Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Liar at checkstand four!"

I went grocery shopping yesterday and saved $29.75.

I know I did because it says so right on the bottom of the receipt just above the place where the receipt urges me to take a customer survey online and become eligible to win $100.

When did grocery stores become so damned chummy? A little small talk with the checker is nice but I don't need to have an ongoing personal relationship with corporate Albertsons, Vons and Ralphs.

It really irks me to have to carry a special card identifying me as a Preferred Customer. In fact, I would be quite happy to be an Undesirable Customer and remain totally anonymous if I wouldn't get hosed at the checkstand for refusing to become a subject of their marketing database.

Once I went shopping at a foreign grocery store in a different city.

"Do you have our rewards card?" the checker asked sweetly.

"No. Just go ahead and give me the 'screw-you' price," I replied. I really did. I said it with a smile but I think it unnerved her a bit. Felt kinda bad about it. Kinda.

When I signed up for the coerced honor of being a Preferred Customer of our neighborhood Albertsons I lied.

That's what these annoying, albeit minor, intrusions do. They force us to lie. I didn't want the store to have my phone number so I made one up. It gave me a great feeling of smug satisfaction until the day I arrived at the checkstand without the card and was told, "That's okay. I'll look it up. What's your phone number?" I told her I didn't know it. Then, I broke down and admitted my rebellious perjury. I looked at my shoes as I did it. I half expected to hear an announcement a moment later on the p.a. system, "Manager to checkstand four...we have a liar at checkstand four!"

Not long after that I was back at the same store. When I told the checker (a different one, thank God,) I didn't have my card she asked for my phone number and for some reason I don't quite understand I told her my actual home phone number. I knew it wouldn't work in the system but I just felt ashamed and wanted to purge myself of my well-deserved reputation as a known charlatan in Albertsons. Guess what? It worked!

My actual phone number was accepted and I was back in the good graces of the Albertsons Corporation! I was, again, a Preferred Customer, praise the Lord!

A moment later I realized why my phone number worked. Somebody else had fabricated a phone number and it just happened to be mine!

Now the checkstand clerks have taken to thanking us by name as a result of their marketing scheme database and as I turned to leave the store that sunny afternoon, awash in the warm renewal of smug satisfaction for having beaten the system the nice lady at the checkstand said, "Thank you and have a nice day, Mr. Martinez!"

Life is good.

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

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