*This* is the face of consumerism?

Today, we had to do an emergency shopping trip on two counts. First, I needed some kind of “park purse” as my (super-awesome and carefully selected) park purse got stolen. Second, I needed a digital camera, preferably this Panasonic 9.1MP with 10x digital zoom and Leica lens. (I’d had my eye on that model when I did a rush buy in Taipei, but the electronics store in Taipei was out of that one.)

In Taipei, I’d paid ~$330 for my camera. This was a markup of $30-50 over what the US model was going for on Amazon at the time, but I was desperate and in a foreign country, with no time to comparison shop. So, I bought it. This time, even though I was again desperate, I was in my homeland, with the stores I know and love just a GPS click away. I figured it would be a much quicker and easier shopping experience.

We started at Best Buy. I like their rewards program, and for this kind of thing, where I know what I want, I find them to be a good retail option. After much looking around, I find my preferred camera on sale for $279. But (and I had this hesitation in Taipei, too), I was worried about pocketability. I didn’t mind a larger camera than my previous two, but it still needed to easily fit in my purse and pocket. Problem was, Best Buy had the camera on an anti-theft post. I could kind of shove it into my pocket to test, but it felt awkward. And, I couldn’t tell if I was feeling awkward because of the giant anti-theft mechanism or the camera. We call over a salesguy, who doesn’t seem to be occupied with other things. Speaking of, I shit you not, there was a LINE to get into Best Buy at opening, either because they opened later than they used to…new 2009 hours were posted at the door…or because Floridians are just that excited about electronics…but the place was relatively busy.

Me (with DH standing nearby): Hey, I’m thinking of getting this camera, but I really need to know if it will fit into my pocket or purse, and the anti-theft thingie is making it hard to tell. Could you unlock it just long enough for me to check it out?
Salesguy: No, I can’t do that. We have smaller models over there. (points and starts to walk away)
Me: Yeah, but I like *this* one…I just need to be sure that it will fit okay. Do you have a display model or something, maybe an already-open box?
Salesguy: No, we don’t do that. (very terse)
DH: Is there a manager or someone who *does* have a key and can unlock it for us?
Salesguy: I’ll get a manager for you in a minute. I have to help another customer. (walks away and begins talking to a customer who is looking at a sub-$150 camera)

Okay, benefit of the doubt: maybe the guy was in the middle of helping them and we didn’t realize it. But either way, doesn’t basic customer service dictate that you simply apologize, say you’re helping someone else and either offer to be back shortly (right at the beginning of the conversation) or get one of your salesguy-friends to come help? I guess, even giving this guy the benefit of the doubt, I was left with a crappy customer service vibe. DH and I came to this conclusion while standing there and decided that there are other stores nearby that we can go to…and even if the guy does get a manager to help us, we don’t want him getting a commission, so we walk out with the intention of coming back if this turns out to be the best price.

Our next stop was Target. My Target-branded Visa was my primary credit card now (as my usual ones got stolen), so I would get decent rewards by shopping with them, too. And, since I have a price point and model in mind, I figure it’s a reasonable alternative. But, Target’s selection was clearly geared at “cheap and compact” so my camera-of-choice wasn’t there. We scanned their purse selection for an alternative park purse and bombed on that count, too. (Of all places, why doesn’t the Target that is the closest Target to Disney (albeit still about 8-10 miles away) have a good park purse selection instead of silly fashion purses with short straps? :: sigh ::)

On the way to Target, DH had spotted a Ritz Camera, and he suggested that as an option. I initially pooh-poohed it. I, like any consumer, have perceptions about stores, and my perception of smaller camera shops like Ritz and Wolf is that they jack up the prices on cameras to near retail. DH pointed out, though, that we know how much it should cost, and so we can either try to get them to price match Best Buy or just go back to Best Buy if they’re a bust.

