It’s tough work being an American consumer in this day and age. Companies are putting more & more responsibility on our shoulders and laying more & more guilt on our psyches. This is something that became crystal clear to me the other day in the Taco Bell drive-thru line. As I paid for my order of Nacho Cheese Doritos® Locos Tacos (it was for my teenage son, I swear), the kid at the window handed me a receipt with a survey at the bottom. He looked me in the eye and said, “If you fill this out and give me a good review, I’ll get an extra $10 in my next paycheck.” I had to admire the honesty, but what choice did he leave me at that point? I could just imagine the kid getting his next paycheck and noticing it was $10 less than what he was expecting, and remembering me (and the make & model of my car) and spitting in my Baja Blast the next time I drove through the Taco Bell.
So I anxiously kept track of that receipt until I got home and found the time to log into my computer and visit the customer satisfaction survey page (aptly named “tellthebell.com;” I have to give them kudos for that), where I was asked a series of in-depth questions about the quality of service I received from a kid who basically just had to hand me food in a paper bag and count correct change. I gave him a good rating; sure hope he did something swell with that extra 10 bucks.
Sometimes I actually enjoy rating things when I feel my feedback is going to help someone else, especially on travel sites. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m apparently only 2 reviews away from being an official TripAdvisor Attraction Expert. What will that get me? Apparently absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. I don’t even think I can use that on my resumé. And yet, talk about consumer responsibility! TripAdvisor has it all figured out! Get your customers to provide all of your website’s content, entice them with meaningless titles, then sit back and watch your profit margin grow!
I do appreciate the idea behind the customer satisfaction survey; it’s nice that companies want our feedback as consumers. But seriously, is it always necessary? Amazon, I’m looking at YOU. When I am asked to rate my transaction on an order involving something as benign as a box of pencils, it’s easy for me to honestly check the yes or no boxes regarding “Did the item arrive on time?” and “Was the item as described by seller?” But Amazon won’t accept the survey answers until you also fill out a comment box in your own words. What more is there to say about a box of pencils?? So that’s actually what I usually put as my comment: “What more is there to say?”
I should probably just ignore those surveys, I get that. But the thing is, I recognize that sellers need high rankings in order to continue to be successful sellers, and if the seller hasn’t messed anything up, I feel a responsibility to report them for their competence. Call it “consumer guilt.”
Another thing that causes me feelings of consumer guilt: coupons. They are a constant source of stress for me. I just have a hard time keeping track of them, and I always forget them. If I’m out running errands and I want to stop into a store to pick up something, I always think, “Crap, I think I have a coupon for this place at home.” And then I have to decide, do I go home and come back at another time when I remember the coupon—knowing full well I’ll never go back before the coupon expires? Or do I just bite the bullet and pay full price? *Guilt*
My husband once gave me a coupon organizer for Christmas. (A fact that I hope causes you to ask the most obvious question: “Why are you still married to him?”) He was tired of my system, which involved stuffing coupons into various white envelopes and leaving them at home on the kitchen counter whenever I went shopping. The “new” coupon organizer is divided into labeled sections, such as “Meats,” “Paper Products,” “Frozen Foods,” “Other,” etc., and of course the object is to place your coupons into the correct section so they are easy to find when you are out shopping. Come on…. I’m lucky I even take the time to go through the Sunday paper and cut out a few coupons I think I might use someday. The chances that I am going to take the time to organize by product type, not to mention periodically clean out after the expiration date has passed — NIL. Here is what the coupon organizer looks like today:
Needless to say, this is not the most efficient way for me to try to save money. I shudder to think of how much I could have saved if I were one of those Extreme Couponers who hold up the checkout lines as they go through their 3-ring binders (yes, plural) full of coupons, end up paying $4 for a $290 grocery bill, then make the cashier turn on the blinking light so a manager can come over and listen to them complain about the extra 10 cents they feel they were wrongly charged for a tube of Aquafresh. Yes, if I were only a little more organized, I probably could have saved enough over the years to fund all five branches of our country’s military, but maybe I just don’t want to be one of THOSE people; maybe I am a better person because I just want to do my part for my fellow shoppers by not holding any of you up in line or making you feel guilty if you forgot your coupons and actually have to pay the full $290 your groceries are worth. You’re welcome.
I might not be good at keeping track of coupons, but I am really great at keeping track of emails (meaning, I never delete them; at this moment I have literally 8,728 unread emails in my inbox). This means I can almost always find a promo code in my inbox that will save me money. Thus, I am much better at shopping online than I am at shopping in actual brick-and-mortar stores, even though my guilty conscience likes to remind me that it would be better for our local economy to do so. However, even online shopping has its pitfalls, such as when Athleta ships you a pair of yoga pants with the security tag still attached. Or when Ann Taylor Loft sends you a XXXL ugly pink sweater that you never ordered, instead of the black pencil skirt you actually did order. Yes, these horrifying events actually did happen to me, and I’m a stronger person for it, despite the attitude the Ann Taylor Loft clerk gave me for trying to return an online purchase to the store, and despite having to hunt all over town for a store that uses the same security tag detacher that Athleta does.
No doubt about it. Between all of the surveys, the coupons, the guilt, the paperwork and the returns — it’s absolutely exhausting being an American consumer today. Unfortunately, there’s only one thing that seems to help me feel better when I’m exhausted and feeling guilty: Retail Therapy.