08 October 2008

In Need of Retail Therapy Therapy

Sometimes (rarely, I'll admit), shopping even does my head in. First, there was the Apple Store yesterday. As ever, there are hundreds of turquoise-t-shirted Apple drones clustering and hovering when you don't need them and when you're in need of assistance, they all vaporise or are so caught up in their inter-drone chat that flagging them down proves harder than trying to use iTunes on a PC. 

(The week before last, in NYC, on the day the Google Phone came out, I had been buying myself a Shuffle and while waiting for an imprint of my credit card to be taken (so high tech) and asked Apple Drone whether they were worried about the competition from the GPhone and, of course, he gestured to the thronging hordes in the Soho store, soaking up the new NANOCHROME (let's invent some more random words!), i.e. the rainbow-coloured, new iPod Nanos, and asked whether it looked like Apple was worried about the competition.)

Last night, though, I was seeking some Bose in-ear earphones because adequate as the iPhones are, they're not very comfortable over long periods of time. I eventually navigated to the "non-Apple-brand" earphones and elbowed past a group of guys wearing YouTube stash to pick up the pair I wanted. As I did so, one of the YouTubers sez (as part of a conversation he was having with his buddies, not to make a point to me), "Yeah, so Bose are, like, totally overrated. It's all marketing, dude--they're no better than this [generic brand] pair you can get for $15." Then he turns and sees me freeze, mid-grab and shoot me an apologetic glance. I smirk and shove the earphones back onto the shelf in a sheepish fashion, which amuses them. I do of course buy the earphones anyway, even though they are a lot more than $15 (but half the price here as they are in the UK--see, who says I can't economise?!). I then harass Apple Drones about their returns policy as they don't have a demonstration pair so I tell them that I'll be furious if I have odd-shaped ears and these expensive new babies don't fit. They tell me that will be fine, as long as I return the original packaging, which is easier said than done when you need to use a serrated knife to carve your way into the box.

Then, there's the local Borders, which is really a ghost Borders--I don't know how they can justify the store given that there are never more than ten people in there, including three staff, three homeless people hanging out and looking stoned, two loafers sitting around reading books without buying them (including me, today--I read Ian McEwan's novella The Cement Garden, which is disturbing in a Flowers in the Attic kinda way (conclusion: kids being shut in the attic or mommy being buried in the basement both lead to incest)--although I did buy two books as well, one person nursing the same coffee for about six hours in the cafe and one real customer (on a good day). When I went to pay for my books (The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving and Terry Pratchett's rather topical Makin' Money), it took about ten minutes to find a member of staff to sell them to me and even when I did he was either stoned, very special or both, calling me "miss," every three seconds or so (as he was about 16, that's ma'am, sonny Jim) and then offering to "lend" me his address when I told him that I couldn't apply for a Borders card as I was from the UK (indeed, the concept of "England" seemed to perplex him greatly).

I think I'm definitely in need of some normal shops where the assistants are generally present (both in body and in spirit), friendly and helpful, even if they do make you give them your name so there is no avoiding their harassments through the changing room door. Maybe some other day...

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