Category Archives: Social Rules

No Cashier For You

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“1) Will a cashier always be available at the local Neighborhood Markets?” The answer is “No,” if Walmart has its way.

By the way, this hasn’t been answered by any of the dozens of emails, tweets, or direct messages I’ve exchanged in the last few weeks. Luckily, the corporation is staffed by human beings, ones who exist in the real world – and who share our misgivings about achieving cost reduction by eliminating jobs (and people) at the expense of customer convenience. Despite my complaint regarding being coerced into using self-checkout, even for large volume grocery shopping, the bigger shadow will come from passive scanning technologies which are designed to eliminate almost all interaction between shoppers and employees.

To all those with physical limitations or who dislike being required to be their own cashiers for one of the largest corporations in the world, please accept my apologies. Walmart will imply that their “Store Pickup” system will address these concerns. They won’t, at least not in the immediate future. From listening to people I know who’ve tried the order ahead and “Store Pickup” system, they love the idea of it but have universal frustrations with the implementation. Most of the hiccups are from, you guessed it, human error and insufficient staffing to provide a worry-free grocery experience. Warm ice cream? Shorter expiration dates on your dairy? Less appealing merchandise compared to what you might choose? Scheduling and logistic issues? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

If you have a disability or limitation, I can only recommend that you insist that all retailers accommodate you. If you resent being less valued as a customer, I can only advise that you seek a retailer which honors your request.

Most of us will gladly embrace self-checkout for some situations. We’ll even use the ‘scan as you go’ apps in most cases. Equally true, though, is that we’re not going to accept a multi-billion dollar corporation’s insistence that we do a job better performed by an employee of its organization, a job for which we are already being charged. There are times when we want a cashier, especially when we’ve accumulated a few dozen items in our shopping carts.

As for the customer service reporting system, Walmart’s is broken. As it turns out, it is deliberately designed to function that way. In the last few weeks, I’ve exchanged hundreds of emails, direct messages and fruitless tweets and posts. None of them came from an identifiable person. With each promise of contact, I’d be sent back to the starting point of the broken carousel. I could almost hear the crackle of laughter behind some of the redirects. Walmart insulates itself from marketing glitches by pushing everything back out to the local branches, as if the store manager is the one wanting to reduce his or her staff. In a moment of candor, I had a store manager tell me directly that he/she blamed all of it on corporate’s sole focus on cost, even though the metrics of customer satisfaction skew away from cost as being the sole factor.

Officially, no one at Walmart had the courtesy or professionalism to answer any of my questions, even when I reduced it to the one question which starts this post. Their failure to answer me is a testament to their proven ability to ignore most pushback and to their own belief that they are too large to fail. I can’t blame them, not really. Arrogance of that magnitude is almost inescapable when scaled to their size.

One thing I found out for certain is that Walmart is slowly transitioning to self-kiosks while simultaneously avoiding any blanket statements about their future. A bigger part of their vision involves using scanning technology or customer-driven input, which either passively tracks what we pick up at every point in the store or requires our input to scan or tally the selected merchandise. We are the proverbial frog in the slowly heating pot of water and we won’t realize that we can’t turn back until we’re too boiled to hop out. Walmart is counting on our complacency to reach a point of no return.

Between initiatives like Project Kepler and Code Eight, Walmart is investing heavily in technology which reduces labor by removing Walmart employees from the process as much as possible. For cost reductions, it’s smart. For human relations, it is less than ideal.

If you don’t want to use a self-checkout kiosk, the best option is to politely say “No.” If you’re told something you don’t like, try to remember that employees are either badly trained, which is management’s fault, or they are only parroting the words and procedures given to them, which is also management’s fault. They are still people first and employees second. This is ironic when you stop to consider that these very people are the ones Walmart is eliminating to save you money. Truth be told, most managers don’t have any real ability to control these types of issues.

It is a certainty that many retailers will follow suit and use technology to push our shopping habits in a new direction. As I’ve said all along, such technology holds a place in our future but it shouldn’t be forced upon us for all situations.

I started all this weeks ago by saying that Walmart and its smaller food markets in particular is a business model I very much want to embrace. I love technology and welcome both self-checkout kiosks and “as you go” systems. I resent the idea, though, that I am becoming an involuntary employee of the organization I’m rewarding with my business. For those who are older or with physical issues, I am especially concerned.

Locally, most of us will have choices through smaller grocery stores and chains. They’ll face the same price pressures, though, at some point.

I realize that this isn’t the most well-written post but perfect is the enemy of the good. If a billion dollar company can wing it, I see no reason to hold myself to a higher standard.

