Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Target of my Wrath

This is a rant. And I haven't done one of those in this space in awhile. If you don't want to read a good, old fashioned, flame-on rant, and would just like a quick laugh, try out the Nietzsche Family Circus Mash-Up. Hysterical. For those of you inclined to stay on-board for the ride, here we go...

Happy Valentine's Day from Target.






I'm not even sure "BEEEEEEEEP!" is the right phonetic representation for the noise in question. Poing? Boitch? Doong? Boooop? I don't know. I just don't know.

Hard to tell through the blood build-up behind my eyes. Hard to concentrate when the fight-or-flight reflex has kicked in. Hard to remember when the retail-joy impulse that decades of "shop-is-love" American consumerism has bred into me has fled. A lifetime of social, big-box, mall interactions and happy-happy buying glee has been pushed out of my cerebral cortex by a noise that sounds like the Chuck E. Cheez version of the sound a hospital monitor makes when something wrong... something VERY VERY WRONG is happening to the patient in Room 209.

My God... MY GOD!!! What is happening? Why are they making that noise?


At first I thought is was localized, behind the new displays of Ninetendo Wiis. For a moment, I even thought the noise was coming from a Wii, and was maybe some weird, loud, Japanistic auditory approximation of  "Pain-of-Loss." That would make sense. OK. Game pain. I can live with that. But no... it was coming from a wall or a pillar or something.

We've just had a "snow emergency" here in Central Ohio. Level 3 in some counties. In Boston (where I'm from) or Buffalo (my wife) or Ithaca (where I went to school) the volume of snow we've had would count as "light to moderate." Here it is worthy of writing on stone tablets. And so, for a moment, when the noise came back...


I thought, Maybe the snow has done something to the nice Target store... Maybe there is an emergency here? Maybe somebody has slipped and fell on ice and they need the... the... most able Target-person to go and... do the emergency thing. Whatever.

It was that loud a noise. It triggered the, "Where's the fire?" response.

I'd stopped by Target on my way home from work to get two things: a Lego kit for my son (his Valentine's Day gift) and some milk. A quick stop. And I like shopping at Target. It's well lit. It's clean. It's well laid-out. You can get seasonal stuff, cards, a few food items, clothes, best-selling books, videos, games and...


Sweet mother of pearl!!! The noise went off again! This time I was up in the toy aisle and trying to find the right Lego kit, and it started hammering right next to me. Wow. It was loud. Really loud. I'd been in the big, main aisle before. Cruising along at finding-my-sector speed. Now I was in careful-hunting-mode. Leaning in close. Examining package details. Retail graze. And directly next to the post-thingy with the speaker up in its posty groin.

Now... I'm not a noise hater. I like loud music. I don't mind big cities, traffic noise, airports, children playing, trains, concerts, action movies or Robin Williams. Noise is fine. And I've been accused on plenty of occasions of being a loud bastard myself. What I mean to say is that I do not require quiet, nor am I repulsed by simple loudness.

But as I grabbed my Lego kit and headed through Men's Wear towards (whatever they call) Food, the brazen peal let loose again...


And I felt the beginnings of madness. Seriously. This was dentist drill pitched noise. And at a volume that drove any thoughts other than, "Escape!" out of my head. This is the noise they should generate in buildings when there's a gas leak or a bomb threat to make sure that kids aren't hiding in the broom closet.

I did not linger.

I got my 2% and headed directly for check-out and, while waiting, asked a clerk who was working on a nearby end-cap:

"What on earth is that horrible noise I keep hearing? The 'beep! beep! beep!' thing? Is there some kind of emergency or something?"

Reply: "No. That's just our phone system."

I was stunned. The phone? THE PHONE? THE FRIGGIN' PHONE???!!! Having the phone "ring" with a noise that loud and piercing and terrible is the equivalent of "pointing" at someone with a flare gun in order to single them out in a crowd.

"Uh," I asked... "Why is the phone so insanely loud and annoying?"

Answer, punchline and cause of rant: "Because when it's any less annoying, we don't answer it."

I replied, "You may want to rethink that particular retail philosophy. Driving customers out of your store with the equivalent of audio napalm because you can't train employees to answer a reasonable, human-level tone is arguably insane."

He nodded and said, "We hate it, too."

There you go. It sucks for everybody. So it must be OK.

Last time I checked, I pay about a 7% premium to shop at Target as opposed to some other big-box stores. I've gladly paid it in the past because I like their selection, service, lay-out, lighting, cleanliness and general ambiance. I say this, though. If I go back and get hit by that air-horn phone-from-hell again... I'm taking my business back across the street to Meijers, even though shopping there always makes me feel... well... a little sticky.

No comments:

Post a Comment