New York Sucks (Part 3)

So far this little series of articles has concentrated mainly on New York’s traditional weak points — the absolutely outlandish cost of living and the fact that the City has a way of making pretty much everyone feel like a complete nobody. This one is different, as it shows New York failing in what it traditionally does best: selling things to people.

Yes, earlier today I ventured forth into the city to buy something and have regrettably come back empty-handed. Friends and family members may well note September 27th 2003 as a red-letter day, for they know that this does not occur very often; however I am beginning to think that this must be the result of some conspiracy the goal of which is to convince me that this place is going to fail me in all possible ways.

To wit, I went into the city to get the latest in Canon’s expanding line of digital SLR cameras, the EOS Digital Rebel. This model, known to me as “the digital Canon SLR I can finally afford”, was only released in the past two weeks, and is rumored to be available at several places in the city. So, thinks I, I’ll be able to get my hands on one in time for my friend’s wedding next week. Was I ever wrong on that.

Usually I would head for the best-known and best camera shop in the city to check things out. This would of course be B&H photo. However this is Saturday, and as that store is owned and entirely staffed by Hasidic Jews I knew that it wouldn’t be open, so I looked up my second choice store for this sort of thing, J&R, located a stone’s throw from Ground Zero. I look through the web site, and they’re apparently open Saturdays until 7:30pm. So far so good.

Or so I thought. This is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. So J&R decides to close. I can’t imagine why for the life of me because their staff is more of a cross-section of New Yorkers, and the supervisors (at least the last 100 times I went to that store) appear to be mostly Indians. What really pisses me off is that a trip to the city costs me over $8, and the least I would expect from J&R is to have indicated to me, a customer desperate to spend a grand, that I would be completely wasting my time going there that day. At least put up a fucking notice on your web site, that’s what it’s there for! That is evidently too much to ask of J&R. I guess they have better things to do than try and not alienate potential customers. I pretty much made up my mind right then and there that this is a purchase I would NOT end up making at J&R. Once they start having a little more respect for the clientele they may get my patronage back.

Anyway, I was about to go back home when I decided to check out other places around the city. PC Richards didn’t have the model I sought, neither did Circuit City. Datavision was closed (another bizarre instance, as the staff seems, once again, to be mostly Indian and African-American). I didn’t even bother checking the many small “electronics” stores, as most of them are shady gray-market dealers who haven’t got a clue about what they’re selling but are very keen to sign you up for hugely overpriced lenses and other accessories; if you want a good joke go to one of these stores and look at the ticketed price on what they have. It’s no wonder they have “30-50% sales” all the time; the sticker markup is generally 50-70% over list, and they make their money conning people who don’t do their research. Besides I was pretty sure none of them would have such a new model anyway.

The last place I went to was CompUSA at 5th and 38th, and this turned out to be the hugest disappointment of all. It’s been a while since I actually felt insulted by sullen and attitude-laden sales staff, but it happened today.

First, I get there, and stand near a counter in the digital cameras section. I get the attention of a sales person and ask her about the Digital Rebel, of which I see one box in the display case. And then she turned around and walked to the other end of the counter. I really couldn’t believe it. What the hell? Not one word!! She just walked away. Once at the other corner she asked if other staff could come in. I figured, “oh, she’s getting someone who actually specializes in this.” Well, time for insult #2. One salesperson did come around, a shortish woman with “Marjorie” on her name tag. I say “Hello” and wave, and she clearly sees me, but then — get this — she keeps walking right past me to go see saleswoman #1. So I think, “surely she’ll steer her attention my way.” Of course not, that would be too logical. The two of them start chatting. So the first woman, who was apparently overloaded with work just a minute ago, now has time to commiserate about having to work to earn her paycheck apparently, and has drawn the second into that whole game. I stood there incredulous. Here I am, a guy with the clear and present intent of spending $1000 on a nice digital camera, and CompUSA’s sullen, unhelpful,rude and insulting staff simply will not let that happen. I could not fucking believe this. After it was clear that I could not get this gaggle of red-shirted slackers to be helpful in any way I just walked out. Enough is enough. If they don’t want my money as a consumer I won’t force it on them.

Then again, I later thought,what was I expecting from CompUSA?.. that chain is to serious computer stores what “dummies guides” are to real books. This I already knew, but after today’s repeated insult I have come to the opinion that CompUSA is the very shittiest store when it comes to electronics. You’d be better off shopping at fucking Radio Shack. I just cannot believe the completely shitty attitude of that staff. It sets new lows in the area of retail sales.

So what’s the lesson here? well, there are many:

  • If your store has a web site dedicated to it, and the store is closing due to a predetermined holiday, why not put up a notice about it? To do otherwise is show only disrespect for your customers. That’s a lesson for J&R to learn.
  • If you sell stuff, and you hire people to staff your store, make sure that they actually respond to customers instead of walking away from them and spending all day bitching and whining among themselves. Some people come into your store with the intention of buying something, and it might be a good idea to let them do that. That’s a lesson for CompUSA to learn, but I won’t see whether or not they do, because frankly I’ve decided I would neither a)ever shop at that shitty, shitty store again or b)recommend to anyone that they do.
  • Some people say that you can buy anything in New York given the money. Evidently that is just not true, not even of things which aren’t illegal! New York fails again, this time failing at what it’s supposed to do best.

Maybe I should have stuck with my original plan of going to B&H on Monday. Then again after the bullshit I’ve put up with today I’m seriously questioning whether I should be buying the camera at all. It’s a nice camera, but frankly it’s not necessary to my survival, and if I have to go through that sort of crap service to get it then I think I might be better off doing without the damn thing.