It was Saturday afternoon. I was alone with the Cutlet. We had one main goal for the day: To purchase a toy for a Toys For Tots child.
To accomplish this goal, we would be forced to venture down Rockville Pike and visit a retail store.
Those familiar with Rockville Pike on a Saturday afternoon know that you don’t often move at a high rate of speed. Traffic can be ridiculous, and if you can actually make it through a traffic light without stopping, you should consider that a minor victory.
In December, the problem becomes worse, as there are hundreds of stores along the pike, and seemingly every one of them is full of holiday shoppers.
Ridiculous traffic or not, I would have to brave the roadways. I decided on Toys Я Us as my destination. There were three reasons for this choice:
1. It was probably the closest option.
2. They were having some good sales.
3. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Toys Я Us. (As a blogger however, I am much less fond of them due to that backwards R. Hence, they shall be referred to as TRU for the remainder of this blog.)
As a child, we didn’t have a TRU near us. So on the rare occasions when I would visit one, I felt like I had been transported to toy heaven. There were aisles upon aisles of toys and games. And unlike the somewhat spotty selection at the local shopping mall’s KB, they had just about any G.I.Joe or Transformers toy that a young boy could ever hope to obtain.
And really, who can think of this jingle and not smile?
For the Cutlet, I’m sure she won’t get the same feelings of nostalgia when she’s older. She’s been to TRU many times already, and as I told her how exciting it used to be for me, she looked at me with an unimpressed “whatevs, Daddy” look.
Partially because we didn’t have to go too far, traffic wasn’t especially horrible. Or at least it wasn’t especially horrible for Rockville Pike in December.
Once in the store, after the initial “Awesome! I’m at TRU!” feeling subsided, I got to work. The child we were buying for had requested a remote-controlled monster truck, so I headed over to the remote control car section of the store. Along the way, I couldn’t resist taking a quick trip through the action figure aisle, to show the Cutlet all of the fun toys they had available.
“Look sweetie! Action figures! Destro! Starscream! Batman! Rowdy Roddy Piper! Bail Organa!”
“Daddy, I don’t care! I’m a girl!”
“Sure you do, sweetie! Sure you do!”
And yes, I did actually have this conversation out loud with my toddler daughter. Normally I might have gotten a few odd looks from other customers, but I think anyone inside a toy store in December has learned to develop tunnel vision.
The remote control car section was a bit of a mess. It seemed that quite a few people had been through already, and merchandise was scattered everywhere. The various trucks and cars were almost randomly placed on the shelves, meaning that they didn’t line up with the price tags on the shelves. It took me a while to figure out what cost how much. And once I determined the prices, I still couldn’t decide which truck was best.
“Sweetie, which is cooler? The one with skulls on the side, or the Hummer? Oh look, this one has flames on the side! That’s pretty awesome, huh?”
“No, Daddy. I don’t care!”
I finally settled on the one with flames, and headed to the checkout line.
Mrs. Cutter is notorious for picking the wrong checkout line. Whichever line she chooses, there will inevitably be a customer who has a problem, or the register will shut down. Normally, I’m usually pretty good with my selections, but on this particular day, I was channeling her spirit.
The line I chose didn’t seem too bad at first. There were two people in front of me, and the first customer went through in a reasonable amount of time.
And that’s where we ran into a problem. The next woman was trying to purchase a large Barbie house, and apparently, the register was ringing her up at a higher price than she had seen on the shelf.
Naturally, this required the attention of a manager, who was unfortunately previously occupied. Once she made her way over, she gave the helpful response of, “Well this is the price that we have in the register.” The customer countered that it said something different on the shelf, so we weren’t making too much progress.
Someone was sent over to check the shelf, but apparently they couldn’t find the lower price tag. Upon closer inspection, the manager discovered that the product somehow had three different prices stored in the system.
At this point, I began looking around at the other checkout lines. They all appeared to be a few people deep, and since I had already spent a decent amount of time in this line, I didn’t want to start the process over again. I would have to see this whole thing out.
Miraculously, despite the wait, the Cutlet was sitting relatively contentedly in her stroller. I knew that couldn’t possibly last much longer. For some reason, I became convinced that all they really needed was the opinion of the next person in line. I thought that maybe if I shared my thoughts, everything would soon be quickly resolved.
“If you have an advertised lower price, you have to give it to her,” I said to the manager.
Oddly enough, my comment did not speed things along to a happy ending. Apparently, the manager wasn’t especially keen on getting advice from the customers. She gave me a look that, while not quite dirty, was certainly less than grateful. “Well the register doesn’t have that price, so there’s nothing I can do.”
Having experience working as a cashier as well as with computers, I know that this is not exactly true. Without knowing the nuances of the TRU computer system, I am fairly certain that the manager could have charged this woman any price she wanted.
Finally, they gave her the lowest of the three prices in the system. I felt bad for the poor woman. She wanted to walk away from the whole thing, but it was a gift for her granddaughter. And while she got a slight discount, it was nowhere near what she was expecting.
But she was on her way, and thankfully, there were no problems with my transaction. Honestly, because of that chaos on the shelves, they could have probably charged me double the price, and I would have just accepted it.
Once I made my way home, I thought I was free from Rockville Pike’s evil clutches. But apparently, I hadn’t gotten enough for one weekend. Because on Sunday, Mrs. Cutter, the Cutlet, and I headed back up the Pike for some more holiday shopping.
All in all, it really wasn’t that bad. Traffic was no picnic, but I’ve been in worse. And while the stores were busy, it certainly wasn’t a mob scene.
So I survived for now. But there’s still more holiday shopping to be done. And I might not be so lucky next time.