Yesterday the speaker went dead on my Borg Implant, and very quickly it became apparent that I was going to have to go to the Borg store downtown to get it fixed and / or replaced. Most people I know seem to hate going to places like this, but I seem to have a strange love of these experiences. Perhaps it comes from my years working retail, where I had to spend all my time in a mall, surrounded by people all day, every day. Regardless, I’m totally into an Ikea trip, or a strange journey into a busy retail space, even if I am not making any purchases. I’m fairly immune to impulse buys for the most part, and you usually get to see some of the most amazing and confusing examples of humanity when you leave y0ur comfort zone.
While I don’t mind making these kinds of trips, I did decide that I should plan ahead to make mine easier. Not only did I schedule an appointment at the Genius Borg yesterday, but I gave myself the entire afternoon today in case things ran late for some reason. I filled a 16oz to-go cup of coffee to help pass the time. When I arrived 20 minutes early, the place was hoppin’, but knowing that I had scheduled an appointment, I simply checked in and stood at the bar, making eye contact with every employee that even pretended to look my way.
I began to pay attention to the customers that were coming in as my appointment came and went. Each would complain about something they were angry about, would explain that they didn’t fucking well need appointments, and that they had better get some service or else. (The “else” in this situation was never made clear, but I assume it was equal to, “I will not give you any more of my money today.”)
When I had finally waited 20 minutes past my scheduled appointment, I decided to use a much more subdued version of this behavior, and waved at every employee that looked in my direction. After 10 of these waves were made – some of which were at repeated staff members – I finally managed to get someone to ask me if I’d been helped yet. In spite of the fact that I’d been standing there for 40 minutes, and in spite of the fact that she had seen me standing there previously, I decided to move forward and just get to the point.
I quickly explained that I had an appointment, that I had checked in, and that I just needed an employee to help me. She explained that she was sorry, and that the reason no one had helped me was that their computers were not functioning, and they couldn’t send a chat message to The Borg Implant Expert. In spite of the fact that The Borg Implant Expert was 20 feet away – completely ignoring the fact that no one would talk to me until I decided to flag someone down – I nodded my head and said, “I see.”
She quickly walked me over to The Borg Implant Expert, who was engaged in helping a line of customers three people deep. She stood next to me and said, “I’ll get his attention and tell him you have an appointment.” Why she said this to me, I’ll never know; she stood patiently next to me and attempted to make eye contact with him to no avail. Meanwhile, his line was getting longer, and customers came over with the intention of berating the woman who was “helping” me. After someone demanded of her help with a product that was near the front of the store, she finally walked over to The Borg Implant Expert, grabbed his arm, pointed at me, said something to him that I could not make out, and left. In a moment of sheer optimism toward humanity, I assumed that this meant I would be helped right away.
After The Borg Implant Expert helped two further customers, he looked at the device in his hand, looked up at a customer that wasn’t even in his line, and walked away with that person, leaving the people who were in his line to ponder their individual fates. I tried to locate the woman who had been helping me previously, but she was quickly accumulating her own line of customers, and as she had been so entirely helpful before I was a bit apprehensive that a second attempt on her part could lead me to an even more distressing outcome.
Fortunately, it appeared that there was a quick pop wow occurring with a small knott of employees nearby. Choosing to be more forceful than I had been earlier, I walked over and explained clearly that I had an appointment and needed some help with my Borg Implant, and would love some help as soon as possible. This didn’t garner any immediate response from anyone, but did warrant accusing eye contact for one guy, and an, “Excuse me,” from another who quickly left the pop wow and accidentally bumped into me on the way out.
At that point I must have looked frustrated, because another employee I had not yet seen came over and asked if I needed some help. I said yes and explained my situation yet again, adding that I understood there was some sort of computer problem, but that I would still like to get some help if possible. After explaining all of this to him two more times, he realized that I had scheduled an appointment, though seemed quite confused as to the computer problem that was plaguing the store. He told me that The Borg Implant Expert was busy helping customers at that moment, but that if I waited right where I was standing, he would return to tell me how long the wait would be.
Ready to leave the store and try again tomorrow, I turned around to find myself face-to-face with The Borg Implant Expert. He said that he understood I had an appointment and asked what device was giving me trouble (offering that his area of expertise was only with Borg Implants.) I briefly wondered how it was that he knew I had an appointment and yet didn’t know that the appointment was regarding my phone, which had been outlined when I scheduled the appointment and several times since with a variety of staff. Instead, I started from the beginning – yet again – and patiently explained that since I had paid for the extended warrantee, that it should be a simple case of replacing the broken speaker, or getting a new Borg Implant entirely.
