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Moral problems in retail | The Bleat.

Recall the tale of the glasses with the bad glare-reduction coating? No, it’s not some time-worn parable. It happened – to me! Yes, I got glasses that became cloudy and scratchy, and when I went back to Lenscrafter an unfriendly manager told me that they were out of warranty, even though they were a year old, but they’d give me half off on new ones. I said this was not acceptable, left, went back another day, and found a manager who looked at them, checked the records, said “jeez” – more or less – and gave me new lens. I got those, decided I didn’t like the glasses, and got the low-low priced model I wear now. Well:

Today I get a letter from Lenscrafters, and it says that a review of their records shows that they gave me the wrong glare-reduction film on my recent glasses. I’d ordered Scotchguard, but they gave me the cheaper variety. They were sorry. So very sorry. I could either get new lens at no cost or get a $40 rebate, and in either case here’s a $50 gift card. Hmm. This was impressive. Hadn’t noticed. So I called the store to get new glasses.

The manager checked my records.

“You didn’t get glare reduction on your most recent pair,” he said.

So this was about the previous pair.

Moral dilemma: do I ask for the $50 rebate?

You might wonder why it’s a dilemma at all, but think about it: the $40 is compensation for paying for a treatment I didn’t get. But they did replace the lens. So I got the proper glare-reduction film.

On the other hand: I have no idea if they gave me the right glare-reduction film on the replacements. Not that it matters; they’re just spares now, unlikely to deteriorate because they’re seldom used. I suppose I could claim the $50 for pain and suffering. For months of looking through cloudy lens. And hell, it’s a big company! They can afford it! Right?

Still doesn’t feel ethically correct, especially considering the $50 gift card, which I can use to buy five year’s worth of cleaning fluid.

What say you? I say no.

of retail. Sunday I went to the mall, aka the large local costume shop. That’s what clothing is, after all. Everything is dress-up. A culture derives its parameters from many things – history, morals, and least of all personal preferences, which are based on the parameters of other periods and a generally agreed-upon understanding of what they mean (this is “casual,” that is “formal,” that is “hippie,” this is “preppy,” and so on). I say “least of all” because we have no idea what we would prefer if we had different options in a different culture. We’re handed a narrow series of choices, and believe the choices are great because they come in so many colors.

Unless you’re at Banana Republic, where everything is black or grey or a subdued, if not sullen, color. Banana Republic is the classy Gap, you see, just as Gap is the classier Old Navy. Banana Republic began as a place that sold tropical-themed clothes, switched to upscale muted garments, and now has a name that has nothing to do with its clothing. Neither does the Gap – the name referred to the Generation Gap, but now grandpa wears jeans. Old Navy? They just made that up.

There were two guys at Banana Republic looking at stuff, and one said, with a slight tone of worry, “I’m getting out of my comfort zone with this.”

It had stripes.

The music was cool – slinky chill, sophisticated lounge, soulful crooning. You are this kind of person when you’re wearing this stuff. Or rather you are already this person, which is why you’re here. Welcome. Over at the Gap, they were playing “indie” rock, because the people who shop there are iconoclasts and free-thinkers and independent souls who find expression of their carefree spirit at the largest seller of mass-produce blue-fabric pants store on the planet. I got a T-shirt with a collar that was slightly different from any other T-shirts I had; this made it different, and desirable. Also, it was four dollars. It made me realize I should go through the T-shirt drawer and winnow out the ones that never make it into rotation. They had failed me, somehow. Whatever they said in the store they stopped saying once they went into the drawer. Could have been the music.

I was at the mall because the newspaper came with a Post-It note coupon good for ten percent off anything at Penneys. I don’t shop there much, because I don’t like anything they have. Anything. But once a year I’ll see a dress shirt in a hue that seems appealing. To my surprise they had a two-for-one sale on shirts, and I found two I liked: green and red. There was a sale on ties, as well, and I chose a green tie that was slightly different than the shirt’s color; I like the monochromatic look. The tie was narrow. Half the ties were narrow. Finally: might we be getting back to skinny ties? Has Mad Men trickled all the way down to Penneys? (Banana Republic baldly touts its Mad Men style, with signs that assure you the dresses were designed by someone connected with the show.) Couldn’t find a second tie, because they were all ugly. That’s the thing about ties: they’re all ugly. To someone. There was a guy pawing through the Jerry Garcia collection, and he said aloud “Now this is a good one here.” I snuck a peek: covered with big American flags in bright colors. Gawdawful.

Up to the counter with my purchases. The clerk had an unusual voice: very high, and very soft. And by “high” I mean hummingbird-on-helium high. I couldn’t understand half of what she said. At the end she gave me a receipt and wrote her name and said I could go online to complete a survey and get a coupon good for 15% off. Well, I couldn’t very well say she was difficult to understand, could I? It’s not her fault. So I would have to lie to get the discount.

Moral dilemmas. They’re everywhere.

Bad night last night – daughter was exhausted from a long day that included swimming and tennis. Supper was some leftovers from a dinner out with Mom the previous night. Four hours after ingestion it wanted out. Wasn’t food poisoning, just . . . I don’t know. Urpage. Before I went to bed I checked to make sure she was still breathing, hadn’t bonhamed on the rest of the meal, and she woke up. What are you doing? Seeing if you’re okay.

“Did I dream that last night?” she asked this morning. “You were just standing in my room?”

“No, I was there.”

“It was kinda creepy.”

“Would have been creepier if it hadn’t been me. So be grateful.”

They never are.

It is a column night, so I’ll leave you with some updates: there’s Joe, there’s a batch of matches in the restaurant section HERE, and Comic Sins HERE. See you around.

