On August 17, 2014, I found myself in the Saddle Brook Walmart in New Jersey, looking for a laptop. It was a Sunday, which is significant because they have something called "Blue Laws." That means stores are either closed, or are restricted in what they sell.
I learned that I could buy a computer or a router, but could not buy a television. The thinking is supposed to be that one is a necessity, the other a luxury. A team of people are privileged to make such distinctions.
So let's consider this for a moment. Where do folks get their late-breaking news? The young, the privileged, and the educated get their news from a computer.The aging, and the povery-stricken, on the other hand, get their news from the television.
According to the Blue Laws, a twenty-two year old can buy a replacement computer so his gaming doesn't get interrupted. But a senior citizen cannot buy the television that will tell him of impending storms and where to seek shelter.
I remember one time, I tried to buy drinking straws on a Sunday. The purchase was not allowed. As a member of the disability community, I remember thinking of the home-bound disabled people and aging folks who can only drink through straws.
Perhaps one man's luxury is another man's necessity. Such power has been given to those deciders.
I just got home from Walmart with a decent laptop. Read my adventure play-by-play for a laugh.
- Left at 7 a.m. for the Walmart store in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. I sometimes hit Walmart for good deals on mid-range laptops. Usually the one I buy is one of their high ends. They don't seem to go beyond $600.
- Arrived at 7:30. For some reason, parts of the store were closed off with plastic fences and, curiously, signs saying "closed off for your safety." The electronics department was fenced from one end of the store almost to the other. I found a way around and discovered it is not closed.
- I perused the laptops and found a pretty good deal. It was an Acer Aspire 15.6" E1-572-6497 Laptop PC with Intel Core i5-4200U Processor. The sales associate answered a few questions, then I set out to research this E1 laptop on my phone. He didn't tell me the laptops on display had internet access. I only found out because I thought to try.
- Once my mind was made up, I went looking for the sales associate, who was nowhere to be found, so I found a different one who spoke Spanish. She pointed to the laptops so I tried agian to explain I need a person, not a laptop. Then she went off looking fo rhim.
- Ten minutes later, he showed up, looked through the locked cages for a few minutes, then said he needed to go get the key.
- Ten minutes later, he came back with the key. It took another 25 minutes to check all the cages and determine that he didn't have any. Then he left to check in the back.
- Ten minutes later, I asked him to call the Garfield store.
- After another ten minutes, the Garfield store never got as far as putting a sales associate on. We were still talking to the main desk, where they were "checking to see if we can sell a laptop on Sunday" (they have blue laws.) The Saddle Brook guy knew they could because his store has the blue laws, too, but they insisted on checking, too, and then never came back.
- He hung up from Garfield and I asked him to call the Suffern store, which was completely in the opposite direction from my home. The Saddle Brook guy kept asking me to repeat the model number, so I finally swiped his pen and wrote it down for him.
- The Suffern store told him "Yes we have a couple of them."
- When he then tried to ask them to set one aside, he got disconnected.
- I left him with my phone number, and asked him to call them back while I was headed over to Suffern.
- I drove a half hour to Suffern, where I found a sales associate. He told me he new nothing of the phone call.
- Then he started looking. I found a second associate so that one could look in the locked cages out on the floor, and the other one could look in the back. This took about 25 minutes.
- They both told me they don't have the model.
- I found a manager, and asked why someone on the phone an hour earlier told me they had a few in stock, and now his two associates were saying there were none. He had no answer, but one of the sales associates had an answer -- "because that was probably the night guy."
- One of the associates produced a similar model, An Acer Aspire 15.6" E5-571-563B Laptop PC with Intel Core i5-4210U Processor for the same price.
- I asked him to show me which device on display had an internet connection so I could look up the specs of this similar model. He said none of them.
- So I started trying to do lookup on my phone while the associate stood there. After 15 minutes of weak network and dropped connection, the sales associate casually mentioned that you can only get a connection outside the building.
- So I asked if there was a pc somewhere in the store where I could look up the specs, and he directed me to the front desk.
- So I asked for the manager again, and got a different one, and requested the specs. He explained that wasn't necessary because the two items are "cross-referenced" and therefore identical. I said, "That's great. Show me the specs." It was obvious from the processor number alone that it is not an identical laptop.
- He said, "Sure, we'll just open up the box for you." I said, "great." Then he said, "Oh wait a minute. We can't do that. If the box is open we can't sell it to you." Then he went silent.
- So I asked again for the specs. By now, it was getting hard to contain my frustration. This time, he asked the sales associate to take me over to a desk, just yards away, that is set up specifically to look up information on the web. On our way over, I heard the manager repeat that the two items are the same, so I turned around and said that I will believe him after I see the specs.
- Now, standing at this little kiosk, he looked up the E5, and pointed to the very basic specs on the screen. I had to talk the associate through getting a printout of the E5, and then had to talk him through getting a comparative printout of the E1. While waiting for the printouts, he explained that the E5 is likely better. I pointed out that the manager said they were the same, and asked the associate who was right. He had nothing to say.
- Then I sat down on a bench to compare the specs side by side. I saw that the E5 is indeed better -- in most ways. The drawback is that it is a half pound heavier. I decided to buy this one.
- I went back to the second manager and suggested that they should not tell customers something that isn't true--that his claim they were the same laptop was entirely false. He got defensive, and tried to explain to me that it's the fault of that little hand-held device they use for lookup which only said they were cross-referenced. He clearly failed to see the problem and offered no promise of improvemnt.
- I also explained to the manager that I had asked the sales associate for a place to look up the specs, and he had offered none, and that if I hadn't insisted and asked for the manager, I would not have been able to buy the merchandise. For this he offered future improvement.
- Then, for my troubles, I asked for a gift card. He acted shocked, and said I got my laptop.
- Then the sales associate and I went to the register in the electronics department to ring up the purchase, and the computer wasn't working.
- So we had to go to the photo department to ring it up.
- I arrived home at noon. Five hours for an hour and a half event, including the driving. But hey, it was only 500 bucks.