Step Back

If you read blog comments at all, you know there are a lot of angry people out there. Or, at least, people that sure sound angry when filtered through a text-only format. I'm fully aware of this, and for a long time never read comments at all. But in the last year, I've found myself reading comments more often. I routinely go to comments page two, three, four and above now. I don't think it's having any positive effects.

My blog comment journey today started at, where I read about Starbucks' employees discriminating against women by making them wait longer than men. The comments section quickly flared into an all-out war of stereotypes, replete with frequent "I don't give a f***" sentiments directed towards women, men, whites, blacks, and hispanics and their respective ordering and tipping habits. The depth of anger I felt from people about such a small part of life - ordering a coffee - surprised me.

Since I'd never actually been to before, I went to the main page to see what kinds of topics it covered (I got to the original article from a link). The site is a consumer advocate blog, a whistle-blower of sorts on consumer abuse by corporations. The tagline of the site, "Shoppers bite back," communicates the tone of most of the posts: confrontational, vengeful, pissed. I read about a Jimmy Dean customer's rant because the 16 oz sausage had been reduced to 12 oz but cost the same. I read about an angry customer that had tracked down and posted the phone numbers of SkyBus executives because SkyBus officially offered only e-mail customer service. I read about the deceitful tricks maid services use to avoid actually cleaning. The last article I read was about ten "Black Friday" secrets that (of course) the stores don't want you to know.

Two sentences in this last entry really made me take a step back. The article ends with this declaration:

"Black Friday is a zero-sum game. Either the store wins, or you do. Use these tips to beat the stores at their own game."

When did shopping become a war? But it was one of the ten secrets that finally made me get up from my computer:

"Beat the system by shopping in teams. Stores rely on a long list of tricks, from limited sale hours to low inventories in order to lure you into the stores without giving you the time to comparison shop for the product you want at the best possible price. Have one team member in each store when it opens, each with a list of what everyone wants to buy. Use to set up broadcast SMS. Each team member finds every product on the list, then broadcasts pricing. The person at the store with the lowest price for each item buys it."

With the idea of setting up bravo and alpha teams just to buy a lower priced television bouncing around in my head, I turned my back to the computer and looked out my window. It was about 4 P.M. at this point, and with daylight savings time the sunlight was already the pale gold of a day almost gone. I stared vacantly at the tree outside my office, which was covered with bunches of bright red berries that I hadn't noticed before. I went over everything I'd read in the past half-hour and decided: I didn't need to think about a maid service, I could clean my own apartment. I didn't need to judge anyone for a complicated coffee order. And I didn't need maps and waypoints to go shopping, I'd buy what I needed if it was a price that seemed reasonable. I'd let the world get wrapped up in itself and keep myself free, unconcerned, and, hopefully, content.