This Penny Arcade Comic (warning, it has a cuss in it) filled in a hole in my vocabulary of which I was completely unaware.  It brought me the delicious phrase ‘register biscuit’ to exactly and perfectly describe the minimum wage earning, incompetent teens who populate the behind-the-counter areas of the local electronics stores.  Let me give you a for instance or two, if you have not immediately picked up on what I am laying down.

Before we got married, Amy and I were out shopping for a stereo for her to take to university.  We arbitrarily picked Future Shop because they are kind of a big deal when it comes to consumer electronics at the quality and price point we were seeking.  They are also apparently on commission though you’d never, ever be able to guess this from their behaviour toward people who are presumably helping pay their wage (more commonly known as “customers”).  We walked through the stereo section (having done some research beforehand, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted) and tried to attract the interest of one of the what can only be called staff, due to the fact that they were all wearing matching shirts that had the name of the store emblazoned thereupon.  To be fair, we may have happened upon the Future Shop bowling team making a visit to the sponsoring store and sort of huddling around talking to each other and ignoring all other lifeforms in a 30m radius around them.  Such is the right and privilege of bowling teams, after all.  Perhaps we were being too judgmental of them when we decided to walk through the store and give the sale to whomever made eye contact and/or spoke to us first.  I think we ended up with somebody from the music area or possibly games but she was more than happy to ring us through while the bowling team… um… bowled?  Maybe?

I’ve had a broadly similar experience to this in Home Depot stores.  Similar in that I am getting no service but also different in that there is not an employee to be seen.  Generally speaking, when I am headed into a home improvement store, I have a pretty clear idea of what I’m there for and some kind of clue where it is.  This is a behaviour born of necessity because Home Depot in particular suffers from tragic underemployment.  Rona (kind of a Canadian Home Depot or Lowe’s) is better staffed or has not yet equipped their employees with customer avoidance radar.  Rona’s downfall is that their very helpful and friendly employees often don’t know which end of a lightbulb is intended to be screwed into the socket.  I was absolutely shocked a couple weeks ago that, while at Home Depot, I was standing in the carpet section after having picked up some tile grout.  I was trying to figure out where in the store I would find backer rod to seal up some of the more egregious failures of the bathroom tile and an employee, apropos of nothing whatsoever, asked me if he could help me find something.  I was absolutely floored by his presence and willingness to be of assistance.  Now, he didn’t know what the thing was I was looking for or even where to begin looking for it, but he seemed to genuinely be interested in helping me.

just to watch him die