I Don't Want Another Leaf Blower Or Your Cat
I have a problem, I’ll admit it. When I see someone doing something that I feel is dumb or irritating— hell, it can even just be inefficient— I don’t want them to just stop doing it, I want them to understand why they should stop doing it. I want them to all but admit what they are doing is dumb, irritating, or inefficient, and then, yes, I also want them to stop doing it. But only after I’ve explained it to them, they’ve seen the error of their ways, and they fully understand why they shouldn’t do it anymore.
Sometimes this isn’t possible, because sometimes it’s not even a person that’s irritating me, but an algorithm. But who wrote that algorithm? A person. And that person should be aware that it needs some work, right?
I bought a leaf blower online. One single leaf blower, mind you, and I think it forever changed my online experience. Within days, I could barely pick up my phone or sign on to my laptop without someone trying to sell me a leaf blower. Ads for leaf blowers started assaulting my eyeballs everywhere I turned. Leaf blowers, leaf blowers, leaf blowers! I was suddenly drowning in a sea of leaf blowers.
Just to be clear, I understand how targeted ad campaigns work (perhaps better than most, since we own a NURSERY AND GARDEN CENTER and regularly advertise online for our family business), so no one needs to explain it to me. It helps us spend our advertising dollars more prudently and reach only the people that are more likely to be interested in our product. For example, it doesn’t make sense for us to devote too many of our resources advertising to young children. When is the last time you met a child who was looking to buy a large shade tree?
Obviously, from this side of things, I tend to love the information tracking technologies that allow us to do this. Hand to God, I usually even enjoy it in my own life, too! Say what you will about privacy concerns, but who doesn’t like being shown only curated things that they are more likely to be interested in? It’s the reason I’m not constantly bombarded with ads for maternity clothing. That would blow even harder than the leaf machines. So please understand, targeted ads are not what I have a problem with.
My problem is when the targeting goes awry; because listen up, all you leaf blower retailers and manufacturers out there, how many leaf blowers does one person usually need?
It’s one. The answer is only one.
What am I going to do with more?
Did you all imagine that perhaps I’d like to have multiple leaf blowers, maybe one for each hand? That way I could go around my yard more efficiently, like some kind of maniacal leaf-blowing cyborg? Edward Blow-Hands? That sounds dumb and crazy, so maybe the idea is that I could buy one leaf blower for each of my kids, and we could all blow the leaves together as a family? Like the Partridges, just with leaf blowing instead of musical instruments? But that doesn’t make sense either, because I have no kids, and the algorithm should know this, if it was working correctly.
A leaf blower is a one-and-done kind of purchase, and I always feel obligated to let the advertisers know when something has gone awry, let them know when they are barking up the wrong tree. But how do you do this? Especially now that the wrong tree is me, and that tree is getting very irritated. I don’t want to live in Leaf Blower World anymore, for the love of God, Internet, show me something else!
The only thing more irritating than the online version of this—being harassed to buy something that you’ve already bought— is when it happens in person. You probably didn’t even think this was possible, but since I just used the word HARASSED, those of you who know me are probably already guessing what it is I’m going to talk about here, and that it’s going to involve Egypt.
And you would be correct.
In Egypt, the street vendors take harassment to a new level, a misguided, feverish pitch the likes of which I have never experienced before or since. I go into this in excruciating detail HERE. The Egyptian street vendors will run after you in hoards, shoving things in your face that they think you might want to buy. This is madding enough, in and of itself. You are constantly, relentlessly, under attack. However, the most maddening part, and the thing I so desperately wanted to explain to them, is that they all seem to be operating on one very erroneous principal: They all want to show you examples of things you’ve already purchased.
Here’s how it happens: Let’s say that in a moment of weakness, you get harassed and cajoled into buying a black marble statue of an Egyptian cat. You’ve finished haggling, you finally got out your wallet, and now you own this cat. In an attempt to escape before the harassment starts back up again, you didn’t allow them to wrap it, so now you are walking down the street, holding this cat.
Everyone can plainly see that you have a cat.
What’s going through your head is perhaps a bit of buyer’s remorse, as you start to examine the cat and see how cheaply it’s been mass produced (it isn’t real marble at all!) and you start thinking logistically about how the hell you’re going to fit in your suitcase. But the street vendors don’t know any of this is happening inside your head, all the street vendors see is you holding a cat.
“This man clearly loves small Egyptian cat statues!” they all must think in unison, and before you know it, you are walking down the street surrounded by vendors holding cats. Immediately following your initial purchase, and quicker than you could blink an eye, they all ran back to their stalls and grabbed their own identical cat statues.
So now, not only are you holding one cat that you probably don’t even really want, suddenly you are walking down the street in a parade of cats, with dozens of vendors trailing behind you, alternately shoving their identical cats in your face.
“You like cat? I have cat for you!”
“Look here, I have better cat!”
“I see you bought cat, I give you much better price!”
Okay, first of all, I don’t especially like cats, I bought one impulsively, and I certainly don’t collect them.
Secondly, you don’t have a better cat, Sir, I can clearly see that all of you are holding the exact same cat that I am holding; and FYI, even if I did collect them, that’s not how a collection works. I wouldn’t want multiple copies of the exact same cat.
Thirdly, who cares if you have a better price, it’s not like I can return this one and get my money back from the original vendor, you know damn well that’s never gonna happen, so the fact that you can give me a better price is a moot point, other than just making me feel shitty about the overpriced one I already bought.
But lastly, and most importantly— and all of you should take notes on this, write this down because I’m giving out some invaluable retail sales advice here— the fact that I’m holding this cat, a cat I already purchased and can’t take back, should indicate to all of you that if there’s one thing in the entire world that I am no longer in the market for, nay, the one thing I am least likely to purchase right now, it’s ANOTHER IDENTICAL F*CKING CAT STATUE!
So all of you, right now, go back to your stalls and grab something else, anything really, so long as it isn’t the exact same thing I’m holding. I’ll give you 2 minutes. You all (obviously) know how to find me.
"Oh! One more thing—and this might seem like a bizarre and random caveat to you — but if any of you should show back up with a leaf blower, I think I might lose my mind."
But to my surprise, they didn’t, they all showed back up with dozens of identical Sphinxes.
“Well hey now, not too bad, this is a start! You’re learning!” I thought.
But it turned out the Sphinxes weren’t for me, they were all crowding around my friend Maria now. While I had been giving my little speech, she had apparently been busy purchasing a small, mass produced, sphinx. She was already holding it in her hands.
“What is happening?!” she asked, as they all began crowding around her, shoving sphinxes in her face.
Ugh. I give up.
“Trust me,” I told her, “Unless you are looking to buy hundreds more just like it, you’re gonna want to hide that sphinx. And quickly.”
Don't stop now, the harassment has only just begun! Read more about Egyptian harassment HERE!