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"DVD Clubs and Clubbing" by Troy H. Cheek on Feb 20, 2005
The phone rang for what seemed like an hour. Finally, someone answered. "Information. How may I help you?"
"Hello," I said in my least sarcastic voice, which sounds a lot like my most sarcastic voice, which sounds a lot like my regular speaking voice. "I need you to look up a phone number for me."
"Sir," she said stiffly. "That number is in your directory."
"How do you know it's in my directory? I haven't even told you whose number I want you to look up!"
"Sir, if I have the listing here, then you have the listing there. I don't have access to any information that you don't."
I sighed and tightened my grip on the phone. "I don't have the phone book handy. Even if I did, the business I'm wanting to call just moved to a new location and might not have the same phone number as it did when the phone book was published."
"Sir, why wouldn't the business keep the same phone number?"
"Because the phone company might not let them."
"Sir, why wouldn't we let them do that?"
I noticed my knuckles were turning white and tranferred the phone to my other hand. "I don't know. I just know that when my parents moved into my grandfather's old house, which incidentally was the next house down the road and less than a hundred yards away, they were told that they couldn't keep their old phone number because they were in a new service area and during the twelve minutes while the phone service was being switched over to the new service area someone else was assigned to their old number."
"Sir, that's not possible," she said, but I was too impressed with myself for saying such a long and grammatically correct sentence in one breath to notice.
"Will you please look up my number for me now?"
There was a pause. I'm sure she was checking the chart to see if she had delayed me the minimum number of minutes required by phone company policy. "Sir, what is the name the listing would be under?"
"Now we're getting down to business. I need the listing for Bubba's Discount Car Insurance and Barbeque Pit."
"Sir, home of the All-You-Can-Eat-Pig's-Knuckles Breakfast Buffet, with the free Bag-o'-Pig-Parts?"
My stomach started growling just from the thought. "The same."
She rattled off the number, I jotted it down, and was dialing before the echo faded. Once I get up the gumption to start dealing with people over the phone, I have to work quickly before it runs out.
"Thank you for calling Bubba's Discount Car Insurance and Barbeque Pit, home of the All-You-Can-Eat-Pig's-Knuckles Breakfast Buffet. Can I interest you in a free Bag-o'-Pig-Parts?"
"Not today, thanks," I answered. "Actually, I need to talk to someone about my DVD club membership."
"I'm sorry, sir," she replied, not sounding the least bit so. "That's a totally different and completely unrelated company. I'm afraid that I can't help you."
Well, that's not right. "Even though I signed up there? Even though I got a free membership for renewing my truck insurance there? Even though I had to climb over the DVD racks to get to the service desk the last time I paid my premium?"
"I see," I said, stalling for time. "Okay, would you just happen to have laying around somewhere nearby the phone number for this totally different and completely unrelated company that just so happens to share your mailing address?"
"Yes, sir," she answered promptly and rattled off the number.
I dialed again. My fingers were starting to cramp.
"Thank you for calling Bubba's Discount DVD Barn and Barbeque Pit, home of the All-You-Can-Eat-Pig's-Knuckles Breakfast Buffet. Can I interest you in a free Bag-o'-Pig-Parts?"
"Not today, thanks," I answered. "I need to talk to someone about my DVD-o'-the-month club membership. And aren't you the same girl I spoke to just a few seconds ago?"
"Sir, I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about. What's your membership number and I'll pull you up on the computer?"
I've been to the office. 'Pulling you up on the computer' means digging through file folders on the desk until they find yours. I rattled off my membership number anyway.
A rattle of papers indicated that the computer had finished searching. "I have your file here now, sir. What's the problem?"
"There have been a few errors in my deliveries lately. I pre-ordered the deluxe edition of 'Bored with the Thing' last month. When it arrived last week, it was the standard edition."
"Sir, our records show that you pre-ordered the standard edition."
I held the latest catalog in front of me. "I'm holding the latest catalog in front of me," I told her, as she couldn't read the narrative part. "There's a two-page fold-out write-up on 'Bored of the Thing' explaining all the benefits of pre-ordering the deluxe edition instead of just buying the standard edition which is already out. At the bottom is an order number."
"Yes, sir. That's the pre-order number for the standard edition."
"Why, pray tell, is the pre-order number for the standard edition on the page advertising the pre-order of the deluxe edition?"
She sounded mildly miffed. "Sir, the deluxe edition is not yet available for pre-order. As a special service for our customers, we provided the pre-order number for the standard edition in case they didn't want to wait for the deluxe edition. Some people are in a big hurry to see the movie, you see."
"No, I don't see. The standard edition has already been out for months. How can buying it now be considered a pre-order?"
"Oh, Bubba overestimated the number of people who would be ordering them, so we still have a couple crates full out back from when we pre- ordered our first order of them. All sales will be pre-orders until we clean those out."
I felt the beginnings of a headache form. It was not an unfamiliar sensation. "Okay, we'll table that discussion for now. Let's talk instead about my previous order for the Catman 3000 movie."