P.S. If you write me, I’ll be sure to forward that to my compliance and correspondence officer. Or Tier 3. Or Reader Spark. Or that guy Jonathan sitting in the basement waiting to help you. Please give me at least 24 business days to ignore your message.

The Observation of ‘There’

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I see or hear people say, “Those drivers in so-and-so! What idiots.” Or, “People in so-and-so are so mean!” Because it’s a sentiment commonly seen and heard, it doesn’t sound that odd to most people. Most of us have our own particular ‘there’ in mind. I recommend that you imagine Dallas on a Friday afternoon, or the DMV between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., anywhere in the United States.

There are exceptions, of course, but in general, people are similar regardless of geography. Southerners are no more polite than those from Wyoming and drivers in Arkansas are no less idiotic than those in Pennsylvania. (Except for Josh. He really stinks.)

Most of the time, the grouchy people in question have traveled with their own geographical prejudices. If you listen closely, it becomes more apparent than ever that there is as much fault in the observer as the observed.

Anyone can pinpoint a particular place and time, inhabited by a shifting mix of people and situations and say, “Well, this case is different because of so-and-so…”

This particular scenario occurs in every nook and cranny of this country, each and every day. No travel is required to see and hear people behaving poorly.

“Those” people there, wherever there is, are no different than you or the people who live around you.

“They” see us and shake their heads at us and our impolite stupidity and our inability to drive in a straight line without flipping our vehicle upside down – while parked.

The circle of complaint is eternal, each of us pointing to those idiots elsewhere.

Even though we’re all the same, each of us struggling to minimize just how much stupidity we individually generate.

The struggle is real.

A Home Remedy For the Grammer Police

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NSFW. Contains language about language.

*Yes, I know how to spell ‘grammar,’ but that’s the point.

 

The world is a small place sometimes. It’s hard to gauge where my ideas might reach. In places where people don’t know me, my ideas seem plausible. In others, people point to what I’ve written as a short-hand to get their point across. They write, “This,” with a link, or “This reminds me of you.” To be fair, many people also tell me I’m a moron, but with a lesser frequency that I would have otherwise expected to be the case.

When I write about people having the freedom to take back their own languages and use and abuse them as they see fit, most of the response is overwhelmingly positive. There is indeed a time and place for exacting language – and that time and place is normally one which doesn’t require our presence, much less enthusiasm, for it. The responsibility for language’s needless complexity does not fall upon the average user.

On one of my alter-ego projects, someone wrote me. She was irritated at a few of her well-meaning and passive-aggressive friends and family, some of whom apparently rejoice in being grammar police. She told me that several of her friends and family were afraid to post anything and sometimes say anything, anticipating the overzealous criticism. She had tried ignoring them, politely asking them to stop and finally, in a last-ditch effort, she started lashing out at them. She saw some of my craziness on someone’s blog and decided to offer me a chance to weigh in.

My appeals to tell those who think English is a fixed target should go jump in a frozen lake struck a chord with her. She said she had never thought of Standard English as a formal and shared means to learn a dialect that no one learned at home – or that spoken language drives the language no matter how many cries of anguish we hear from those invested in “correct English.”

“I need a way to get my point across, even with a sledgehammer, if necessary. What do you recommend?” she wrote.

“Well, if you’re all adults, I recommend avoiding behavior which invites more contempt. They’re not going to change, that much is obvious. It’s not a ‘you’ issue, not really. They need to gain esteem by policing other people. You can’t fix them, so you need to focus their attention away from you.” So far, so good, as I wrote back.

“First, it’s important that you politely tell each person who has been a pain in your rear to please stop and that further trolling is unwelcome. Then, each time one of your friends, family, or acquaintances pulls their grammar nonsense, send them this,” I wrote:

<To the grammar police: You put the ‘dick’ in ‘dicktionary.’ Regards, Don’t Care >

 

I told her to write it every time someone pulled out their bag of tactics on her – after they ignored one more final polite request to please stop. If they responded with anger, write the same thing, over and over. If they tried to police her in person, I told her to say it out loud, even in awkward social situations. I pointed out that her social faux pas was no greater than theirs, that of policing other adults in trivial matters.

“If that doesn’t work, let me know.” I wished her well and told her to follow through every time her hackles went up. I reminded her that it was senseless for her to get upset and to instead transfer that irritation back those being jerks. I warned that it would take time. She told me that a few of her friends and family had been torturing her for years and that a few weeks of concerted effort would be better than living the rest of her life under the thumb of a bunch of control freaks.

