Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Unrewarding "Big Lots Buzz Club Rewards" Incident

Harvey Pekar understands the Art of Checking Out

Yesterday Amy and I hit the Parkville Big Lots store off Perring Parkway (Big Lots Store #5103) to see what bargains lay in store for our fiscally conservative thrift agenda, with Amy heading straight for the food aisles (natch!) while I predictably made a beeline for the two huge DVD bins (today's special - all $3 dollar movies were now 2-for-$5 dollars!).

On my last Big Lots shopping spree at the Dundalk store (Big Lots Store #1595), I scored some good foreign films (the French thriller Red Lights, Wong Kar-Wai's Ashes of Time, and the Iranian arthouse film Secret Ballot), and today I found another Audrey Tautou collaboration with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie), A Very Long Engagement, the Oscar-nominated Brazilian drama Central Station (directed by Walter Salles of The Motorcycle Diaries fame), the wickedly hilarious Matthew Broderick-Reese Witherspoon comedy Election, and Saturday Night Live: The Best of Commercial Parodies (which included personal fave "Colon Blow" but, alas, no "Shimmer Floor Wax/Dessert Topping"!) - all for $10.

But before we could check our items out, we made the mistake of allowing a woman to get in front of us with a shopping cart overflowing with sundry items. Thus began a descent into a sort of living Hell known as the "Big Lots Buzz Club Rewards Incident." Apparently, people can join Big Lots' "Buzz Club Rewards" program so that they earn points for purchases of certain items and ultimately get something free after so many purchases. It all starts with registering online, reading through a veritable slew of rules and disclaimers, and getting a card which, of course, this woman did not have on her. So naturally, this turned into a time-insensitive encounter in which the woman (aka "Time Vampire") railed against the cashier, demanded to see the manager, and (oblivious to the ever-growing line of shoppers behind her) started screaming that "I should get this free!" even when the manager interceded and told the lady she had to register online and he couldn't do anything for her until she had done so. In other words, she was working the Bargain Bullying Technique to see if Making a Scene would get the manager to back down. It didn't. But the spat went on for a good 15 minutes before she finally (and angrily) stormed off, threatening to take her business elsewhere.

"What's the big deal?" I muttered to Amy under my breathe (not wanting to chance the ire of She Who Must Be Satisfied, aka "Bargain Bitch," who was still arguing with the poor manager). "I mean, aren't things cheap enough at Big Lots that you don't have to barter over further discounts?"

"There is an art to shopping when it comes to picking the right checkout line and the right checkout opportunity," I continued, adding, "And we missed it!

Harvey Pekar has documented this art in his American Splendor comics collaboration with R. Crumb, though in his case his "Complicated Hassle with the Cashier" experience involved getting behind Old Jewish Ladies in Checkout Lines:

Harvey Pekar on Old Jewish Ladies in Checkout Lines

Paul Giamatti reprised Pekar's checkout dilemma in the "Old Jewish Lady" scene from the live-action film American Splendor:

The Big Lots lady we encountered wasn't Jewish, but she sure had a lot of chutzpah!

Not to mention a lot of time on her hands.

As our nation debates whether civility between polarized politicians will return to the U.S. Congress in the wake of the recent Tuscon massacre, it's obvious that civility in checkout lines is still a work in progress.

Related Links:
"Justice - Wait for It - on the Checkout Line" (WSJ, 8/19/09)

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