Coffee heat rising

Money Back on the Card, & a Shopping Coup(?)

How do brick-and-mortar chain stores even begin to compete with Amazon? Y’know, at first I thought the answer to that was obvious. The reasons, as I saw it, were multipartite:

  1. When you physically go into a store, you can see what you’re getting. It’s not a pig in a poke.
  2. Local stores used to be cheaper, when you had to pay shipping for any online purchase.
  3. Customer service is a desideratum. A big desideratum.
  4. It’s a nuisance to have to wait for an item — to say nothing of a series of items — to be delivered, and a worry to get to the package before the porch pirates grab it.
  5. If you need to return an item, wrapping it up and shipping it back to Amazon is such a nuisance that you may not even be bothered, thereby throwing your money down the drain.

Hm. How the times have changed. Today, only one of those five seems operative, in my mind: Number 5. Yes, returning stuff to some outfit off in outer space is prohibitively nuisancey. This, however, can be avoided simply by being very sure of what you’re buying.

As for the rest of them?

  1. If enough customer reviews are posted, you’ve got a real good idea of what you’re getting.
  2. Amazon is usually much cheaper from the git-go — in the swimming pool supply dept, Amazon sells the same products, same brand names for half of what Leslie’s charges. And if you have Amazon Prime, you not only get as much movie and TV viewing as you can stomach, you also get free delivery.
  3. Customer service. Well. Yeah. If you can find it in a brick-&-mortar store, bully for you!
  4. Waiting for delivery is no more of a nuisance — and probably less so — than traipsing through 110-degree heat over roads on which about one in every ten of your fellow drivers is a certifiable moron.

Today I returned two items to brick-&-mortar stores, thereby putting about $35 back onto the AMEX card. And yes, I was certainly glad that I could walk into those two stores in the same shopping center, retrieving the cash in a 30-minute trip.

But…happy as I was to get the money back promptly and with relatively little hassle, I still came away annoyed as hell. Why? Because both stores — Leslie’s Pools and Safeway — demanded that I give them my phone number before they would give my money back.

The Leslie’s guy knows I never share my phone number with retailers. When I reminded him of this and said I’d forego the refund before I gave him my real phone number, he just entered a random series of numbers, and that was that.

The Safeway clerk, whose chief qualification for employment must have been a minimal number of IQ points, insisted that I had to give her my number. I said I don’t do that. She said, “Well, how did you get the discount, then? You have to give your phone number to get a Safeway card.”

I said “My purse was stolen, and so I no longer have that card.” When you tell a checkout clerk this, she simply swipes her own card over the reader, and voilà! the annoying discount. “When I did have the card, it did not have my phone number. It had my dog’s name on it and it had the local Safeway corporate offices’ phone number on it. That is why I rarely shop in Safeway: customers shouldn’t have to give out private information to get a fair price.”

Clearly irked, she dispensed the refund with no further argument.

And now I will be shopping in Safeway even less than I shop there now, which is hardly ever.

So here’s how Amazon figures into this equation.

1. The Leslie’s purchase: I’d bought a new pool test kit there, having about run out of reagents and not feeling inclined to buy another test kit from Home Depot. If before I felt HD was a nuisance to shop in, what with the schlep up through the northerly blight and the jerk employees making inane passes at me in the aisles, now I would not give them the time of day, much less my money. I do not want so much as 27 of my cents going into Donald Trump’s campaign fund via Mr. Marcus’s profits. The political filigree clinches it: I will never shop in Home Depot again. This was the reason I bought the test kit at Leslie’s, even though it was far from what I wanted.

But…later, at Amazon I found the same damn test kit with the same generously sized test tubes and the same set of chemicals as HD sells! Five chemicals instead of two, and much easier-to-use and read tubes — for the same price as the Leslie’s puny two-chemical kit with teeny, hard-to-read testing vials.

2. The Safeway purchase: Yesterday in a moment of senility, I bought two tubes of Lanacane, having been sucked in by the package copy crowing about the painkiller it contains. No IQ there…speaking of qualifications for employment with that august corporation. When I got it home, I realized the operative ingredient is lidocaine, not benzocaine, which is what Lanacane used to contain. Lidocaine does exactly nothing for me: might as well rub distilled water on a mosquito bite.

Benzocaine has largely been taken off the market, Big Brother seeking to protect the doltish among us. Why? Because stupid people have actually rubbed it on their teething infants’ gums to shut the crying brats up. It shuts them up, all right: permanently.

Well, if you’re that stupid, one could argue that the gene pool is improved by the removal of your offspring from this earthly plane. But of course Big Brother doesn’t see it that way… 😉 So it is now nigh unto impossible to buy an itch/pain cream that works at a drugstore or grocery store.

Well, I looked it up this morning and discovered that it is still available in the US without a prescription. Last time I tried to buy it on Amazon, I couldn’t find it. But with this insight in mind, I decided to try again, and lo! There it was: benzocaine cream, 20%, just like the good old classic Lanacane that isn’t being sold to the proles anymore.

I ordered a package of that — you get three containers to a box. Not large ones, but at least containers. When it gets here, I’ll try it out…and if it works, I’ll order up a lifetime supply.

The stuff will be much needed. I’ve developed another of those precancerous lesions on the same hand where the first one appeared. The damn things itch and burn at the same time. Intensely. And for some reason, they start in with that at 3:00 a.m. sharp. So I can’t sleep at night, because these things hurt and itch so much.

