Technobile: Needing therapy for retail

I've done another Technobile for The Guardian, in the Technology section today. There is a cracking pic with it which I have emailed the illustrationist to ask if he will let me put it on this post. Hopefully he'll say yes.

Actually I should do links to other technobiles I've written. Will add it to the bottom of this one.


Certain retail experiences can leave you in need of therapy – so it's best to avoid computer stores

I have a particular brand of madness – incurable, doctors say – that consists of visiting computer stores and expecting to come away with anything but an overwhelming urge to kill.

I could be after anything: a cable, printing paper, a PC card, it doesn't matter. A search online would be faster and cheaper but for reasons unknown, I decide to visit a specialist store instead.

Within seconds, it's not so much “where in the world?” as “why in the world?”. Roving imbecile staff pick on the weak and ignore everyone else. Salesmen (they're always men, or rather lads) that think “computing” consists solely of downloading ringtones. Poor stock, high prices, incomprehensible layout – and lab-rat lighting.

It used to be that computer shops were troublesome because the geeks behind the desk were determined to out-acronym you and so jot up another psychic point against their unhappy childhoods. Now the problem is the fury associated with trying to buy something.

There is one vital rule to entering such a store: never, under any circumstances, ask a question. The answer will be 30% repetition, 30% wild conjecture and 40% utter gibberish.

Do you have any Wireless-G laptop cards? Yeah, they're over there, says pizza-face, waving vaguely towards the laptops. No, they are here, where you and I are standing. Oh yeah, here you go. No, that is a Wireless-B PC card. The Wireless-G laptop cards are supposed to be here, in this empty space. That is why I asked. Oh right. No, we don't have any. Well, can you check please? They'd be there if we had any. Well, could you check? No point.

I have had the exact same experience with: an HP print cartridge No. 56 (told a 27 would work – it won't); a PC strategy game (offered a PlayStation shoot-'em-up); a printer (assured four times there was a USB cable inside – guess what?); an Ethernet cable (directed to phone cables); a Freeview box, a webcam, a universal plug adaptor, a camera tripod…

Inevitably it came to a head. Determined not to leave without an external hard disk reader, two hours, three queues and four requests for the next in the chain of command later, the head honcho honoured me with his presence. It was an acronym-charged discussion, which ended in a verbal standoff.

“You don't know what I'm talking about.” “We don't have any in stock.” “You don't know what I'm talking about.” “We don't sell this item…”

Two weeks later, I was back looking for photo printer paper. Help me. Please.

Previous Technobiles

Billy Bunter computer (5 Jan 2006)
The network from hell (16 Dec 2005)
The Society for Needed Technology (10 Nov 2005)
Software companies should write programs without holes (13 Oct 2005)
There is no such thing as a free iPod (29 Sep 2005)
Technology tussle turning us into monsters (15 Sep 2005)