I have recently decided that I will never again visit a big box retail store. Never, ever, under any circumstances, ever, as long as I live, at any point, in my entire life, ever again. Unless it’s midnight and I have a craving for malted milk balls.
My boycott is not one of noble purposes. You know what I mean: sometimes you get people saying that they’ll never again go to a big box store because it forces out Mom and Pop Houlihan, local independent store owners and lovable old people, who have been making DVDs by hand since the 1970s.
And sometimes you get people saying they’ll never again visit a big box store because they treat their employees so poorly, like, for example, Hilda, a 74-year-old arthritic forklift driver with six babies and 24 grandbabies who was denied benefits because just because of a little incident where she ran over the district manager.
Well, guess what: I don’t care about Mom and Pop Houlihan, and I don’t care about Hilda. What I care about is finding stuff. And when I go to a big box store, I can never do that.
Allow me to explain what happens when I walk into my local Target, which is a large, national retail chain with a parking lot the size of Eastern Europe.
Here’s what happens: I go inside and suddenly I am greeted by an enormous retail space with 25 cash registers, 416 grocery carts, a Starbucks, a McDonald’s, a grocery store, a home improvement section, dozens of varieties of laundry detergent, and at least four mothers walking around with several 3-foot-tall children who apparently have no choice but to play hide and seek in the scented candles section.
Now, this is great if I want, for example, some laundry detergent. Just go to the laundry detergent section. Or if I want some tools. Just go to the home improvement section. Or if I want some scented candles. Just follow the screaming children and glass breakage.
But last week I walked into Target and I was searching for zip ties. You know zip ties: they’re strong little plastic ties you can use in a wide variety of home improvement projects, and also to arrest drunken college students from Tennessee during Mardi Gras after you run out of handcuffs.
So I go over to the home improvement section, and guess what? No zip ties. They’re nowhere to be found. I peruse every aisle, quite thoroughly, taking great care to look between all the Tasmanian Devil automotive floor mats and giant exterior house numbers that include every digit but 4. But I can’t find zip ties anywhere.
Now, as you probably know, locating an employee in one of these stores is almost as difficult as locating actual products you want to buy, so I decided to search on my phone for “Target zip ties.” This is when I discovered that Target classifies zip ties as an electrical/electronic item, along with all the DVDs, and blank CDs, and digital cameras, and USB sticks that are tethered to the display case and require manager approval to purchase. (“John, can you help us? This man needs a USB stick unlocked.”)
So I walked over to electrical, and I stood there for a while, looking for zip ties, walking up and down the aisles, and it hit me: there are no zip ties. I will not find the zip ties. Even if the zip ties are here, I will never locate them. And if I continue to devote my life to this pursuit, it will take me longer to search for zip ties than to order them online and wait for them to be delivered.
So I decided, after twenty minutes in Target (three minutes searching for zip ties and 17 minutes walking between the store’s various ZIP codes) that I would merely go home, order the zip ties online, and never return to Target under any circumstances again, unless I wanted to observe unruly toddlers waging war on the Yankee Candle Company.
And I was on my way out when I noticed it: there, on the other side of the parking lot, was Lowe’s. A whole store devoted to home improvement. They would have zip ties. They would have racks of zip ties. They might have an entire zip tie section, full of zip ties of varying lengths, and colors, and composition. I might be able to buy a zip tie made out of metal! Steel! Aluminum! Zebra fur! Human tongue! My mind danced at all the zip tie possibilities.
So I made my way over to Lowe’s, and I spoke to the greeter, and she told me in no uncertain terms that zip ties were on aisle 26. Aisle 26, I thought. The zip tie aisle. So I walked to aisle 26, and I began searching, and I quickly discovered the sad truth: there were no zip ties on aisle 26.
This won’t be a problem! I thought. I’ll ask someone else! So I walked up to a helpful-looking young Lowe’s employee, who was clearly very busily on his way from one section to another – this is a common Lowe’s employee tactic to avoid questions about zip ties – and I asked about the zip ties. “Oh, they’re over in electrical!” he said. “Aisle 34.”
So I thanked him and I walked to aisle 34 and I got back into zip tie searching mode, which had now consumed roughly 40 minutes of my life, and I discovered, in no uncertain terms, that aisle 34 didn’t contain any zip ties. So I did what any logical, reasonable person would do: I bought several Tasmanian Devil floor mats and then left the store in a huff.
When I arrived home, I decided that I would use the great gift of Amazon Prime to purchase everything that I needed in my entire life, from that moment forward, and have it delivered right to my doorstep. “THAT’LL SHOW ‘EM!!!” I screamed with glee, as I logged on to my account and ordered some nice-looking zip ties that would be delivered the very next day.
“I DON’T NEED YOUR CONFUSING LAYOUTS AND YOUR UNCERTAIN STAFF MEMBERS!!!” I yelled, delighted, as I sat with my computer. “I DON’T NEED TO WASTE ANOTHER MOMENT IN YOUR BIG BOX RETAIL STORES!!!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!” And then I descended into this weird manic state where I began to view my life as me against big box retail stores. And I had won! I had beaten the system! I had found an alternative! I was no longer a slave to the retail establishment, and I would never have to spend HOURS searching those CONFUSING AISLES ever again!! Yes! YES! YES!!!!!
Later I discovered that I already had an entire bag of zip ties in my kitchen drawer.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.