Bing Blog

Yes, I've found everything I !#@!$ wanted!

Airport Gift Shop

China is growing triple digits as we politely chug along toward greater mediocrity. Sarah Palin is topping the charts.  Winter is coming in. My 401(k) is still under water. War in the east is widening. Bonuses will hit record highs on Wall Street this year. Do all these things bother me? Sure they do. But not as much as the guys who run the stores at the airport.

I don't like to think of myself as a peevish person. But I do have peeves.  And my peeves define me.

You go to the airport store. There's at least one in every terminal. They have every stupid magazine in the world, so you look at them for a while. Brad is turning to Jen because of Angelina. Kate is courageously putting her life back together after Jon screwed it up, or vice versa. Rob Pattinson... something. There's medicine and some books and gum, lots of gum, very expensive gum, and stuffed animals and shot glasses and tee-shirts celebrating Burbank or St. Louis (the Gateway to America!) and lousy headphones and all that stuff like that there. And eventually you come up with something you didn't really need, two magazines, some mints, a little ferret that rolls over and over on the ground when you turn it on, an oinking pig that changes direction when it bumps into a wall... and then you go to the checkout... and the person behind the counter says, "Did you find everything you wanted?" Which is fine. You could interpret it as a caring question. Like, they're really worried that I might not have found that copy of Digital Coin Collector I was looking for. So I say "Yes, thanks." And that's when it happens.

"Water?" says the lady. "Some candy?"

Okay, I don't know why this rubs me the wrong way so badly. But after years of traveling, during which this scenario developed and took shape and heft and national proportions, I've gotten really sick of it. Perhaps you can help me with it. It doesn't seem so egregious, looking at it on the screen here. "Batteries?"

For a while, my tactic was simply to stare at the cashier with a bored expression and say nothing. Not no. Not yes. Just... nothing. As I would any comment not worthy of reply. They don't get it, though. "Some magazines?" they will inquire if all I got was Tic Tacs. "Some Tic Tacs?" they will say when all I got was a magazine.

Lately, I've tried a small push-back, just to keep myself sane. "No thanks," I'll reply. "Why? Would YOU like some candy?"  Doesn't stop them. Nothing does. They are indefatigable.

One time, at LAX, after paying $28.50 for a bunch of swill I didn't really need (a copy of Car & Driver, a paperback I'd never read, a bottle of Coke Zero, some arcane gum whose packaging interested me), I got really peeved when the cashier asked me if I wanted a sports drink too. "Why do you guys all do this?" I asked the lady, perhaps a bit too sharply. She looked at me, very crestfallen, as if I had called attention to a physical defect over which she had no control. "We are required to," was all she said. Afterwards, I felt bad. Why am I ragging on this poor employee who is only carrying out the instructions of her master?

Something too close to home, maybe, huh.

23 Comments Add Comment

I can understand what you are talking about. My sister-in-law works in a Christian bookstore and they are required to ask a series of questions of every person who makes a purchase, including asking if they want to sponsor a poor child in a third-world country. It takes 3 times as long to check out and the people standing in the long check out lines get very upset. I won't shop there because of this policy.

My favorite thing is to go into the airport shops and spend lots of time and then I don't buy anything. But I never pass by a Cinnabon store without buying a cinnamon roll. It's not fair that airports have a monopoly on those.


It's not just you, and it's not just at airports.

A while back my wife and I were in a Cracker Barrel waiting for our table, so we wandered through their store to kill the time. My wife picked up the end of a quilt and was looking at it. The saleslady came by, pulled the quilt from my wife's hands, and started her spiel. My wife turned and walked away in disgust, which probably prevented her arrest for assaulting the clerk.

Clothing stores are just as bad. "Do you need help finding anything?" Arrrrrrgh!! If we need help we'll ask for it. Then they stalk you around the store and pick up everything you touch and talk about it.

This reinforces the appeal of shopping online. Too bad we can't travel online and avoid those airport stores.

"Why am I ragging on this poor employee who is only carrying out the instructions of her master?"

That's exactly it. This unpleasant tedium is imposed on both customer and store employee, not by reasonable employers, but delusional 'masters' who are the ones meriting a royal ragging.

Where is the employee Bill of Rights that would prevent a master from coercing a humble cashier to parrot nagging sales pitches in order to hold down her job?

The objective here is really to find a way deftly to return annoyance to the masters. But we need a strategy.

Come on, Stanley, you've never been short of ideas. You've never let us down yet. How can we get together and, without injury to mere clerks, pester the bejeebers out of these nickel-and-dime 'masters?'

