Friday, August 15, 2008

City for Sale

I recently bought a copy of Age of Empires III to while away the lonely hours remaining until Ash gets home. Foolish boy. Even with the graphics settings at minimum quality, the physics generator that kicks in when buildings or ships are involved in the battle scenes overloads the capacity of my four-month-old Toshiba Tecra. Total shutdown, useless gameplay.

So I return the game to Bestbuy for a refund. Truthfully, I do not need new video games with all the work on my plate right now. I tell the service person that I need to return the game. She says "Why?" (I looove one-word sentences). I explain the problem to her. She says they don't refund video games that have been opened. I ask her how I could know the game doesn't work if I don't open it. She begins repeating herself, stating that this is clearly explained on the bill. I point out that I received the bill after the sales transaction completed - not before - and that it can therefore not be a legal contract.

Clearly, I am being difficult. But I just pissed two days away playing a game that doesn't work. The agent explains that I can swap it for another copy of the game. I point out that the problem lies not with the game but the erroneous working requirements printed on its packaging. She confers with a manager (by which I mean she goes out for a cigarette) and comes back saying I can exchange the game for another game. I look at games. The minimum requirements on all of those in the same price range are greater than AOE III. No good. She offers exchange for anything else in the store and we compromise with a store credit. All this means, of course, is that I have no game, no money, and credit at a store that sells nothing I require.

Round 2...

During a meeting with my graduate administrator, she mentions a sale on sporting goods at a Sports Experts nearby. Needing a pair of shorts for yoga class (yoga-another story, another time) I wander over. The sale items are mostly $90 board shorts with Velcro flies. Great for hairless boys with too much money but not really what I'm in the market for. I find a pair of Umbro soccer shorts that'll do the job - they're not on sale but, being only $24, they do fall within my fiscal grasp.

I take the shorts to the till where the sales rep runs the shorts through and thoughtfully informs me that they are final sale - before the transaction is completed. Still smarting from my wasted hour this morning, I ask why that is. She explains that all sale items are final sales. I point out that these shorts are not a sale item. She nods and says "yes but because we are having a store-wide sale, all inventory is a sale item, even if it is not discounted". This is performative language at its best. I ask for the 30-50% discount advertised on the fliers for the store-wide sale. No go. She calmly asks if I've tried on the shorts, disregarding my question completely. I shake my head, no. She offers to let me do so and I decline, satisfied that at least I've been bested by a pro.

The shorts are looking at me now. I have not tried them on, for fear they do not fit.

This pair of small adventures started me thinking again about Quebec retail. Montreal retail, especially. Nothing you buy here ever works. The brand-new Toshiba Tecra, in addition to failing to run any video game more recent than Starcraft (and even those graphics are wonky) also has a faulty webcam and approximately 75g of its 130g memory is sucked up by that horrid Vista OS, with all its incumbent problems (try running Yahoo chat with Vista some time). Furniture, appliances, food - you always wind up having to return to the Vendor to get shit straightened out in this city. Every sale is final because every retailer says so on their bills, whether they are legally permitted to or not.

Theories? Well, Bestbuy says they can't sell that game I opened. That's a lie. The stickers are intact and they assuredly have a shrink-wrapper in-store. I couldn't help but notice a couple of games on their shelves that had clearly been repackaged while looking for a replacement. Sports Experts? They know their staff cover ass before money changes hands. If you care to pick a fight over $30 or $40 worth of merchandise, you have an uphill battle that is simply not worth the stress or the effort. They know this and, because we understand that everything written is true, they preempt the effort with a line on the bill stating said finality with a red stamp for emphasis.

Retail advertising is expensive and in Montreal, where all advertising needs to be done twice by major chains who don't specialize in niche markets, the retailers simply cannot let go of a dollar, once received. And their employees, glad to have a job in this depressed city, work with grit, hanging onto that dollar with screaming nails. Add to this the clear shortcuts the retailers take with their own vendors and you wind up with sub-standard, over-marketed merchandise and a return policy that means you can do whatever you like as long as you don't want your money back...

...I think I'll wait until tomorrow to try on those shorts.


Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.

Colin Martin said...

yep. interesting. frequently frustrating, but that's not less interesting.