BlathrWayne Lorentz

Showing blathrs with the tag “Retail.”

Bag it

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022 Alive 18,818 days

Thing nobody asks at a store anymore:

“Paper or plastic?”

…Until today. Today I noticed that the check-out people at H.E.B. ask shoppers if they want paper or plastic bags. Itʼs like Iʼm in the 1980ʼs!

Itʼs nice that H.E.B. gives you a choice. If you have a pet and need poop bags, you can choose plastic, and re-use a plastic bag instead of buying new bags. Or, if you donʼt want to kill sea turtles, you can choose paper, since theyʼre made from trees, which we can make more of.

Itʼs possible to make moisture-resistant paper bags. Perhaps that should be the default so we can both bag pet nuggets and save the planet.

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Mass hysteria

Monday, October 10th, 2022 Alive 18,794 days

A series of e-mails from Walgreens that I ignored until someone was at my front door

I spend too much time pointing out the shortcomings of modern technology. Thereʼs a reason that Tech and Fail are among my most populated blathr tags.

Today, however, Iʼd like to point out what, on the surface, looks like a tech success story. But at a deeper level is the success of a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer to adapt to changes in society in order to — literally — deliver better than a tech company did.

It started a couple of days ago, when I ordered something medical from Amazon.com. In general, I donʼt buy anything that goes on or in a living being from Amazon. Between counterfeits, people selling used items as new, and a constantly-growing list of other reasons, relying on Amazon just isnʼt safe anymore. When your company canʼt even prevent selling bogus copies of books, you have a problem.

In this case, however, I ordered from Amazon because the medical thing I needed was not available from any of the CVS or Walgreens stores that I can reach, and purchasing from Walmart meant waiting two to three weeks for delivery. Walmart used to be safer than Amazon, but has recently decided to trod the same road to unreliability by embracing unknown, unverified, and dubious independent sellers.

What Amazon delivered was clearly not suitable. Instead of being in branded packaging, the item was in a Zip-Loc bag. Legitimate medical items arenʼt packaged in consumer baggies. Legitimate medical items are also not labeled by hand in ball-point pen. And they also donʼt spill their contents during shipping, unless they are seriously mishandled. The box that the item arrived in was in fine shape, and the medical item sufficiently padded.

Exasperated, I went to the CVS web site to see if perhaps the item was back in stock my local store. The CVS web site would not function. So I tried Walgreens. Except, this time instead of specifying a store that I can get to easily by train, I let the Walgreens web site pick one. And it did a splendid job.

The item I needed was in stock at a Walgreens in an area I would never think to travel to. So I put two in my cart, selected “Same day delivery” and went back to reading my New York Times.

Before I could finish the International section, there was a guy dropping a paper bag on my doorstep.

I checked my e-mail and found that the time from when I placed my order online until Walgreens notified me that my order was ready to be delivered was four minutes. Four minutes. It was picked up minutes after that, and delivered to me straight away.

The total time from when I placed the order to when I received my Walgreens order was 22 minutes. For an item that I couldn't get at a drug store near me, and that Amazon sent a counterfeit of.

Yes, I had to pay $3.99 for the delivery. But the item was a dollar cheaper at Walgreens than at Amazon, and I ordered two of them. So the cost difference was $1.99. More importantly — I got what I paid for.

Walgreens is better than Amazon. Man bites dog. The sky is green. Everything the tech bubble has been preaching about the death of brick-and-mortar is wrong.

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See if they have any common sense

Friday, October 7th, 2022 Alive 18,791 days

The Walmart app's availability filter

The Walmart app has a filter labeled ”Show available items only.” Seriously? Why would I want a store to show me things that it doesnʼt have?

Who goes to a store, or looks at a storeʼs app and thinks to themselves, “I wonder if they donʼt have this?” “Hey, Walmart, show me all the things that you canʼt sell."

What kind of things are on Walmartʼs list of things it doesnʼt have. Fabergé eggs? The Loch Ness Monster? Maybe the Popeʼs mitre?

Walmart is far from the only store guilty of this. Amazon is among the worst offenders. Target and Walgreens, too.

How does showing things you donʼt have benefit a customer?

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L of a shop

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive 18,733 days

A boarded up kiosk in the CTA Red Line Monroe station

I was surprised to learn recently that a good number of people in Chicago donʼt know what this is. And many people donʼt even notice that theyʼre there.

