The discounts bring out the ugliness

How we react when the liquidation prices aren't as much as we were expecting. Oh yes — goodbye Redbox.

There is something that speaks to the ugliness of human nature in the well-publicized reaction of the general public to the discounts at Target’s liquidation event — about how displeased consumers are that those discounts aren’t to their liking.

People are rushing to take advantage of the Target stores shutting down in Canada, looking for sudden rock bottom prices. When they find the discounts aren’t as low as they were expecting they become angry, and vent their spleens on the hapless store staff, who don’t even set the store prices, and who are only trying to make the public’s shopping experience as pleasant as possible.

Here on display is the dark side of our consumer mentality, that we are excited to take advantage of the misfortunes of others — these staffers will be without jobs soon enough — and yet when the advantage isn’t as great as we were hoping, our reaction is to abuse those same people who will soon be unemployed. Stay classy, shoppers.

I too wandered in to Target, looking for discounts. I bought some pants, some socks, at either 10 per cent off or 20 per cent off — I’ve forgotten. They are good pants, but I’ve bought pants at Target before, at regular prices. I bought a CD, and a frozen pizza, at a 20 per cent discount. I suppose I would have preferred to buy everything for a dollar apiece, but it didn’t occur to me to seek out a staffer and lose my stuff on him or her.

In my mind’s eye I approach a young woman at the fitting rooms.

“You know,” I say, trying to keep my voice from shaking with anger. “This 20 per cent isn’t really much of a deal. You’re going out of business after all.”

“I know, Sir,” she answers, looking unhappy, “but our prices are set by head office.”

“You’re going to stand here,” I snap, getting angrier, “and tell me that 20 per cent off is a good deal — for going out of business! No wonder you’re going out of business!”

“Sir, I don’t really know what to say to you at this particular second.”

“Two for one!” I shout, flapping the pants at her. “The price should be two pairs of pants for the price of one! Does that concept mean anything to you?”

“As I said, Sir, the prices are set …”

“And this frozen pizza!” I shout. “You think 20 per cent off is a good deal for a frozen pizza? A discount frozen pizza!”

“Yes, Sir, 20 per cent off is an excellent deal for a frozen pizza!” The young woman is getting a bit angry herself.

“I should pay one dollar! One dollar for this frozen pizza! You’re going out of business!”

“At 20 per cent, Sir, you’re paying about three dollars for that frozen pizza”

“At three dollars, it should be two for one! Two for one!”

“Sir, you should take that frozen pizza and shove it up your …”

My mind’s eye blinked before I could get to the end of that scene, but of course the staffer wouldn’t tell me where I could shove my frozen pizza, no matter how rude I was. It’s true, when you deal with the public for a living, you must maintain your poise and manners, even though the public feels entitled to be condescending and abusive.

Speaking of which: What’s big, red, American and pulling out of Canada — besides Target?

The answer is: Redbox — the video rental terminals that have graced the floors of Canadian locations like Safeway. However, by the end of February, 2015, Redbox will have given up on their Canadian adventure. Why, oh why?

Redbox itself answers — on a note posted on all Redboxes. In a nutshell: “Demand for Redbox services didn’t meet their expectations. They will be focussing their attention on their U.S. business, where demand for ‘physical media’ remains strong.”

I feel jilted once again. Just like I bought my pants and socks at Target before  liquidation, I also rented DVDs from Redbox. I love renting DVDs. I love physical media. I still buy vinyl LPs — how much more can you love physical media than that!

I’ve written about this before — that the DVD had a career as technology only slightly longer than the 8-track tape (I used to buy that form of physical media too!).

I love watching movies on DVD. But that era is now, officially, irrefutably over. Our movies, our music, all our media are coming out of the clouds. It’s all about the streaming now — Netflix, etc.

So if I want to watch movies, I must subscribe to a streaming service. But that means, I need a new TV. My TV is almost 15 years old, and more obsolete than the Chevrolet El Camino car-truck. I haven’t had cable for almost all that time, and when I watch DVDs I have to pull the couch closer to my TV so I can see.

A new TV? This could profoundly change my life in many ways. But where can I get a new TV for bargain prices?

In my mind’s eye I approach the young fellow in the audio-visual department of the soon-to-be-closed Target.

“Now see here,” I shout. “You call that 30 per cent a discount? “I’ll give you $50 bucks for that 52-inch flatscreen. You’re going out of business ain’tcha!”…