This is where 'everything else' goes.

As Seen on (at) TV (Bed, Bath and Beyond)

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , , — Wigi @ 7:47 pm March 22, 2009

I don’t care for shopping… not even a little. A shopping trip with me almost always ends badly.

Since I don’t shop much, the latest trends in retail are lost on me. On the other hand, I did work in television for a while, so I am fairly tolerant of advertising, particularly television advertising… so while I might not be inclined to go into a store to buy something, I have a reasonably good idea of what might be out there on the market. I like to watch ads to see if the advertiser did a good job of getting his or her point across.

So the other day, we received a print ad for Bed, Bath and Beyond, and one of the family members pointed out that on the back page of the ad, it showed that they had “Pedi-Paws”, which is basically a manicure device for your pets. This is one of those cases where advertising meets need – we have a neurotic dog that hates to have his feet touched, much less have his nails clipped… So we have been contemplating this purchase for a while. The impediment was ordering it by mail, and the wait. So when we found out that you could walk into a store and buy it, we were sold (that and the $10 off coupon sealed the deal).

So yesterday evening, off we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond. When you combine my disdain for shopping with the kind of merchandise that one might find at Bed, Bath and Beyond, it is no surprise that last night’s trip was my first visit there… ever.

It wasn’t what I expected.

It was as if Crate and Barrel, JC Penney, TJ Maxx and Costco had a four-way love child. Every endcap had an “As Seen On TV” item. “Pedi-Paws” was right by the front door, which for the Anti-Shopper, was incredibly convenient. They had those bowl-sealing things – those were on clearance for $5. They even had that item that looks like a bluetooth headset, but is really a hearing aid.

It was like walking into the Infomercial Store.

There were ten thousand of every kitchen gadget ever. The “Mandolin Slicer?” . . . Had it.

Strangely, I had a certain curiousity about the things I saw in there. It wasn’t a consumer curiousity, but more of a people-watching or car crash curiousity… except for retail items.

Living in Alaska, you live a relatively sheltered life when it comes to the retail world. If a big retailer comes to Alaska, it is probably the end of their growth cycle: Target. Kohls. Bed, Bath and Beyond. They arrive here with a bit of fanfare. Ultimately, they’re just another store. And I feel a little bit of culture shock when I go into these places. Every square inch of usable merchandising space is occupied, managed, and designed to put these consumer items within easy reach of you as you walk through the store… and as a result, puts your hard-earned dollars within easy reach of their cash register.

But I have to hand it to Bed, Bath and Beyond. Were it not for the “As Seen on TV” items, there would be virtually no reason for me to ever go back there. I doubt I would make a special trip back… but if I was in the neighborhood, I might stop in… Which is what I do when I go to the local mall, where they have a “Hotdog on a Stick.”. If you’ve never been, it is worth the visit.

The Culture Shock of Culture

Filed under: Life — Tags: , — Wigi @ 10:00 pm April 28, 2008

I read. A lot. Mostly I read newspapers, essays, journals and other non-fiction items. Of course, a lot of it is online, but you have to admit, the selection online is rather good.

I generally don’t have the time to sit down with a book… When I travel, I generally make a stop at the bookstore, and pick something up, and tear into it on my flight, often finishing the book before I arrive at my destination. But when I am around the house, I can’t really make the time commitment to a book, when it is so much easier to read a news magazine or newspaper online.

Since I am not that close to books, libraries are not someplace that I am often found. For some reason, I’ve often felt a little uneasy at the library. I am not library people.

I used to work at a library. In fact, you might actually say that I lived in a library in college – I was the computer operator on for the statewide computer system that handled the bibliographic database for all of the libraries in the state. One semester I had a bit of a run-in with some roommates, and ended up sleeping in my office for a few months. But even though I worked in a library (and slept in a library), I never really became a library person.

The last time I went to the library, I was out of town, on a fishing trip, and I needed to log into the wi-fi there to get some work done. So it wasn’t my local library, but it didn’t matter. In this respect, all libraries are the same.

They give me the heebie-jeebies.

I wasn’t all that sure I knew why they creep me out, but I think I am getting a better idea. For one, a lot of library science people are kinda weird. Politically/philosophically, they’re probably pretty close to me… but a lot of them seem to be the alfalfa-sprout-and-chamomile-tea-types. Don’t get me wrong… I like my salads, and I like my tea, but, you know, there’s a limit.

Libraries are wholesome, in an “It Takes A Village” sort of way. I am not wholesome. I don’t really know all that many wholesome people. Heck, I am a bit of a pervert. Not in the creepy way, but, you know… not exactly mainstream.

And therein lies the rub: who wants to see a pervert at the library?

I had to go to the library today, to buy a bus pass for one of the kids. I had to stand in line at the circulation desk. There were moms pushing strollers and carrying Dr. Seuss books. There were kids carrying backpacks, bursting with their third grade spelling tests and social studies projects. There were women in their golden years doing their weekly volunteer work.

There’s not a chance in hell that I’ve ever met any one of them – and for good reason!

It’s not that there aren’t people of all types at the library… I know firsthand that there are some, lets say, colorful people that frequent the library. When I worked at the university library, my boss was a frequent patron of the local strip clubs. And in my late-night wanderings around the library after a glass of water or two, I discovered that more than one of the men’s rooms had glory holes. You gotta admit, it would be a little unsettling to use the stalls. Anyway, as it turns out, library people are not as pure as the driven snow. But nonetheless, there’s a certain institutional aura that libraries have… that it is OK to let your kids run free in the library (as long as they’re quiet and considerate)… But I know some of the secrets of the library, and they’re not what they appear.

So as I stood in line at the circulation desk, I imagined that every eye was on me. There was a woman across the way, and I imagined that she was thinking she’d better keep her daughter a safe distance away. I imagined that people were sizing me up… wondering if I was one of ‘them’, because, as I know from experience, ‘they’ hang out at libraries.

I got the bus pass. I hurried back into the sunshine, and got in the car, and drove into the evening traffic, and back to the America that I know and love.

The America of the garden-variety pervert.

Cross-Cultural Man-Dog Revelations

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , — Wigi @ 10:07 pm April 17, 2008

A man says to his dog, “There are some things that I understand about dogs, but it seems to me that it isn’t enough just to know the facts… For example, I know that for each human year, it is the same as seven years for a dog… but the idea of a year and the idea of a day are not the same… so I was wondering, does that mean that one human day is the same as seven dog days?”

The dog says, “Yes… that is true. One human day is the same as seven dog days.”

The man says, “Wow, that’s great to know. I feel like I understand you better. Is there anything you want to ask me?”

The dog says, “Yes, there is. Why is it you only feed me once a week?”