Great last line, Bing.

Pretty standard attempt to "upsell" the customer... It's getting way too pervasive nowaday's.

Perhaps you should try flying thru the airport at the socialist republic of Portland. Gum is outlawed (no kidding!) and all stores are required to price things no higher than they do at their stores outside the airport. No doubt because of this lack of profit potential, no one tries to hard to sell you anything.

I merely respond by saying, "why, no! I am looking for hundred dollar bills. Do you have any available?"

This generally rattles much better than expressing frustration.

So I'm getting that this bothers people other than me?

The simple solution? Go on Google and translate "I don't understand you" into Estonian ("Ma ei mõista teid"). Practice saying this in as fruity an accent as you can manage. (An abysmal accent is an advantage here, just in case the clerk actually does speak Estonian!)

Every time the clerk restarts their spiel interrupt with "Ma ei mõista teid". (The 'broken record' strategy can be very effective, especially against mindless functionaries.)

While this routine may not punish the clerk's evil masters, it does have the potential for broad comedy!

Over serviced a common problem.

They ask me to enjoy my meal, I usually answer I was going to, but
I came here instead.

How is everything? My answer, My lawyer would like the correct spelling for the name of the cook.

The offers to purchase 'extended warrantees' (for almost anything they're a waste of money....and it's amazing what they offer those things for) always frost my ass, but I've made a habit of just saying 'no, but I know you have to ask'.

Radio Shack has always been legendary for pushing product at checkout....and they were one of the last outfits to use 'point of sale' software...they'd spend 5 minutes filling out a paper receipt, and verifying your address....for a $2 battery sale.

What's worse is a clerk circling a website on the receipt that you're supposed to go fill out an evaluation of the clerk's service...with a chance at winning a stupid discount or something. Most likely it's so they can sell a 'live' email address to other marketers.

But you know marketers...the scourge of the earth. Anything for a buck.

Present company excepted of're one of the 'good ones'.

I always pay in real cash, "Sir we need your zipcode for our records" NO YOU DONT! Then "may we have your phone number?" NO!!! Once:"Sir we prefer you not pay cash, do you have a credit card? NO!!!! "oh then do you want to sign up for our store card?" and "do want to buy a warranty for this?" Airport in Bangalore, the clerks just don't care and why should they, they only get paid $60 a month total.

The owners of these stores have decided (by lack of thinking or pure evil) "customer experience" = suck the money out of their wallets because they'll never pass this way again. You've exposed them Bing - their jig is up!

Here's the's not that they ask that is irritating. It's that they're following a script. If these folks were meeting one of your needs, you'd feel different. People don't like scripted robots - and even the people doing it probably hate it being a job requirement.

John Q. Public, where is your compassion for the young and, or inexperienced people who have not yet learned "empathy"?

We come back to square one: The glass of empathy is half full, half empty, or just plain empty; hardly overflowing.

"Tis the season to be jolly", sprinkle a little bit of that glithcy "Pixie Dust" around the book store. Save the "Bah Humbug" for paying the bills in January.

"No, Ma'am, I don't want a bottle of Coke Zero. But could I please have an extended warranty on these Tic Tacs?"

not just the airports, it's every retail establishment. we s/b happy we do not have one of these jobs.

Would you like a beef jerky with your copy of Hustler, sir?

I try to be nice to cashiers for the same reason that I overtip waiters and cabbies: they're just trying to make a buck, just like the rest of us.

Bellhops at hotels are a different matter. They always seem to be trying to extort $5 or $10 per bag for their inconvenient services, so I never relinquish my bags.

How about dental assistants selling you flouride rinse at about an 800% mark up?

I always love trying to answer questions while sharp dental instruments are at work in my mouth. Don't we all?

If you own a dog, my vet's people never fail to ask me if I need more outrageously priced heartworm protection for man's best friend.

I've already contributed enough to my vet's lifestyle. My payments have also helped build what I alternately refer to as the Puppy Palace or the Tajmuthal.



While the pressure is pretty annoying, it takes me back to about three years ago, when I could not get help at stores at all. I tried to spend my money, and nobody would answer my questions. That annoyed me a lot, and sent me on-line for most items.

I try to go easy on the clerks. Whey they ask me to contribute, I tell them how many people I'm already supporting. Do I need batteries? "Probably, but I'll wait." Questionnaire? "Sorry, not this time." Combine this with body language that says "I'm leaving" and they usually understand.

If they don't understand, I shop somewhere else.