Several days later, she wrote me and told me that at first it really bothered her to be discourteous. After a few times, though, she got invested in the reaction. She had one last hold-out, though, a family member who tended to lash out about any topic, whether it be politics, religion, grammar, or how to fold towels in the guest bathroom.

I asked her to send me the name of the family member so that I could get a picture from their social media. After she did so, I told her to check her email and follow the instructions and to only follow them if the person torturing her didn’t heed one last polite request to please stop bothering her.

Over a week later, she wrote back, to tell me that it had worked beyond belief.

Her family member had become irate and sent an email and social media messenger blast to all their mutual friends and family, accusing her of lashing out without reason. Her family member didn’t stop to realize that it provided the victim with a list of everyone affected. She wrote back to all of them, asking them to let her know if they were interested in knowing the real story. Most did and after reading her explanation were completely on board. Almost all agreed that it would be better for everyone to ignore what they perceived as errors – and to certainly not condone those who continued to be jerks after politely being asked to step away or to bother someone else who had no objection.

The picture attached to this post is what she emailed, after begging and politely requesting relief at least a dozen times…

 

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P.S. It’s important that anyone reading this understand that at each stage I insist that the first course of action is to respond with politeness and courtesy, even if the person making your life a living hades is beyond redemption.

P.P.S. I didn’t invent the word ‘dicktionary.’

 

 

The McDonald’s FlambĂ© Life

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I was asked to write an unsolicited rebuttal of something frequently witnessed on social media. These words and thoughts aren’t perfect, nor do I intend them to be.

Each time I see someone complaining about social media being too bright and shiny or unrealistic, I try to visit those people’s social media page(s).

As you can guess, when I visit the social media of the person mentioned above, it is difficult to find any posts which reveal the soul or character of the person – and almost all of the pictures are polished Kodak moments, with $10,000 smiles filled with perfect teeth. Most are devoid of crafted personal stories or substantive glimpses into their days as human beings. There’s never a picture of them enjoying a delicious bite of questionable food over a dimly-lit sink, wearing mismatched cat socks, or an admission of honest tomfoolery or klutziness. You’ll find an album of 178 wedding day photos, but none of the family on the day the judge finalizes the divorce. Nor will there be a copy of the mugshot of the husband for his second DWI. People rarely discuss their honest doubts or openly share the beliefs they hold which trouble them. Tears are always joyful and never from injustice, defeat is a happy lesson, and houses always pristinely decorated and sleek. (Even though we know you have a room, closet, garage or attic filled with some erratic craziness that you don’t like people seeing.)

 

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I don’t know how to say this artfully or with aplomb, so I’ll just say it: most of these refrains are from people with double-car garages and more than one kind of coffee machine in their homes.

Life is messy, with moments of breath-taking beauty and also days of anguish.

 

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….more house shoes than Versace and more plain spaghetti than vermicelli.

Somewhere between the extremes, though, is the balance of the two in which you live your life and upon which most of your memory rests.

Social media is based on the most democratic of ideas: each of us can share, interact, and express ourselves within the boundaries of the parameters we ourselves define.

 

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Like so many other things, most of the flaws of social media are worsened by use, one comment, post, or picture at a time. We decide what kind of social media we want. I’m confused by complaints about social media when it is literally that person’s choice to reflect his or her preferences on their social media pages.

Social media isn’t a glossy magazine; it’s the flyer someone hands you on the sidewalk, one constantly adjusting to us. The difference is that all of us create its content.

If you don’t want to create or share, of course that is okay. Withhold your snark about the content other people choose to share or your opinion that it’s all shiny and unrealistic snapshots of other people.

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If you seek a different way, light the way ahead and we will follow your lead.

I’m guessing that the posts complaining about the phoniness of social media will never abate, just as people will invariably watch “The Bachelor,” yet glibly tell you that they watched, and loved, the latest installment of “60 Minutes.”

An Imperfect Note Regarding Jimmy Fallon and Redemption

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The meme regarding Jimmy Fallon in his “Man Show” era versus now in his redemption and entertainer role does contain an element of harsh truth to it.

It also contains an oblique admission on your part, though, if you share it.

Jimmy’s former show ended about 15 years ago. That’s approximately 5,500 days of opportunity to transform oneself.

“You’re not the person you used to be,” is one of the best compliments someone can give me.

I hope the same is true for you, too. It’s almost as important as the clichĂ©, “My opinion changes with new information.”

It’s easy to fake a change of heart, especially if ambition, power, money, or politics shape your enlightenment. We fall toward vanity and greed with too much ease at times.

It’s a complicated and fluid process to gauge another person’s transformation and soul. Many religions confer redemption merely by accepting a central tenet of faith. Most adults, however, in their personal lives, require penance, punishment and a long learning period from those seeking redemption.