 

66 Responses to Moral problems in retail

  1. Chuck says:

    I love Mills Fleet Farm!

    Mixed nuts. Check.
    Pitch fork. Check.
    Army surplus socks. Check.
    Pet Food. Check.
    Air filter. Check.
    Bow saw. Check.
    Oliver farm machinery T-shirt. Check.
    Dickies over-alls. Check.

  2. Bob Lipton says:

    I don’t go into Banana Republic, which always sounds like a knock-knock joke. I like to call it Banana Banana Republic Republic.

    Bob

  3. AnnaN says:

    @Rightfromthestart

    If you do have that much money in gift cards and won’t use them, why waste them? Go in, buy a bunch of clothes in differing sizes and then drop them off at charity.

  4. ScottG says:

    “Ben says:
    September 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Malls just make me feel uncomfortable and out of place. It’s like they intentionally design the place to make people like me unwelcome, so they can maximize the percentage of customers who are most likely to spend money on crap they don’t need.”

    That’s because malls are for ghetto clothing, wannabe ghetto clothing, teen-agers, and women. Someone older than 40 who just wants plain, classic clothing is out of luck in the mass retail market. You’ll need to find a specialty seller and hope their prices aren’t out of line.

  5. Gumpy Gus says:

    My father, when hearing that my bride-to-be was having trouble finding the right wedding dress, said, and I quote: “If they don’t have it at Fleet-Farm, you don’t need it”.

  6. nixmom says:

    @GardenStater–so did my dad; he was an engineer for Bendix,back when engineers spent their days up to their elbows “engineering” stuff. Said he once saw a guy get his tie caught in machinery and almost choke to death. Gave up the ‘real’ neckties for good after that.

  7. DryOwlTacos says:

    Great to catch up on Joe Ohio. The plot thickens. (The episodes with his mother are heartbreaking.)

    Saw a guy today wearing a tie that was covered with little postage-stamp-size photos, all the same, of his five grandchildren. The printer resolution on the polyester wasn’t that great, and you couldn’t really tell which kid was who, except you knew the pink one in the middle was the girl. Stylewise, it was about as wide a tie as anyone wore back in the 70s, just proving that everything old is new again.

  8. Liman says:

    Isn’t “bonhamed” spelled with two m’s?

  9. Stumpy says:

    I gotta say . . .

    I don’t understand the folks who feel free to instantly complain about any little item that doesn’t happen to suit them.

    When they’re invited to someone’s house, do they enter, and promptly gripe about the arrangement of the furniture, and the color of the guest towels?

    Sheeesh.

  10. [...] Lileks does the right thing, in a mean petty [...]

  11. swschrad says:

    tie & collar = bridle and reins.

    there’s a reason they say you “kick back” ;)

  12. GardenStater says:

    @hpoulter: Exactly. Except that dad started going bald at 16, and had lost all his hair by 25. So picture George bald (and with a Karl Malden nose, which thankfully I did not inherit).

    @bgbear: “What about people who go to museums because they have lots of pictures of naked women?”

    You mean there’s another reason?

  13. DensityDuck says:

    There’s a certain way of speaking that some retail clerks have. It’s this high-pitched singsong with almost no consonants except for sibilants and the occasional glottal stop. I think I’ve posted about this before.

    “abbyaasaa?” (“Will that be all, sir?”)
    “youah issou’ahhd?” (“Do you have a discount card?”)
    “abbieayeifyay.” (“That will be five fifty-eight.”)
    “ooyooliyabaaa?” (“Would you like a bag?”)

    See, the thing is, because of the completely generic nature of the transaction you can puzzle it out, so there’s no incentive to get better (and in these days you sure ain’t gonna be able to fire someone for sounding too Mexican.) The first and second lines are decipherable because they’re part of the retail script, so to speak. The third line is meaningless because you’re paying with a credit card (and if you’re actually using cash you can see the total on the screen.) And the clerk always holds up a bag when asking (and that’s when they ask at all instead of robotically stuffing everything into a bag whether you want one or not.)

  14. S.T. Mum says:

    On getting glasses: I have no complaints against either For Eyes or Costco; they are excellent as long as you are able to or don’t mind having to wait a week or so for them. Me, I always have a back-up pair or two (older ones go to the Lions’ Club). I know our For Eyes would always adjust glasses, even if you didn’t buy the glasses from them.

  15. Moishe3rd says:

    Great Comic Sins. You make me laugh. This is good.
    And… Well… I admire OGH for his addiction to order and his fascination with shiny new things but…
    I realize that I live in a very different world.
    I don’t buy t-shirts with colored collars. I wear the white ones I have until they disintegrate. That happens every 15 years or so.
    I buy shoes when the old ones wear out – about every other year. I have several different kinds – work shoes; boots; daily shoes; Shabbos shoes; that pair of sneakers that was supposed to exercise my legs but I never wear them, etc. But, I don’t buy them unless I have to…
    Good shirts – white. Regular shirts – white, until they turn into work shirts.
    You know, I have two white work shirts that I got from my father, of blessed memory; probably about 30 years ago… I throw out at least two or three old work shirts per year that came from the regular shirt batch.
    They don’t make them like they used to…
    Pants – black.
    Suit – one, although I have another two that I could get fixed…
    Computers – refurbished Dells with Windows XP. About 6 years old.
    Now, I do have 4 refrigerator/freezers but, the original was bought new 24 years ago and the rest were free from time to time…
    I’m just saying that I don’t quite have a handle on this “buy the new thing,” thing…
    However, if that’s what it takes to produce fine writing and magnificent Web pages, more power to you!
    Happy New Year!

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