Iʼm old enough to remember when these underground kiosks thrived at CTA stations all over Chicago. Some were newsstands. Some were Dunkinʼ Donuts shops. Some sold other kinds of food to passengers. I always thought that was funny, because at the time, you werenʼt allowed to eat or drink on a CTA train. But the CTA was happy to sell you both inside its own stations.

I remember lines at the Dunkinʼ Donuts kiosks would sometimes be long enough to block the turnstiles.

Today, theyʼre all boarded up with stainless steel plates. Some, like this one, are decorated. As if to pretend that they never existed at all.

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Welcome to Chicago. Now go home.

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022 Alive 18,732 days

The Discover Chicago store at Midway Airport. Closed for business.

I know that Mayor Lightfoot put a lot of work into the retail experience at Chicagoʼs airports. One of her big successes was populating them almost exclusively with local restaurants. Great idea. But you can't highlight local businesses, if those businesses aren't open.

This photo was taken at on a Tuesday at 5:37pm. It does a pretty good job of illustrating the retail situation at Midway Airport. Even though this was prime time for travelers, very few of the shops were open.

First impressions count. And millions of people will have this as their first impression of Chicago when arriving at Midway.

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Room with a view

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 Alive 18,655 days

Snook

This is Snook, the shopcat at Louisiana Music Factory. Heʼs very affectionate when not sleeping in a sunny window, but doesnʼt respond when asked for advice on jazz records.

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Time to get a different rain jacket

Monday, May 23rd, 2022 Alive 18,654 days

A picture of the outside of the 8th District police station in New Orleans, because you canʼt go inside a police station and expect to be able to take pictures anymore

The Eighth District police station in New Orleans has an unusual feature. Iʼve seen lots of police stations with gift shops and museums before. But inside the gift shop in this police station is a vending machine that spits out swag.

I slid my credit card through the reader, punched a button, and out popped a New Orleans Police Department ball cap. Very cool.

I think that many people donʼt know that the New Orleans P.D. sells hats, shirts, tote bags, and other branded items. At least it seems like the people who live in the Eighth District donʼt.

Early the next morning, I went to a bodega near Esplanade to get a newspaper. It was raining, so I wore my rain jacket, which is kinda-sorta safety yellow, and my new N.O.P.D. hat. There were some locals sitting around drinking coffee and shooting the breeze. The store was out of newspapers, so I asked if anyone knew where I could get one because none of the stores near my hotel had any.

“Near my hotel” let them know I was a tourist. But until then, they said they thought I was a cop. When I told them I got the hat out of a vending machine at the police station, they were not happy.

I can understand why they were upset. If I can unintentionally make people think Iʼm a police officer, imagine what someone could accomplish if they were actually trying.

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Paper or plastic?

Monday, May 23rd, 2022 Alive 18,654 days

The inside of a plastic bag

I put my camera in a plastic shopping bag. As I was wandering around, the camera took some pictures. So now I know what my stuff sees when Iʼm carrying it home.

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Are the beaks “Chicken noses?”

Friday, February 25th, 2022 Alive 18,567 days

“Chicken paws” for sale at H.E.B.

If your local supermarket sells chicken feet labeled “Chicken paws,” you might live in Texas.

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Nice unlabeled action button

Saturday, February 12th, 2022 Alive 18,554 days

An error on the self-service point-of-sale machine at Shake Shack

The self-service ordering gizmo at Shake Shack canʼt cope with my hot dog order. Which I find a bit ironic, considering that Shake Shack started out as a hot dog stand.

This is what I get for using a computer to replace a personʼs job. Thereʼs a perfectly good human being ten feet away who can take my order if I wait 90 seconds, and my bag will never be out of sync.

Remember when technology was going to make our lives better?

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Privacy doesnʼt grow on trees

Monday, December 20th, 2021 Alive 18,500 days

Today I learned that Edible Arrangements won't let you buy anything without using a credit card, and without being put into “the system.”

I just want to buy something, hand over some money, and walk away. Why is that so wrong? Why must I be signed up, tracked, tabulated, collated, and sold in order to buy fruit?

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A coupon by any other name…

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021 Alive 18,488 days

Itʼs funny how 20 years ago, giving someone a coupon for Christmas was considered really low-rent, and the sort of thing that grandmas on Welfare did.

Today we call it a “gift card” and itʼs all so magical!

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Stock poorly

Friday, August 13th, 2021 Alive 18,371 days

An error message from Stockwell

My apartment building has a Stockwell vending machine in the basement.