We walk in. It’s quiet. We go straight to the digital camera section, and they’re behind a glass case. Up toward the top, we see two Panasonics. One seems to be the new year’s model of the one that was stolen (priced at $360), with some minor updates, and the other is my camera-of-choice priced at $279. Well, I’ll be damned. And, even better yet, a salesguy comes over to us, asks if we need help…I tell him my situation and that I want to know if that Panasonic (innnn the window, woof woof!) will fit okay in my pocket. He unlocks the case and hands it over. I look it over, test it in pocket and purse, click a few shots, check the UI (Best Buy’s model had a dead battery), and basically fall in love. I tell the salesguy that I’ll take this one. DH thoughtfully asks if they have one with a charged battery (by now, I’ve explained the precise situation, theft, Taipei, and all, to the salesguy). Salesguy thinks for a minute and then checks his two floor models, but both have a low battery. He apologizes for not having a charged one handy…says they charge them throughout the day.

I bought a high-speed SD (class 6) card from him, too. Now, I’d planned to buy an “any ol’ memory card” for now, with intent to raid my collection of cards for a high-speed one once I got home…but I wanted to reward the customer service. So, I paid a really huge mark-up on the SD card ($39 for what should cost under $15).

Then, we went back to the room and plugged in the camera to charge. Meanwhile, we went to the pool for a quick swim before our bridge session. We ended up playing only the first half of the match (on a six-person team in KOs, each pair only has to play at least half of the session), so then we got to rent bikes and tour Port Orleans for awhile in the afternoon. We ate beignets at the French Quarter and took lots of pictures. I enjoyed riding a “cruiser” bike. We considered renting a Surrey bike or a kayak, but it turns out that you can’t take the kayaks to downtown disney’s lake (which was our interest in a kayak) and you can’t take the Surrey bikes to French Quarter (which was part of what we wanted to do on a bike). I took lots of pictures with my new camera. I love it. I’m really glad that I got it.

We had dinner with my parents at the Sizzler. We parked the truck where it was visible from a restaurant window. 😉 The Sizzler was a pretty good dinner deal, and it was good to reconcile the day’s activities with my parents.

We played both halves of the evening session (our picked-up pair wanted to cut out early to see the college football game), and we won…and not by a small amount, either. Yay for us! So, we made our teammates both life masters, which was a cool accomplishment. As for me, I’m less than a point away from being a “fake life master”…I’m missing 25+ black (club/local game) points, but I have the necessary red (sectional), silver (regional), and gold (top prize at regional and point-limited national events) points. I’ve decided that if the ACBL wants to withhold life master over black points, they can keep it. Fake Life Master is good enough for me.

Relevant photo albums: Port Orleans Riverside

4 thoughts on “*This* is the face of consumerism?”

  1. I’ve come to the habit of checking prices out at the big box stores, but actually BUYING from the little guy shops. It makes me feel good and I like feeling good, even if my tiny purchase has little to no effect on the grand scheme. When I was a teenager I worked for a “Little Guy” in his shop. A big box discount store (not W-World, but similar) moved into town while I was away at college and my former boss soon went out of business. Yet another bit of my hometown’s downtown demolished by suburban sprawl! Makes me sad even now thinking about that great little five’n’dime no longer being there, so I try to do my shopping, if I can, with the little guy shops. (Plus, as you well know, I hate those big, get-lost-in places — there’s no air inside them!)

  2. **Disclaimer and Confession**
    I freely admit to spending huge sums of money with my online Sci-Fi Book Club and the 2 big-box bookstores in town. The little-guy bookshops are (1) not close by and (2) overloaded with “pop” fiction, and (3) ignore my specific genre almost to the point of non-existence.

  3. 1. Yes, Floridians are VERY serious about electronics.

    2. Best Buy sucks. I hate them. When you ask the sales people questions that they can’t answer, they just make something up. They fooled me once. Never again! Now I like to go and ask difficult questions I already know the answers to just to hear what they’ll say.

    3. I’ve had Best Buy employees ignore me in favor of “cooler” customers. In the Best Buy here in Tally you practically have to drag a sales person over to help you. Strangely enough, when you don’t want to be bothered, they bug the hell out of you.

  4. I don’t know that I would quite call a Ritz Camera a little-guy shop. It was more of an issue of a specialty store having better customer service than an all-in-one big box store.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *