no one wants to be defeated

Your correspondent’s adventures in consumerism in the Arsenal and Watertown Malls over the course of one hour on Thursday evening.

First, the Gamestop in the Arsenal Mall. I dropped two unopened XBox 360 games on the counter, hoping to get some store credit. The girl behind the counter looked them over. “We can’t take these,” she said. “They’re sealed.”

“And if I open the seals right now?” I asked, not at all getting it.

“No, it’s a loss prevention thing.”

I stood there for a moment, staring at her in confusion, before walking off. It’s one of those decisions that’s equally rational and ridiculous at the same time. It reduces the chances of Gamestop buying back a game that somebody stole from them, true. But it can easily be foiled by your hypothetical delinquent stepping outside, slitting the shrink-wrap off his games, and going to another Gamestop.

Next, I drove across the street to Autozone. Autozone will run a diagnostic on your car for free if you show up with the “Check Engine” light on. A stringy-haired tech followed me out to my car. I started my car, but he cautioned me to kill the engine but leave the battery on.

“Yeah, I just need the battery running to … whoop,” he said, feeling around underneath the dash. “What year’s this car again?”

“Ninety-six.”

“Sorry; can’t help you.” He indicated the interface on his diagnostic’s plug. “That was the year before they switched over to the standardized model.” He stood there, twiddling the cord on his diagnostic reader, shrugging with a wistful smile.

After that, I went to Best Buy to check out some computer headsets. Nothing leaped out and grabbed me. While I browsed, a cluster of blue-shirted blimps hovered around a computer in the cell phone section, spreading the news that Michael Jackson had just passed. “Should we make an announcement?” someone asked. “It’s channel 5 on the phone if you want to get the PA.” Thankfully, no one did. I mourn the King of Pop’s loss as deeply as anyone, but he’s not, y’know, the President.

Finally I ended up in Target, where I found some computer headsets for around $10. Since I could use one for the Overthinking It podcast, I scooped it up. I killed some more time browsing for backup hard drives and video cameras before going to check out.

“$16.85,” the checkout lady said.

“You have it posted for $10-something,” I said.

She punched up an itemized display. “No, $15 plus tax.”

“It was listed for $10 where I found it.”

She flailed around for a bit. “Where? Where is …? Shawna, have you seen …? He was just here.” She toddled off, looking for a manager or a stockboy to go check the aisle. I stood there, tapping my plastic on the checkout stand, rocking from heel to toe, and feeling sorry for the poor woman who’d just unloaded a cart of groceries onto the conveyor behind me. Sorry, miss. Just picking a fight over $5. Won’t be a minute.

The checkout woman returned, unable to find the employee she needed. “What’d you say it cost?”

“$10-fifty-something. I can take you back there to check.”

“I can’t go back there,” she insisted. “I have to stay up front.”

Again, we stood there for a moment. Finally, she punched a clear code in and entered “$10.59.” I swiped my card, thankfully not having to wait for a signature, and took off.

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