We can be our own worst enemies


My wife and I recently went to a local box store to buy an item she had seen online but needed quickly. We couldn’t wait days for it to be shipped.

But the item, of course, was not available in stores. And that is a growing problem: Brick and mortar stores want us to buy from them, but much of their inventory is available online only.

It can be very frustrating.

We try to shop local whenever we can. Supporting local businesses, to me, means supporting the local community. These are generally people with roots in the community – people who pay local taxes and have kids in area schools.

But more and more, shopping is moving online. I have written about this before, and it has only gotten more common. I am even buying most of my guitars online now without playing them first. I never thought that would become a thing, but it has. (For the record, I sell as many as I buy, if not more. I am trying to downsize, frankly).

As we all know, the pandemic of 2020 – and maybe of late 2021 if the Delta variant is not taken more seriously – pushed most of us online to buy items we used to go to the store to buy.

But there is something else that makes buying in person a pain at times – the people you have to deal with. I am not talking about the people shopping in their pajamas and slippers, although that makes me unreasonably angry.

I am talking about people like a young woman – girl, really – who was working checkout at a local store recently. She did not acknowledge me at all, then told me the price. I paid and said, “Thank you.” She, without looking up, said “yeah.”

So, she made really zero effort to make me feel like spending my money at the store she works in was a good decision.

I think we can all agree this is way more common these days, and it makes going out and buying something – groceries, hardware, outrageously fancy costumes for the local renaissance fair – a less than satisfying experience.

I often get more friendly feedback from the automatic response generated when I buy something online. Why are people so bad at being friendly these days?

It is an honest question. People in general don’t seem as friendly these days, and I am not 100 percent sure why. I don’t think low wage earners have a lot to be unhappy about, honestly. When you see a billionaire fly to edge of space while paying zero in taxes, that can be annoying for someone working two jobs trying to make ends meet.

But I am no billionaire and I’m just trying to pay for this Red Bull and Slim Jims, thank you very much.

Eventually, many of these jobs will be gone. Already, stores are pushing people to check themselves out so they can save on manpower costs. Even McDonald’s has kiosks where you order and pay for your food. Sorry, but those things are not easy to figure out.

The move to de-personalize service is growing, and I suppose we will have to get used to a very cold experience when we go shopping.

But I wonder if even 25 years from now people will be doing much shopping from anyplace other than their house? That will be a killer for local communities, but that seems to be the way we are headed.

Some people still excel at customer service, and I love it when I see it. A bright smile, a welcome and a thank you can go a long way with me and other customers. But it is sadly a dying skill. People tolerate each other these days, it seems, but not much more than that.

Another example of us being our own worst enemies.