Skepticism rules in regards to other people, even as most people demand acceptance for their own stories and changes while doubting the changes that others profess.

By outright refusing to concede that it is possible that Jimmy Fallon may indeed be the person he professes to be, you are also indicating that you doubt that personal transformation is possible.

That’s a strange, cynical point of view from where I’m standing.

Keep in mind that I’m not a big Jimmy Fallon fan, nor defending the criticisms toward his previous alter ego.

A few years ago, Tom Cotton, someone who I dislike intensely, suffered a backlash from some regarding his writings when he was much younger and attending Harvard. Many screamed without knowing whether those words reflected who he is today. That denial of possibility is a problem for me.

I think back to my youth and all the indoctrination, fear and shame I had to work through to thrive. All my errors, ignorance and stupidity were indeed mine. To create a timeline which fails to reflect my transformation would be a disservice to me and anyone else who has shed their previous skin. I don’t defend some of the stupidity I said and did.

Even if I attempted a defense of who I once was, I wouldn’t be defending myself.

While my personal views about redemption aren’t religious, I continue to hope that anyone can stop and reboot if self-recognition allows it.

I would hate to think the world wouldn’t encourage anyone to turn away from their past and renew.

It’s okay to be skeptical of those who’ve wronged us or behaved like the Cookie Monster at a bakery convention. As we do, though, we should remind ourselves that some people do in fact change.

 

 

 

PostSecret Saturday

I surprised Dawn with a matinee showing of ‘Post Secret The Show’ at Walton Arts Center. I even bought an extra seat so that we could stretch out and be comfortable. That backfired, as it turned out there was an aisle between the seats I purchased. I gave my extra ticket, however, to a group across from us, so several of us had a better time than anticipated.

As I expected, she loved the show.

On such a fine day, it was as if we had been transported to church on a Saturday, filled with strangers as the show began. As it progressed, we all realized that the world is both wide and universal for us all. Many people were teary-eyed and emotional at several points of the show.

I made friends and since I almost always carry index or note cards in my back pocket, I was able to use a version of my “secrets revealed” on the two ladies seated to my left, after they exited their seats during intermission – and returned to find a perfectly balanced index card on their shared armrest with this message:

“I heard one of you say, “I won’t mention THAT secret” earlier. I can’t explain how I know, but I know your secret. #youcrackmeup.”

During their absence, Dawn pointed out that if I kept out my ever-present stack of cards, they’d immediately know it was me. I assumed they would immediately blame the new craziness on me since I was probably the weirdest person on that side of the theater.

I let them wonder who might have left the card for several moments as they fiercely whispered back and forth between themselves and then we exchanged a succession of revelatory commentary. We shared a moment and a few stories, all of which involved initial awkwardness followed by intense laughter. I won’t reveal the secret in question, but it led them to share a hilarious prank and the aftermath of it with me.

They were incredulous that my real name was X, given that we were all at a show based on anonymity. After the show, another lady asked, “Is X really your name?”

Being very familiar with Post Secret, I knew the revelations were going to be both rapid-fire and poignant. I had left one of my own on the bathroom mirror before the show began. Mine was not read during the show, as the show used a small sample from the auditorium mailbox and none from the bathroom.

I also befriended a lady who had accompanied her husband. She had no idea of what Post Secret might encompass. She left the show intensely curious and full of ideas. In the way that so often happens in such situations, I gave her a brief explanation of the Post Secret universe, followed by one which explained my name and my background. We could have talked for an hour, but her husband had sneaked past her and out the main door.

If you ever have the chance to see the show, I highly recommend it, regardless of your temperament. It will be transformative for you.

P.S. In the spirit of this show, book, and website, I’m going to paraphrase and share what I noted on that post-it note in the bathroom:

“I was going to murder my violent dad one night and the only thing which prevented it was that I didn’t know how to load the gun.”

 

The success and beauty of Post Secret is that my secret is all too common. Some of the secrets read during the show from those in the audience today were filled with pain, love, regret, and hope.

There are no new secrets, only new faces to give them life.

In pain, frailty, laughter and diverse geography, we share the essential.

 

 

#postsecret   #psfayetteville

The Brown / Hat Conundrum

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The Brown / Hat Conundrum

As you comment to tell me that what I’ve said is stupid,
remember that you decided to waste a precious sliver of
your finite life to denigrate me or my opinion.
People angrily comment when they either recognize the
truth in a contrary opinion or they are insecure about
their own tenuous hold on the world. Lashing out at
another for expression is a self-accusation and an
acknowledgment that your beliefs don’t sustain scrutiny.