Rattle rattle. "Yes, sir. I have it here. What's the problem?"
"This isn't 'Catman 3000 The Movie: Return of the Canary' like I ordered last month. Instead, it's 'Catman 3000 The Series' that I already ordered from you last year."
"I think you're mistaken, sir."
I held the latest catalog in front of me again. "I'm holding the latest catalog in front of me again," I told her, as she still couldn't read the narrative part. "In the New Releases section there's a write-up on 'Catman 3000 The Movie' saying that it's the long-awaited DVD version of the spectacular video. At the bottom is an order number."
"Now, it doesn't actually say that its 'Return of the Canary' but as that's the only Catman 3000 movie ever actually released, I can't see how you could be referring to anything else."
"Well, sir, you see, 'Catman 3000 The Series' contains the original two-part pilot episode and three random episodes from the first season. That adds up to nearly two hours of non-stop video which qualifies it as a movie."
Head... Pounding... "Even if that is so, why is it listed in the New Releases section when I've had it for over a year?"
"Sir, as a special service to our customers, all DVDs are considered New Releases until we've been carrying them for two years, regardless of their actual release date. During that time, we will regularly re-list them with updated product descriptions. This is a special service for customers who might have missed the DVD during an earlier listing get another chance to order it."
What does a stroke feel like? "Okay, that explains that. I suppose there's a reason why the product numbers were different?"
"Sir, as a special service to our customers, we routinely re-collate our databases to make sure they are up to date. As a result, new product numbers are assigned to old products."
I choked back a few well-chosen words. "Okay, skip that. I was noticing on my last bill that I needed to buy eight more DVDs to satisfy the terms of my membership agreement."
"Sir, that matches what I see here."
"When I signed up, it was four more DVDs. And I've bought about twenty DVDs in the last year alone. What's the deal?"
"Sir, you were required to buy four more DVDs in the next four years. When you had not bought any in the first year, the computer decided that you were falling behind and needed additional motivation. As a special service to our customers, the requirement was doubled."
Knowing that 'the computer decided' meant 'Bubba decided' I decided to skip it. "But what about the twenty DVDs I've bought since?"
"Sir, the requirement is that you buy eight DVDs at regular club prices and not as part of any special offer or deal. During the past year, most of your purchases have been at the reduced prices offered in our weekly catalogs."
I held the latest catalog in front of me yet again. "I'm holding the latest catalog in front of me yet again," I told her, as she *still* couldn't read the narrative part. "Nowhere does it say which DVDs are at reduced prices and which are regular prices."
"Sir, if it's in the weekly catalog, then it is at a reduced price. As a special service to our customers, all catalog purchases are listed at a reduced price, in some cases as much as ten cents."
"Okay, but what about the purchases I made at the store? That buy one get three free thing?"
"Sir, those were part of a special offer or deal."
"Well, yeah, I got three free so they don't count, but I paid full price for the first one."
"Sir, the first one was still a part of the special offer or deal."
"And the ones that I just let you send me automatically every month as a the club's default selection?"
"Sir, you get free shipping on those. That makes them part of a special offer or deal."
I decided I had this figured out. "Okay, so the only way I can satisfy my membership requirements is to come down to the store, rifle through the inventory, find the few which are selling at full price, and probably buy them only one at a time so as not to qualify for any sort of volume discount?"
"Sir, you don't have to take that tone. It's very simple and all provided as a special service to our customers."
"I think I'll just cancel my account. How do I do that?"
"Sir, to cancel you would have to satisfy your member agreement. If you wish to cancel before actually purchase eight DVDs, we would still have to bill you for eight DVDs. Assuming an average cost of $29.99, that comes to $312.83 not counting tax."
"Wait a minute! $30 times eight comes to $240!"
"Sir, you forgot shipping and handling charges."
"There's no shipping and handlings charges. I'm not actually buying anything. You're not actually shipping me anything! It's just a fee to get you out of my hair! That's the whole point!"
"Sir, federal law requires that we charge shipping and handling for all purchases, regardless of whether something is actually shipped or not. That is the only way we are allowed to handle out-of-state business without charging sales tax."
"First of all, I'm just down the road from you. We're in the same state. Heck, you're a local call. Secondly, didn't you just say that the total didn't include sales tax, meaning you were planning to charge me with sales tax?"
"Sir, the sales tax is added automatically by the register. This prevents accidentally not including the sales tax. This is a special service for our customers."
I stood and stretched the kinks out of my back. "Okay, thank you for your help. One more thing, though. Can you give me the phone number for Bubba's Discount Army Surplus and Barbeque Pit? I need to check on that WWII machine gun I pre-ordered last week."
I think I'm going to need it.
Copyright 2005 by Troy H. Cheek. Reprint with prior written permission only. Comments and questions to
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|This page last updated on Feb 20, 2005 by Troy H. Cheek|