Unlike the vending machines of yore, this one is just an open cabinet with a camera that watches what you take off the shelves and uses magic A.I. fairies to send you a bill. That is, if it works. Which it doesnʼt.

I canʼt even get the Stockwell app to acknowledge that the Stockwell machine in my building exists.

I guess Iʼll spend my snack money at the convenience store across the street, instead. Where I can pay by cash, or credit card, or Apple Pay, or even food stamps if I had them. And if something goes wrong, there are intermittently friendly people to help me out, and not some Silicon Valley robot barking, “object has no attribute.”

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0xDEADBEEF

Thursday, August 5th, 2021 Alive 18,363 days

A malfunctioning gas pump

I have no idea how much I paid for gas. I think the credit price for Plus is “Burp.”

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Home brewed coffee is safe coffee

Sunday, May 16th, 2021 Alive 18,282 days

Starbucks in half-cootie mode

Theyʼve taken down the sign at Starbucks requiring everyone to wear a mask, so naturally, none of the customers have a mask. Somehow they assume that the lack of a paper sign means everything is OK.

Clearly, everything is not OK, or the employees wouldnʼt be wearing masks, and there wouldnʼt be plexiglass between the customers and the employees.

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What did you do now?

Monday, April 5th, 2021 Alive 18,241 days

An unpleasant message from Harrods

Harrods thinks Iʼm suspicious. I guess Iʼll spend my money over at Liberty, instead.

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Yes

Sunday, April 4th, 2021 Alive 18,240 days

Thing nobody asks at a store anymore:

“Cash or credit?”

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Quarrantine your thirst

Thursday, March 4th, 2021 Alive 18,209 days

A row of sleeping vending machines

I understand that most of the planetʼs stores are closed because of COVID. But youʼd think they could at least leave the vending machines on for us. Itʼs not like the cogs and gears are going to get sick.

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Both

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021 Alive 18,208 days

Thing nobody asks at a gas station anymore:

“Regular or unleaded?”

See also:

  • “Check your oil?”
  • “Wash your windows?”
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Six feet? No problem!

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021 Alive 18,201 days

At the Hallmark store today there was an announcement reminding customers to stay six feet apart.

When has a Hallmark store ever had enough customers to make this a concern?

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Monday, November 9th, 2020 Alive 18,094 days

Diptyqueʼs 404 page

After enduring four pop-ups, I click on “Gifts” and get a 404 error. Good job, Diptyque. It looks like the marketing department runs the web site, not IT.

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*crickets* *crickets* *crickets*

Friday, January 24th, 2020 Alive 17,804 days

An eerily empty Target store

Empty shelves everywhere. No employees in the aisles. One cashier on duty on a payday Friday.

I can't help but wonder if Target is in financial trouble.

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2211 North Rampart Boulevard, Las Vegas

Saturday, September 21st, 2019 Alive 17,679 days

Whatʼs trashier than a couple of Smithʼs checkout girls talking about how high theyʼre going to get after work?

When one of them closes the lane youʼre standing in and tells the other that sheʼs going on break so she can smoke some weed.

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Sunday, September 1st, 2019 Alive 17,659 days

It turns out that Tide Dry Cleaners canʼt handle the Apple Card via Apple Pay.

The card terminal says “Approved,” but the POS system rejects it immediately after.

The physical card works OK. And other cards work fine via Apple Pay. Itʼs just the Apple Card that is giving it fits.

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It can taste titanium?

Sunday, August 25th, 2019 Alive 17,652 days

Today I learned that Albertsons supermarkets wonʼt accept the Apple Card via Apple Pay.

Using other cards via Apple Pay works fine, but Albertsonsʼ POS system throws an error with the Apple Card. “This type of card is not accepted.”

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Thatʼs why the chairs suck now

Sunday, June 16th, 2019 Alive 17,582 days

Remember when Starbucks used to pride itself on its carefully curated selection of music?

Now itʼs like playing crap is its latest way to keep people from relaxing in-store, and to just hand over their money at the drive through.

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Sunday, January 20th, 2019 Alive 17,435 days

Iʼve noticed an increase in empty shelves and lack of product choices at Target, Safeway, and Kroger stores over the last six months.

Itʼs starting to look a little Soviet out there.

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Friday, November 23rd, 2018 Alive 17,377 days

An administative login screen on the Smashing Pumpkins web site

This is what happens when you try to view the privacy policy and terms of service on the Smashing Pumpkins web store.

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