The Borg Implant Expert tried to log into the system to see if my story checked out. “It seems that the computers are down for some reason,” he said. How, exactly, this was news to him was beyond my understanding. Regardless, he asked me if I had tried rebooting the Borg Implant (yes), and if I was sure that the speaker was broken, or if the volume was just turned down. I rebooted the Borg Implant in front of him, which caused his face to light up in confusion.
I loaded up an .mp3 and played it for him, illustrating to him the various symptoms that had led me to the diagnosis I had made. He stopped me several times, as he seemed to be quite confused by the various menus I was navigating, and more importantly, by the volume buttons on the side I was using to adjust the sound. However, after a good five minutes of me teaching him some of the ins and outs of the product of which he was in charge, he determined that the speaker was, in fact, dead and that it did, in fact, need replacing.
He once again tried to log into the system to retrieve my information, but encountered some sort of problem that he didn’t quite understand. He gave up and explained that replacing the speaker would take “15 – 20” minutes, and that I would have plenty of time to go and get a coffee and do some shopping while I waited. I decided that it was best not to draw attention to the 16oz to-go cup of coffee I had been sipping on the whole time, and instead opted to leave the store for a few minutes to help clear my head. I briefly considered either starting smoking again, or just killing myself.
Giving The Borg Implant Expert the benefit of the doubt, I was gone for 30 minutes, hoping that the extra time would account for a few customer interruptions, and further continued efforts on his part to log into the system again. When I returned I walked through the store but could not find him, so I took up a post at the place where I had left him before, hypothesizing that he would look there first. Another 10 minutes past, and he finally emerged to stand by the Genius Borg, scanning the store in every location save for the one where he had last helped me. Another employee leaned over and whispered something to him, and he nodded and walked right past me toward the front of the store, beginning to get impatient. On his return trip, as if by random chance, he noticed me and exclaimed, “There you are! I was looking everywhere for you.”
The Borg Implant Expert explained that the speaker replacement had been a success, and that he just had to try and log into the system again so I could sign some paperwork, after which I could be on my way. When that didn’t work he shrugged and offered that I, “seemed trustworthy,” then disappeared into the back room again for a few more minutes. He re-emerged with my Borg Impant, and explained that, “It should work, I think.”
He handed it to me, but before I could activate it, he took it from my hands again and offered, “Wait, I should check and see if the wireless is working,” apropos of nothing. After two attempts, I showed him where the wireless setting is located, and we both waited with rapt attention as my Borg Implant tried to connect. I imagined that, in his mind somewhere, there was a script that he was supposed to use to explain to the customer why being able to connect to the wireless was important under these circumstances, but that in his current state, something was preventing that script from running.
Regardless, the Borg Implant connected without incident, and in a bizarre twist to the entire story, I thanked him and left the store. I would like to think that I was thanking him for wasting my time, but in reality, I believe it was merely a reflex in the hopes that I could get out of the store sooner.
Clearly, I am not against the use or development of technology, and in many ways I feel that devices like this make me happy. I would also like to think that I don’t behave like these employees when I interact with other people, and that I regularly use skills like “perception” and “reason” to make sense of the world around me so I can approach approach situations using forethought and caution.
What baffled me most is that the cornerstones of my experiences in the world of retail – taking careful notes and applying good customer service – seemed to be absent from every step of my experience today. If, at some point, one of the employees had considered asking if they could help me, and then wrote down my problem when they had to pass the buck to someone else, it would have cut down on the confusion and frustration tremendously. It might have even established a precedent that could have made future interactions with other customers much easier to deal with. Instead, their reliance on technology to help them with every aspect of their jobs – the point where they barely understand the technology they are using in really basic ways – not only prevented any kind of efficiency, but completely undermined the purposes of the technologies in question.
Ironically, this has not soured my experiences when it comes to going to places like this. Most likely, against my better judgement, I will jump at the chance to go to The Mall again, knowing full well that it will be full of strange idiots, befuddling encounteres, new-found depths of inefficiency, and a complete lack of awareness on the part of anyone I meet. It is my chance to be completely entertained by the real-life Idiocracy that is developing before my eyes, and since I am in no position to stop it, the very least I can do is occasionally offer myself front row seats to the most entertaining show available: real life, in action.