sadness in the eyes of the associate. They look heavy with misfortune--like they did everything they could to avoid working in a place like Big Lots, but just ended up there. Don't let that $18.00 stock value fool you--it's high because they cut corners by paying their associates with packages of three-year old Oreos.

The kingpin of cheap goods and now, I found out this morning, Valentine's candy with metal in it. Good work. Dollar General prove that if you make anything a dollar, it'll feel like a steal. Five year-old Hershey bars for two for a dollar?! Deal! Toilet paper that will shred your backside for a dollar?! Deal! A screwdriver with a faulty handle for a dollar?! Deal! Valentines' candy with metal in it so my kid will never get a girlfriend and live a life of social isolation?! Deal! The only thing that this sadness seller doesn't sell for a dollar is their stock. Unlike Big Lots, Dollar General's stock is so healthy because they save money on rent and their storefront. It represents the very worst of retail--low ceilings, the smell of dust, scuffed floors, poor product placement and presentation. If you want to see a better collection of crap that doesn't work for even cheaper, go garage sale shopping.

3 KB TOYS (not publicly traded)
I can personally testify to this one because, well, I used to work there a long, long time ago. I scammed a job as a Nintendo expert and didn't even own a Nintendo--I was a Sega man. Hey, I had to lie because it got me out of fast food. I held my own anyway so it don't mean nuttin'. The thing that bothered me about KB was that I felt so sorry for the forty year-old dudes who were selling toys to kiddies and, even worse, picking up their messes. I mean, yeah, it's a job, but kids suck at retail. They don't suck overall, but man let me tell you, at retail, kids are like little lucifers running around. One time, we had a kid take a dump back by board games. I know what you're thinking, kids are that way because the parents don't know what the hell their doing. You're right. Let me tell you, though, it's a sadness so deep and real that when I was working there, more than half the people that worked there swore they'd never have kids and it took a good five years in an office job to reverse that thinking. Don't be fooled, ese, all those toys can't wash away the sadness that is KB Toys.

2 FYE ($4.45)
FYE sparks a sadness of a different kind. If you want to experience the sadness of working in today's music industry, go to FYE. It's a pretty good representation of it. Half empty (not half full) fixtures, endcaps with only two or three CD's on it, a flood of clearance product that no one wanted then and doesn't want now, lip gloss, hats, belt buckles--everything but good music. And no one knows a damn thing. You better hope you don't need help because none of those cats know a thing about music. In fact, they only ask you if you need help because they're bored out of their mind and it helps pass the time to hear themselves speak.

"Do you need help finding something, sir?"

"Yeah, actually I do."

"Damn, man. I'm sorry, uh, I can't help you."
It's the very poorest representation of what record stores should be and if you shop at FYE and they're your source for new music, your view of the music industry must certainly be one of pity or even frustration. There's better music cheaper almost everywhere but in the mall.

1 WAL-MART ($49.97)
Shouldn't be any surprise here. Yep, Wal-Mart is the saddest retailer on earth. It's like if you inversed all the happiness of Disney World, you'd have Wal-Mart. It takes consumerism to a suffocating degree of depression. I have to tell you that the day before Valentine's Day, I found myself in Wal-Mart (I know, it surprised me as well) and to see those poor cats standing at the jewelry counter looking to buy that perfect engagement ring at Wal-Mart just filled me with such confusion and sadness. And, as I ventured back to the grocery side of the store, watching the Valentine's aisle get col' torn up by fat white trash was enough to put me at the edge. It's like everywhere I turn in that store, I just get overwhelmed and feel like either punching a dude out at the juice aisle or crawling under a fixture and crying myself into a deep sleep. It's even worse that no one has any respect for the retailer because even the most devout Wal-Mart shoppers will still trash the place. I was walking toward the front of the store and found that someone had left a frozen (now thawed) bag of chicken breasts on the endcap. And, at the register, I guess someone had second thoughts about buying a single rose and they just left it wedged between boxes of donuts on the Krispy Kreme display. This place brings the worst out of people. Or, one could say, it brings out the very worst people. Walking through the parking lot is like trekking through a war-torn third world country crawling with angry Nascar fans. I hate that place. With a unrivaled passion, I hate that place. From the second I get there, I'm scanning the skies for Falcor to come rescue me from the Swamp of Sadness.

Falcor's col' rockin' it.

1 comment:

sarahsmile3 said...

I read this out loud to Dale. He laughed and said "that's true!" He then said "I hate Michael's." He means "Hobby Lobby", but it's pretty much the same thing.