The other day, I noticed my middle brake light had gone out. What a pain.

I could be like every other driver in the Oklahoma after the mandatory state inspections were abolished and just leave it burnt out, but that ain't how I roll. I am deeply angered when I'm tailgating another motorist and can't tell they're braking because all three of their tail lights have dropped into a state of dysfunction.

Not a big deal. I'll just hit an auto parts store on the way home from work.

I was sort of surprised to discover the only auto parts store on NWX westbound was a PepBoys right around the corner from my new place.

Fine. I popped in and located the light bulb section.

They had the bulb I needed, but it was in a dual blister pack and priced around $7. I don't have two center brake lights. And this sucker's so small, I'm guaranteed to lose it before I have a use for it.

I checked around and there wasn't an alternative. You got me, fellas.

Resigned to make my purchase, I wandered over to the cashier area. It was about twenty minutes after 5pm, and there was only one available cashier. And three people in line, each making a quick stop to purchase a single item.

I'm a patient person, and besides, how long could this take?

The cashier scans the first man's item, then whips out a rewards card brochure and drops into a 3-minute presentation on the program while taking the customer's information. And it didn't even stop there. After she thrust the new card in his face, she attempted to upsell him on two bottles of fuel additive he had never heard of.

Then she made the same pitches to the guy ahead of me in line. If I want to drive in a fully-compliant vehicle, I'm trapped here until she finishes with that guy and I'm at bat.

Once it's my turn, the whole charade is pretty embarrassing. I've heard the pitch twice, while wondering to myself if this is really the most efficient way to run a cashier department in an auto parts store.

Yeah, I guess I'll take the rewards card. I'll throw it next to my keychain cards from every drugstore and grocery in the metro area. Oh, my mistake, miss. Evidently, the big card goes in my wallet. Thanks for telling me how to organize my life. I appreciate it.

For the fuel additive this time, she closed with a “Could you help me out?” Wow. The emotional close. On me. That's pretty rich. I'VE ALREADY SPENT THREE TIMES THE AMOUNT OF TIME I WANTED TO, AND TWICE THE AMOUNT OF MONEY IN HERE THAN I EXPECTED AND I WANT OUT OF THIS STORE IMMEDIATELY, LADY!

And let me not omit the part where the machine was unwilling to scan my debit card on first swipe, and she proceeds to point out that my card is bent. From sitting on it all day. Well, it works everywhere else. I guess if I put your rewards card under my backside it would help reinforce the straightness of my debit card?

I could have let this whole thing go, as it really isn't a big deal. I've given my name address phone and blood type to Radio Shack for years and been okay with it, even though I just bought a single transistor.

But I'm afraid this is where every store is headed. Instead of offering the products we need at reasonable (if not competitive prices), they're trying to get us married to their brand.

I went in there, not because I love PepBoys. I went in because I needed a light bulb, I was reasonably sure they had it in stock, and it was on the way home.

With this rewards card tracking my spending there, suddenly I'm burdened with the responsibility to build up points redeemable for who knows what. And if I get a flat now, I have to make sure it's nearby my local PepBoys location so they can repair it for me at no charge.

Would it be so bad to just treat everyone like that without requiring a membership card that's gonna get lost anyway? Or hey, if you want to retain customers, why not offer brake light bulbs in packages of one, priced under $5?

I dunno, I'm just spitballing here. Clearly your consultants are experts on this.

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