I found myself at Office Max again over the weekend. The mythopoeic Joey was not being discussed on this day so the mood was understandably sedate. My whole experience was very relaxed. I found what I was looking for easily, debated with myself over which brand to purchase and then tripped giddily to the check-out counter. Ok, I wasn’t “giddy”. I only achieve that adjective when one of my favorite sports teams wins a championship, but darn it, I was happy.
As I approached the register the customer in front of me was just saying “thank you” and picking up his purchase so I was able to slide my ink cartridge and magazine holders onto the counter. Reaching for my wallet I was greeted by the forced cheeriness of a young man with a prepared speech that nothing except a blow to the head with a blunt object was going to stop him from reciting:
“Good morn . . . uh, after . . . yeah, afternoon, sir. Would you like to sign up for our new rewards program?
“I don’t . . .”
“You will receive a card which you can use with every purchase made at any Office Max store location . . .”
“That’s ok, I . . .”
“You can earn points towards discounted merchandise . . .”
“The thing is . . .”
“Oh, and I see you are buying an ink cartridge. With the new rewards program . . .”
“Can we just . . .”
“. . . you can bring this back when it is empty and we will refill it for free. Also, by signing up you will ensure that I don’t lose my job.”
I still wasn’t biting so this is where I believe the kid started making things up:
“The Office Max rewards card is very valuable, sir. The edges are lined with gold flakes. You can also use it to gain entrance to any level 3 security government facility or your local Shur Fine Market after hours. And . . . that’s not all . . . here are some other points of interest.”
The lights dimmed and a Power Point presentation appeared on the front wall of the store. First up was a pie chart showing that 67% of Americans with a rewards card have lowered their blood pressure and lessened joint pain. Then a bar graph informed me that the only people farther down the evolutionary scale than people without a rewards card are Sean Hannity viewers and congress. The Aaron Copland score reached a crescendo with photos of smiling, happy families taking their rewards cards out for a walk, feeding it ice cream or teaching it to surf at the beach. The presentation ended with a video appeal from Willie Nelson:
When I’m on the road again, I’m usually on my way to any convenient Office Max location. They’re always on my mind when I need any type of paper, pen or other office product. You’d be crazy not to sign up for a rewards card today.
I still didn’t want one but finally said yes before my next birthday passed inside the Office Max store. I thought the saucer-eyed teenager behind the counter would ask me my email address, maybe a phone number: a few keystrokes later we’d be done. I was wrong. He reached under the counter and hefted up a binder with 64 pages of personal questions, a vial for my blood sample, a polyethylene bag for skin flakes and hair follicles, and a plastic case for nail clippings. He then took my picture for the Office Max Rewards Wall.
It was a little after midnight when I was finally permitted to leave the store, ushered out by a sleepy security guard and his geriatric cocker spaniel watch dog. My shiny new rewards card was tucked away in my bag yawning with indifference. I was yawning with exhaustion. I have got to start going to Staples.