Archive for April, 2011

An Open Letter To CVS

April 24th, 2011

Dear CVS,

I hate your stores so, so much. This bitter hatred is not the result of one bad experience on a Sunday afternoon. This hate is the result of hundreds upon hundreds of bad experiences throughout my entire life. I try to live with one simple credo: “Can we not go to CVS?” As a result, every single day I do not go to CVS is an unqualified success, and yet: I will still occasionally find myself at a CVS.

Your garbage stores sicken the spirit as they weaken the soul. They are jam-packed full to the top of the absolute worst low-quality crap merchandise our world has to offer. Your employees come to work to engage in one specific activity all day long: shirking register duty. When they are not shirking register duty, they are running in the back for register tape.

I will not sign up for your incredibly annoying ExtraCare card, no matter how much you wish to sell my personal information to your off-brand Vietnamese DVD player-making business partners. It does not matter if you mark a candy bar up to $1.25 if I don’t use the ‘savings card’; I’ll take the hit, just so you don’t get the pleasure of selling my mailing address and Dorito preference to the Raytheon corporation.

Let me ask you this: Why does it take up to and including 35 minutes to check-out of a CVS? What secrets of the retail check-out have your competitors mastered that remain so utterly mysterious to you? It certainly does not help that your customers have to self-organize into their own queue lines up front, jockeying for position among a throng of other simmering pools of resentment. We are forced to gaze mindlessly upon the broken film development stations, the mp3 playing keychains, the diet soda coolers, Nicorette gum displays, and piles of US Weekly magazines until we catch the attention of one of the glassy-eyed register workers — I’m sure if you felt you could get away with dangling lip baum canisters from the ceiling on strings, you’d try it. We shift uncomfortably as we consider the pros and cons of self-medicating our current situation with a Butterfinger bar.

There is invariably a pause as the register workers try to determine who will be unlucky enough to man the additional registers, and who will get to hide in the supply closet pretending to find register tape. Eventually, the choice is made and the call goes out: “I can take you over here,” and the herd shifts over. But somehow, the situation does not improve; the throng self-organizes into a line that is exactly as long as before.

And our beautiful precious moments drip by, one after another, as we stand in line and hate your horrible fucking stores.

Consider this: someday, some company will come after you. They will be the brightly-lit halogen Target to your dim, flickering Kmart fluorescence. Don’t get me wrong: they will be just as horrible, in a way, but they will somehow hide it better and they will manage to serve their customers without making them feel quite as abused. On that day, you will no longer be able to open additional sad, miserable trash heap stores. You will have to make do with the sad, miserable trash heap stores you have already opened. How will you compete? Will you improve the customer experience, or will you try to wring more money out of your quickly dwindling customer base? Wouldn’t it be smarter to, right now, give your employees the extra roll of register tape they so desperately need?

Just kidding — I don’t care. Nobody cares. You guys are the worst. Please go out of business as soon as possible, so we can watch your stores devolve into the desiccated hobo poop depositories they absolutely deserve to become.

QR codes are silly

April 19th, 2011

So QR codes are being heralded as the way for the print medium to reroute readers to more interactive and compelling Internet content. Questions:

  1. When has any medium ever successfully rerouted audience immediately to another medium? Think TV to radio, Internet to TV, movies to books, etc. It doesn’t happen. If your audience is currently engaged in a medium, it takes a large, large promise of payoff to entice an audience member to switch to another medium; and since by definition, the audience doesn’t know what lies on the other side of that QR code, it’s an unlikely mode switch at best. Once marketers start abusing QR codes, it will only get harder to entice people to give QR codes a shot.
  2. As of Apr. 2011, why doesn’t any smartphone OS ship with a QR reader? Too geeky, perhaps? Too hard to explain to Mom and Dad? Any technology that is physically ugly tends to be marginalized. And QR codes are seriously ugly.
  3. The most important physical object that might genuinely benefit from a QR code already has a scannable code on it: a UPC code. This code already works well as a scannable artifact in all kinds of existing apps today without any additional manufacturer effort. Why would a manufacturer put a QR code on as well?

QR codes are a technology looking for a purpose. They are the print industry equivalent of RSS feeds; appealing to a small number of geeks, but not useful (or explainable) enough to gain acceptance in a mass market. As the very astute Sebastiaan de With has said, QR Codes are a bad solution to make our world more understandable to devices. We should make our devices smarter, not make reality dumber.