I have an old tube of the original Lanacane with benzocaine. It has only a tiny amount left, and I ration it carefully. But I need something to get this discomfort under control. The current keratosis is slated to be singed off on Monday. But recently I learned that when more than one of the things appears in the same area, it means you’re going to get a whole lot of them: it’s a sign of what’s called a “field disease.” This is shaping up to be a permanent hassle: back and forth across the city for biopsies and then back and forth again for removals. Apparently the only way to cut down on recurrences (probably not to eliminate them) is to apply a kind of chemotherapeutic gel to the area. It sounds exceptionally unpleasant, and of course it irritates the hell out of your skin.

So I figure I’m going to need a topical itch/pain-killer that WORKS.

Not a store in the city carries any OTC nostrum that still contains benzocaine. So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to finally find it on Amazon.

And f’sure: Amazon (not Safeway) will get my business in the future.

LOL! Doesn’t that tell you something? You know you’re gettin’ OLD when the shopping coup of the day is not a cute outfit, not a cool purse, not a spectacular doodad for your house, but — argh, yes! — an analgesic skin cream!

8 thoughts on “Money Back on the Card, & a Shopping Coup(?)”

  1. In this neck of the woods the Safeway leaves much be desired. The staff is unhelpful and is lethargic…the store is dated and not clean…. And their prices are thru the roof….This a the store of LAST resort for me…And don’t even get me started on the pharmacy…

    • Me, too — store of last resort. After Albertson’s bought the Safeways here in town, they did renovate the place (it had already been renovated eight or ten years ago, but ran down quickly). I quit shopping there unless it’s just a couple things that I need to grab while I’m on the run and am going past the place. In fact, that was the occasion for the trip in which I stupidly bought the lidocaine: went in there to get a six-pack of Guinness Stout — that’s outside the price range for the Walmart folks, and AJ’s was out of my way & I didn’t feel like traipsing down there through 115-degree the heat for a few cans of beer. Never again: the drive would’ve been worth it!

      I have found, though, that the Safeway’s pharmacy is better than the Walgreen’s right across the street.

  2. ANYTHING is better than Walgreens Pharmacy….In this neck of the woods this chain is the most expensive…most confusing….staff has NO clue as to Medicare and gap drug policies….and the pharmacists on duty are either overwhelmed or too busy texting on their phone.DM goes there despite being able to get her meds elsewhere cheaper or FREE…. I hate this place…

    • From what I can tell, the best bet for pharmacies in our parts is Costco. Best prices, best service…and you don’t have to be a member to use their pharmacy. For me, the issue is that even the closest CC is a little bit of a drive; it’s in an increasingly blighted area and so is slated to close, leaving the other relatively close stores each about 20 minutes away. Ugh. When you’re sick, you just don’t want to traipse across the city to get a bottle of pills.

  3. I used to shop at Amazon frequently, but it is becoming increasingly rare that I’ll make a purchase from the site. The site is littered with no name junk and fake reviews driving the search result order that it’s next to impossible to find something unless you know the exact name of the product you want. Plus multiple times I have received products that I believe were fake/counterfeit when making purchases from marketplace sellers. To combat this I decided I would only buy products sold directly by Amazon, but Amazon commingles their and third-party inventory in its warehouses. Even if you only purchase Amazon-sold products you could easily still end up with some third party fake, and Amazon’s response is to give the consumer a giant middle finger.

    • That’s interesting to know — about receiving the counterfeit junk. So far I’ve been pretty confident that what’s been sent has been the real deal. But I also have found that in many cases reviews are transparently jiggered. It’s important, too, to know that when you post a negative review (as I have done occasionally), you may be contacted by a seller who attempts to influence you to change your assessment.

      I always go to the worst reviews first. Those too, of course, could be faked — by the seller’s competition. But I figure they reflect the most honest reports of buyer experiences. And — in the “can’t keep everybody happy” department — I figure an average, more or less “normal” rate of one-star reviews will be around 9%. A proportion of one-star reviews higher than that is a red flag.

      Then I look at the three-star reviews, on the theory that these reflect run-of-the-mill user experiences. Again, I suspect they’re more likely to be honest and less likely to be paid reviews than four- and five-star raves.

      Finally I look at the four- and five-star reviews, seeking a consensus. If raves are all over the place, I tend to be skeptical. If there’s a pattern, I feel a little more confident about that trend. But I certainly don’t take the highest reviews at face value.

      The Lanacane that supposedly contains benzocaine? I ordered one (1) package, because of the likelihood that this is a counterfeit product. When it gets here, I’ll try it — if it works on an actinic keratosis or a mosquito bite, then I’ll buy several more packages, on the theory that it will soon be taken off the market.

      More often, though, the products I buy from Amazon are things I’ve already bought elsewhere and am familiar with. I rarely buy an Amazon product unless I’ve had some experience with it.

      • Hi Funny, you inspired me to also order the Lanacane. I have been scratching my skin off from bites/keratosis/old age. If it works for both of us you should see if you can link to it and get some bucks! (okay pennies) Thanks for the info.

      • Sandra, if the keratosis is itching, make a run on the dermatologist and get the darn things frozen off. The one they just biopsied turned out to be nigh unto flipping over into a carcinoma…so they’re not something to fool around with.

        But I did find that 20% benzocaine DOES work on that itching. And on just about any other itching, too.

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