Technology is intrusive when it comes to mining consumers.
In the old days, sales pretty much determined products’ favorability along with foot traffic recorded in the establishment itself. Who would bother denying the success of a crowded store whose merchandise flew out the doors accompanied by a cacophony of cash registers?
Today, what is as simple as it was before?
Thanks to retailers collecting consumers’ email addresses or cell numbers, almost instantaneous post-purchase evaluations beat buyers home before they can even enjoy whatever’s been bought. Rather than focus on the items themselves, the questions focus on the shopping experience.
Again, before technology, proprietors merely had to observe. Were the shop floors packed? Did inventories quickly shrink? If clerks spent too much of their shifts hanging out trying to look busy and if storerooms turnover in was sluggish, then managers could make some pretty decent assumptions about the shopping experience.
Now, though, buying trifles is enough to jam mailboxes with feedback questionnaires so insistently detailed they might be mistaken as invasive.
Naturally a consumer mustn’t submit to these inquisitions. Isn’t that the purpose of the “delete” button? Yet there are times when merchant nosiness and customer chagrin converge. How better to rub bad shopping or business experiences in the noses of managers accustomed to the rote responses of people who now know no better than the wanting shelves of poorly-stocked stores or increasingly endemic substandard service than blunt-to-brutal replies?
For me, July has been a particularly good month to rock others’ boats, if not rock others themselves. Irritation wasn’t enough. Eager to glean my buying or interactions with personnel, a chain store and casino, respectively, delivered to my screen electronic methods of twisting thumbs.
On my end, catharsis felt wonderful. One can only hope any dismay bestowed on the curious equaled my relief.
Naturally picayune incidents ignited this screed.
Toothpicks. One afternoon I sought toothpicks at what now passes inside a branch of nationwide retailer marketing itself as a “tech savvy” version of a notions and sundries purveyor.
A k a, the general store.
We should be thankful the franchise only desires being an updated general store, albeit a capacious one whose stock occasionally flummoxes resentful associates working there. Other than toothpicks, what isn’t essential these days? Ours isn’t the time and we are no longer the people receptive to homey and folksy. Sam Drucker would be out of place among us.
Certainly in that store.
I sought toothpicks, preferably rounded ones. Flat sticks would’ve sufficed. The task simply required some implement to dislodge whatever particles had wedged themselves between my teeth or along my gum lines.
Who thinks of toothpicks until they’re required? Rarely on the forefront of demand, are they? This is until some morsel remnant burrows into a discomforting crevice. Or better, see the toothpick as device that permits thoughts to wander or congeal as we manually tend to ourselves. A toothpick among our teeth doesn’t simply groom. Doesn’t it also let us gather thoughts and intentions on a visual yet mundane level?
The prop and its use provide time and space for strategy. Those witnessing this grooming must assume whatever matter at hand needing resolution is under severe contemplation if a toothpick’s ministrations become necessary.
The toothpick. A perfect tool to extend time.
Decades ago in an episode of the TV series Fame, Mr. Shorofsky, one of the high school’s music teachers, somehow assigned one of his students to write an essay or a jingle about toothpicks. Now that I’m long past an age of being assigned such mind-cramping tasks, I almost wish a teacher then had given me this kind of perplexing chore. Today I see how it would’ve further flexed that teen’s developing mental muscles.
Needless to report in that episode the student nailed his assignment.
Too bad the store clerk couldn’t unearth me toothpicks. Round or flat, immaterial. Shouldering the least amount of disappointment imaginable, I left. This failure would’ve ended there hadn’t a feedback survey hadn’t been sent to transform a scratch into a scab to be picked at and further encrusted.
The form asked the wrong questions to the wrong person in the wrong mood. Sure. Toothpicks, or their absence the base of my complaint. But upon that foundation what bit or oversight and impersonality didn’t earn sneering customer dissatisfaction?
It wasn’t the hapless clerk’s indifference so much that frosted me, but her abject failure to express anything beyond a shrug. After thinking about it, why didn’t she fell a tree, then lathe some slats into toothpicks? Okay. A skosh extreme, maybe. How about suggesting a competing store? Perhaps it carried toothpicks. Wouldn’t that have been magnanimous? A gesture I might’ve remembered next time I needed some other trifle. The sort of second chance that ought have returned me into the deficient store to rummage its shelves.
In a sense I would’ve owed.
The lack of the clerk’s effort erased my debt before it reached the ledger.
Hopefully my dudgeon rattled the retailer’s complaint chain.
Casino interactions actually gave me a few seconds of ingesting our world through the rheumy bloodshot eyes of a Trump supporter/Fox News viewer. Weak as both are, a secure person sees how they surrender to their groundless anxieties and self-induced frustrations. Recognizing the respective audiences’ vulnerabilities, no wonder talented shitspreaders like the short-fingered vulgarian and the spawn of Goebbels propagandists polluting airwaves and minds on Fox’ behalf have done so well exploiting those suckers.
