Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Really, I don't know why I bother.

Let's face it. The days of buying electronics at a store are long gone. And I should have realized that, but sometimes I guess I'm just too stubborn.

We're headed on a family vacation soon. It's gonna be long car ride. Luckily, we've got gadgets. In fact, we've got gadget overload. Aside from the obligatory portable DVD players, our collection of Apple mobile devices has grown to a point where if I hear one peep out of the little pipsqueaks in the back row between the time we leave and the time we get to our destination I'm gonna go all Clark Griswold at Wallyworld on them.

So of course, having this many gadgets means improving our ability to charge them in the car. Scosche makes a charger with two USB ports and is designed to charge both iPods and iPads (which take more juice), and I decided it was high time to pick one up. Rather than buy one from Amazon and hope it arrives in time for our trip, I decided to go the instant gratification route and stop in Best Buy.

Now, visiting Best Buy is something I try never to do. All the sterotypes of the big box store hold true there. Employees who know nothing more than what's on the card in front of the item, limited and overpriced selections, and a store layout that begs for people to leave with the sudden urge to take a shower. Nonetheless, I knew that Best Buy sells the item, because it said so on their website. So I stopped in.

Last November, Best Buy attempted to boldly redesign their stores,turning the interior into "mini learning stations that demonstrate how devices can interact with one another wirelessly" I found the inside of the store confusing, poorly lit, and utterly unfriendly. Despite that, I wandered around a bit until I found a rack of car chargers, though the one I was looking for was not there.

A blue-shirted woman with a secret service earpiece in her ear and a clipboard in her hand came walking toward me and asked if she could be of service. I told her I was looking for a car charger that supports iPads. "

Well, these support iPods," she said.

"Yes, I see that. But none of these are approved to properly charge an iPad. I need one that provides 2.1 amps".

Okay, just to be clear here, I'm no electrical engineer. But read any Apple product page or iPad charger page on the web, and you will soon know that the iPad requires a 2.1 amp charge. Really, it doesn't take much to find this out. However, my response completely stumped my personal blue-shirt, and she took me in search of the iPads themselves, thinking perhaps the charger I needed would be tucked in next to them. Once we made it to the iPad section (at the other end of the store from the iPods), she spent a good long moment staring at a rack of Apple-branded iPad Smart Covers before she realized this was not the charger rack.

I told her, "Tell you what. Let's bring up the Best Buy website and I can show you exactly the thing I need." I started to pull out my iphone but then suggested it might be faster to do this on a store computer. She agreed, but unfortunately for her by the time she got logged into the computer I'd already had it up on the phone. Of course she happily took the SKU number from what I showed her and entered it into the store inventory system, only to learn it would have to be shipped from the warehouse. She told me it would take two days, I told her fine, and she began to enter the order. On the final screen, after entering my credit card number, it informed us the item was "unavailable". Well, that was a complete waste of time.

Since I was standing next to the camera section, I decided to kill a couple more minutes and check out the digital cameras for no good reason. When I quite literally just placed a finger on a Canon EOS and set off the security alarms, I decided I needed to get out of this godforsaken store as soon as possible. As I walked out, the "greeter" whose job it is to stand at the front door and check people's receipts, held his Secret Service mic to his mouth and said, "will someone please take care of that alarm?"

Now, I found it especially amusing that the guy (me) who set off the alarm in the camera section was able to turn and walk right out of the store without so much as a second glance by the greeter. However he was right on top of getting that annoying alarm turned off. Impressive store security.

When I got home, I logged onto Amazon and put in my order for the car charger. Even paying extra for quick shipping, it still was cheaper than for what Best Buy's website had it listed. Never again.