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March 11, 2012

Attack of the helpful Zombies

It’s beginning to look like spring in Idaho, and that can only mean one thing…

Spring Projects!

Michelle and I did an early Mass, then stopped at iHop to have some breakfast. This has become our normal Sunday routine, the kids normally sleep in so we take advantage and spend some quality time together, and forcing a teenager to attend Mass when she’s not sure about this whole Catholic thing is NOT a good idea.

Anyway, so we collected up our youngest and headed out to Lowes (she needs the driving experience, and I enjoy the thrill of blood curdling terror when she’s behind the wheel), now let me get this out of the way: I like going to Lowes. They have great stuff for fixing up your house, and more items than any normal human can possibly need. But as we entered the door we where greeted by a friendly employee wanting to offer assistance in our shopping needs. I build guitars, have a fully stocked woodeworking shop, and I’m pretty handy in a pinch. So you can imagine that I don’t need any stinking help, I am a man, and I can find my way around just fine, thank you very much.

So we declined, and where promptly greeted by two more helpful employees. We again declined, and moved on to the first item on our list, only to run again into another helpful employee, another offer declined. By this time my hands where full, so we headed to the front of the store to get a cart, and again had another offer for help. it was at this point we started picking isles that looked to be free of overly helpful employees, especially the ones who seemed to be tracking our every move, which was a bad strategy. Somehow, they can sense a customers presence and show up to make sure that you are finding what you are looking for. We did discover that even if consumed with lost and helpless people, they still somehow where able to call other helpful employees to come and be more helpful. I started having visions of being surrounded by helpful staff members and us beating them off with a set of venetian blinds, and cleaner fluid from isle 12 (its down on the left side, near the bottom).

No strategy seemed to be effective, outnumbered, unable to find clear isles to shop, we obtained what items we could and headed to Home Depot (like idiots) to pick up the supplies that Lowes didn’t have (I’m very picky about sandpaper, and ONLY use a certain kind. Hey I build guitars, I earned the right be picky!). Imagine my horror when we appeared at the front door going into Home Depot and where greeted by an employee who’s only job seemed to be to help lost customers find there way through 299 acres of home improvement goodness!, I almost bolted back to the truck. But once past the gatekeeper, with a firm decline to the help offered. We got through fairly unscathed, with only a few offers for help from the hordes in orange. We purchased our items and headed home to barricade the doors and hope that no more helpful zombies followed us home.

A couple of years ago, I was building a jig for the shop and stopped at the local Ace Hardware. They apparently had adopted a similar strategy of aggressive helpfulness, to the point that while looking at parts we had an employee actually stand a short distance away and watch our every move. If we moved isles, he moved with us, it must be what inmates feel like when being watched by the guards, it was so disconcerting that I stopped going altogether, and wasn’t one bit surprised when the store closed a year later. You can’t freak out your customers, being helpful is a good thing, but if you want to stay in business don’t chase them out the door with zombies who’s only goal in life is to help people.

One has to wonder what these people do in their off-time, do they drive around looking for little old lady’s crossing the street?, do their neighbors hide in their homes until they go to work? It all seems a little creepy and disconcerting to be honest. And the scariest part is that I have to go back, because I need lumber. I know I’m going to be swarmed, but there aren’t many other options. I don’t want to be rude, I just want to shop in piece, especially when I’m part shopping. Maybe I’ll forgo bathing for a week and then go shopping!!!

As the economy continues to go under, it seems that marketing people are getting desperate and that being super helpful is the new thing for large companies. So if your one of those people who make those decisions, go into your stores and just try to buy something when you know what you need. I dare you, I dare you to walk away without feeling like the store is filled with a bunch of bored employees who’s only goal in life is to make customers uncomfortable. Then tell if you think your strategy is still working!!


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