Caught in a Marketing Scheme: The Jerk Store
I stopped into Walgreen's yesterday to satisfy a craving for Red Vines. I prefer Red Vines to Twizzlers because the box has little drawings that kids have submitted printed on the bottom. The children's execution is never any good, but man alive if eight-year-olds don't have the most brilliant creative concepts.
Anyway, I stepped into the checkout line behind five or six other customers and the clerk asked, "Did you see our weekly special," directing the guy who just needed AA batteries to the Diet Snapple Singles to Go Peach Tea packets sitting on the countertop. "Only $1.99 a box."
"YeahIsawitthanks," the guy was forced to respond in order to successfully get the hell out of Walgreens and back into powering up whatever electronic device had just died and ruined his day. His tromping away cleared the counter for the next lady.
"Did you see our weekly special," the clerk asked her, this time making a Vanna White-like gesture with his hands. "Only $1.99 a box."
"Oh my. No, I didn't," the woman courteously responded, encouraging the clerk to go into great detail over the steal of a deal that is powdered drink mix. I motioned as if I was blowing my brains out to whoever was watching.
I motioned as if I was blowing my brains out to whoever was watching.
This went on in various permutations through the next four customers, to the point where I actually had to ponder how many jerks it must have taken to conceive of this ridiculous scheme. When I finally arrived at the register, low and behold, I found my answer. There, attached to the point-of-purchase display, was a little handwritten sign:
IF WE DON'T MENTION OUR WEEKLY SPECIAL, IT'S YOURS FREE!
It was all the answer I needed. While there may be more jerks in play here, here's the few that I'm certain exist:
Jerk #1: Mid-Level Regional Sales Marketing Manager Guy
This is the jerk who devised of this plan, probably a former Best Buy employee familiar with selling Warranty Protection Plans at the checkout counter. What he failed to consider in his brilliant equation, however, was the fact that those annoying warranty protection plans are a goldmine for Best Buy, whereas drink mix, well... not so much. Semi-annoying sales pitch at Best Buy = $50+. Super-annoying sales pitch at Walgreens = 50¢. You do the math.
Jerk #2: Overzealous Checkout Dude
This is the jerk who actually asks every person in line if they want powdered drink mix, never minding the fact that we were all so obviously within earshot when the first person was asked. Even though he's a jerk, too, I can't really blame Overzealous Checkout Dude. We all know that if he doesn't ask and somebody gets a free Snapple out of him, he is most definitely getting a frowny face sticker next to his name on the board in the break room.
We all know that if he doesn't ask and somebody gets a free Snapple out of him, he is most definitely getting a frowny face sticker next to his name on the board in the break room.
There was a nice checkout girl in the line next to ours who wasn't propositioning every single person in line, because it was obvious she found the whole situation idiotic. I'm certain she'll be fired soon, probably for her Snapple demerits alone, and move on to being a lawyer or doctor or something.
Jerk #3: You, The Customer, Who Makes This All Possible
Most of us don't really want powdered drink mix downtown in the middle of the day. But they tempt us and taunt us with that silly sign, and we find ourselves hoping they forget to ask:
"C'mon... don't ask... don't ask... don't ask... don't ask... WHOOPEE! FREE DRINK MIX!"
I know this is how it works, because if it didn't, Overzealous Checkout Dude would not subject himself to the torture. He would simply stop asking and no one would know the difference. But sadly, somewhere out there, lurking in the streets and shopping malls of America, there are customers who actually demand their free junk. Though they have absolutely no need for it, these special people simply don't have the mechanism in their brain that says, "Whoa, stop. Shut up. Do not make the checkout person feel like dirt this afternoon."
It's rough out there. But then again, it's America. In a land filled with advertisers, consumers, marketeers, and money makers, does it really matter what we need? We just want to win.