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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

Extra, Extra

I miss the simpler times. Phones made phone calls. Cameras took pictures. Maps showed where things were. And everyday transactions were relatively uncomplicated.

Back then, making a purchase at a store, for example, was a breezy, four-step process: select item, bring it to the cashier, pay for it, and leave. Not anymore. Now there's a battery of questions to answer. Are you a member our rewards program? Would you like to join? No? Are you sure? Are you 100% sure? Do you know you could get a discount on today's purchase by joining? How about joining our mailing list? And do you want a receipt today? Also, do you want to donate to such-and-such charity?

And then of course, there's the new check-out technology. Now, forgive me if I'm off-base here, but isn't technology supposed to make life simpler? If so, these machines are utter failures. The wait for credit card approval takes just as long as before, but now we have to stare like idiots at little screens while we wait for that approval. Because if you fail to remove your card the instant it's approved, you'll get beeped. After that, you still have to sign, but the act has become completely meaningless, since the scrawl you're able to execute using the plastic stylus is nothing like your signature. It's now become more of a quaint tradition than any sort of verification of your identity.

At this point, you're achingly close to being able to take your purchase and get on with your life. Not so fast. Depending on the store, you may be invited to go online and take a survey. You may be informed how much you saved, asked whether you'd like a punch card, or offered help getting to your car. Honestly, I don't go to stores for this amount of conversation. I can have that at home, alone, where I talk to myself constantly about the annoyance of going through an entire interview process in order to buy a kitchen sponge.

Calling a customer service line? Be prepared to help out by taking a survey on your customer service experience. You might even get quizzed directly by the customer service person who is allegedly there to help you. "Have I answered your questions satisfactorily?" "Is there anything else I can help you with today?" "On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the service I've provided?" "How tall do I sound to you?" "If I were a fish, what kind of fish would I be?" "Can I read you a screenplay I'm writing?"

And unless you're diligent about staying off mailing lists, you might also be subjected to an online survey, asking you things like how you heard about the company and how likely you are to recommend their services to others. (I might have been, if it wasn't for all the damned follow-up.) In other words, we're now being involuntarily recruited to participate in market research. Don't people usually get paid for that sort of thing?

Are you booking an airline trip? Better call your boss and take a personal day. In addition to choosing where you want to go and when you want to go there, you must also indicate whether you want flight insurance, early boarding, adequate leg room, wifi, in-flight entertainment, a fancy hat, and anything else they can think of that will tack on an up-charge. Want to join their mileage program? Get their credit card? Take a survey about the booking process? Rate your experience of rating your experience? Maybe you'd like to be informed of future opportunities to rate your experiences. Or maybe, if you're like me, you just wanted to book the damned flight and be done with it.

This kind of thing is everywhere now. You can't buy a rubber band without being put through a quiz on your feelings and a long list of optional opportunities. And The Curmudgeon has had it. I don't want to take a survey, join a rewards program, rate a product, enter a raffle, join a mailing list, or reassure insecure customer service personnel that they're doing a good job. I just want what I indicated I wanted—nothing more.

And here's where drug dealers really have it right. No chit-chat, no follow-up, no surveys, no discounts, just cash for product, and you're done. At least that's how it is on TV. Maybe that's no longer the case. Maybe by now there's a whole online survey: "How likely are you to recommend Big Tony to other addicts?"

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