Not so much in the Strip or Downtown gambling properties which actively target entirely different clienteles, casinos catering to locals have begun running seasonal promotions to lure Las Vegans. It’s that time of year again here in the Mojave. Summers sear. Daily triple digits sap the incentive of gamblers who’d have zero problem leaving their homes to drop however much coin at favored casinos. Giveaways invite the heat-adverse into leaving comfy homes’ air-conditioning for that of the smoky gaming houses.
The establishments’ offerings incite peoples’ “something for nothing” instincts. Gamblers are enticed to come out and play as they routinely would. Incentive for enduring Southern Nevada weather is some kind of gift – but only if a certain amount of points are accrued during that day’s gaming. Thought through, it’s funny how a “free” six pack of soda might require sliding twenty bucks into a bandit before getting the necessary “winning” points.
Mind, there are other ways of “winning” but the aforementioned is the most popular. Me? I pick my spots and redeem points for hooch. Knowing plenty of loyalty cardholders are of the same inclination, the casinos salt worthwhile labels with booze distributors must beg customers to buy.
For every aged tipple whose swallow improves disposition, there are several rotgut paint removers better suited for killing weeds. Las Vegans aren’t all that discriminating. “Free” is “free” even if in these cases it possibly means having already paid exorbitantly for it.
Getting hands on the goods is a fairly simple procedure. The casino associate verifies the loyalty cardholder has sufficient points for the reward. That done successfully, an exchange is made.
Yet as with almost everything once “simple,” wrinkles have appeared.
What comes next some might consider a digression, others trenchant.
A substantially lower percentage of landed Americans hold Las Vegas hospitality jobs now than decades ago. Though never mistaken for prestigious, these jobs – maintenance, housekeeping, food services – paved ways for the undereducated, those society regarded as marginal to enter the middle class.
Houses were bought through these jobs. They helped children earn college degrees. Pensions were accrued through the toil of decades. They let certain American dreams bloom.
By keeping machinery running, changing beds and cleaning bathrooms, and sweating in hot kitchens while preparing meals, legions of black and white Americans who would’ve been readily dismissed elsewhere worked jobs in Las Vegas that purchased them fat happy places in our prosperous middle.
These days, anyone who knew Las Vegas before corporate America replaced Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Kansas City interests as city overlords, is aware of a drastic change in personnel. Far fewer worker ants are American blacks and whites. Today, Mexicans, Polynesians, and Asians, mostly immigrants or barely first-generation Americans, crowd the ranks.
This post will save for a later one any explorations behind the increasing paucity of native-born Americans in the hotel-casino industry. Instead let me focus on a contrast. One extremely clear to me.
Often when I interact with non-American casino personnel, I am reminded of Richard Pryor’s jokey observation that the first English word foreigners learn in America must be “nigger.”
That’s put there because with point-to-point exchanges now increasingly peopled by newcomers rather than old hands who can instinctively discern who’s belonged for the longest from strangers, I’ve noticed the latter giving greater scrutiny to the former. Or to put it plainly, most blacks and whites engaged in customer transactions know enough or recognize enough or sense enough those before them undeserving the inconvenience or nuisance of an “ID check.”
From my casual noting, the vast majority of blacks and whites earning their daily bread in today’s gaming/hospitality industry recognize all Americans, not just those perceived as somehow more favored. That can’t be said about Mexicans, Polynesians, or Asians behind the counters, at the cash registers.
The locals’ casinos I frequent have been running promotions in which I’ve participated. While playing and redeeming prizes, I’ve kept an eye on who gets swiped through and who needs providing additional layers of verification before any claims can be made.
Invariably if the checker isn’t a landed citizen, he or she will request the black claimant show identification. At first I wasn’t really paying attention. I thought everybody in those lines, well, save for the extremely lame and halt, had to fish out a wallet and flash some state-issued card.
But given that I’m redeeming more and more, I’ve noticed more and more that blacks are likelier to be asked to validate themselves more than others. Unless the bearer was the skeaviest, most tatted-out Anglo, Latinos or Pacific Islanders working the other side were reluctant to ask or waived altogether displays of players’ proof.
On the coin’s reverse, black and white Americans nearly without fail recognized other black and white Americans. That also went for Americans of Mexican heritage. Compensinos who’d relatively recently arrived? Those pinches acted if they auditioned for ICE when black cardholders dared stand before them!
Through the most informal of surveys, black and white Americans who attend local casinos both commented upon the discrepancy. Yeah. That’s how obvious it is sometimes.
And yes, there is satisfaction derived when some native checker okey-dokes black or white Americans yet puts newcomers through the same drills they’d mindlessly inflict on the landed.
It means little now. But if the anticipated recession descends upon Southern Nevada as it crosses the United States, such rote ill-treatment by newcomers may discourage a decent number of nearby discretionary dollars from helping the properties better weather the economic ebb tide.
Lastly, and on an absolutely personal note, in my own country why must I offer proof of who I am to some goddamn foreigner? Shouldn’t that always be the other way around?