What If In Person Shopping Was Like Online Shopping?

The other day, I turned off AdBlock to check something out. I forgot to enable it right away, and it got me to thinking. What would it be like if real life shopping was like online shopping? Imagine if real life things were as toxic and intrusive as online ads and trackers. I’d imagine it would go a little like this story. Imagine if this were reality. No doubt plenty of companies would do exactly this sort of thing if they could get away with it.

The day was off to a good start. I thought that it would be a good day to go to the store to buy some new shoes. I’ve been needing them for a while now.

On my way to the store while trying to decide which store would be the most likely to have what I wanted I was going past shopping centers. I keep having random people jumping in front of me saying stuff like “Come check out our shoes.” “Come read this article.” All the while, these people were trying to hijack the car. They were attempting to steer it towards their establishment. The weight of them was really slowing it down all the while. There were plenty of occurrences where the people were pretending to be someone that they’re not and setting out to trick me into going to bad places. There were the shady people trying to sell me stolen or knock off items out of their trunks. Groups were jumping in front of me to tell me all sorts of unrelated things to the shoes I was on the mission to buy.

I walk up to the store. As I am about to walk into, the door slams shut and says, please wait while we verify your existence and the most efficient way to let you in the door. The spinning icon on the wall lets me know that they’re busy checking. It blinked for a few seconds, restarting a few times. I think it flashed “Cloudflare”.

Next, it showed a screen with random pictures. The screen said to select all pictures containing a traffic light. It mocked me by making me verify that I am indeed a human. I did that, but then wondered does it have to be the light itself, or could it be just the pole? Does the light have to be facing at me, or can it be the back of it? I took my best guess, and it said try again.

The door unlocks and as I am walking in, a new door appears and demanding for me to allow an employee and another group of people to follow me around the store. I want the shoes, so I reluctantly agree. I notice the employee and the whole group of people wearing uniforms from various ad and tracking companies. There’s Facebook, Google, and some others that I don’t recognize, all with cameras and notepads. There’s also the one n the back wearing dark gray, just trying to stay in the shadows.

An employee jumps in front of me, demanding my email address so that they can send me offers. I don’t want offers, so I have to figure out where he got to, so I can tell him no. I just want to find what I am looking for and go home.

Finally, I am through the doors. Another employ jumps in front of me and yells, “Bob just bought these pants.” I walk around the employee to have him jump in front of me and yell, “Sally just added this shirt to her cart.” I walk around again, trying to figure out how to tell them I don’t care. Today, I just want to go find what I am looking for.

The store appears to be organized nicely, with each isle having a category above it. Unfortunately, they allow various sellers to stock their items, so half the stuff seems to be categorized wrong. I quickly locate the shoe isle, but half the items in that isle are not shoes. The box says shoe on it, but if you open it up, there are other things in there. Most of the things that were not shoes were just broken junk that’s a direct copy of a legitimate product.

If I were to take a guess, I would have estimated at least fifty percent of the items were at least in some way misrepresented. Most of the misrepresentations were just minor ones, but some were so blatant that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Some boxes contained used items and some nothing at all. Many, if not most, of the boxes, little devices that yell at you to go check another isle for something unrelated.

Luckily, the employee who’s been following me around recording my every move and taking notes asked if she can help me search. I say yes. I am looking for black shoes. Black is the only color of shoes that I want today. What I need is running shoes. I’d prefer Nikes because they work best for me.

They happily tell me they have this green shirt. No, I want shoes. She says okay, how about these pink woman’s? No, I’m a man and I want black shoes. Another employee jumps between us and yells, how about these brown hiking shoes. Facebook told me you like hiking. No, I’m here for running shoes today, but thanks. I only want shoes that are in stock and I can buy today. I need them now.

Finally, I find a pair of black shoes. I look closely at the display, and it warns that colors and sizes may vary. They are in stock, but I have to wait for them to arrive from China. The employee assures me that they are in stock, though. I pass on those. Didn’t I ask for only ones that were in stock for today?

Facebook yells at me that my friend likes green shoes. Another person jumps in front of me and says, “I see you like fitness. Would you like to try our program?” No, thanks. The store employee then screams in my ears to hurry. Fifteen other customers have them in their carts, and we only have this one pair. If I don’t hurry, I could miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime deal.

Finally, I have the shoes in hand, and I am walking towards the check-out. The employee who’s been following me around the store tells me that other customers who shopped for these particular shoes bought those jeans. No, thanks. Again, the employee says, would you like to buy these shoes along with those two pairs for a five percent discount? No, thanks, I say again. We also have them in gray if you want to purchase those too! Are you certain? Other customers added those to their purchase.

Finally, I get to the checkout. I go to put the shoes on the counter to pay for them and the counter just disappears, and the shoes go with it. That was the strangest thing. Another employee appears and says, “We’re sorry. Something went wrong. We’re working on it, please try again.” I look around, and the entire store is gone. I am just standing in a completely void space. Suddenly, it reappears around me, but my shoes are gone. I go back with the stalker employee’s help and get another box.

The cashier asks me if I would like to pay extra to have a warranty. Next she asks me if I would like to sign up for their list where they share my information with their partners to give me unbelievable offers. No, thanks. As I am taking out my card to pay for my shoes, the cashier hands me a large stack of papers. She says that I need to agree to those terms and services to buy the shoes. I do. I mean, I really don’t agree to them, but I don’t have a choice if I want to buy the shoes.

As I am walking out the door, I find two microphones stuck to me and a GPS in my pocket. How the fuck did those get there? One more GPS was in my wallet, of all places. That one had a G on it that looked like Google’s G. I go back into the store to complain, and they tell me I agreed to them by entering the door. No, I didn’t I said. The employ informed me that they are part of the required “cookies” to make my experience as safe and smooth as possible. At that moment, I noticed a drone with a camera trying to take a picture of my credit card number, while another one was looking through my phone. The employee continued assuring me that they take my security and privacy very seriously, and even showed me a sticker on the counter with another company name on it. He then asked me if I would like to purchase these shorts while I am here.

The Facebook guy asks me if I would like to tell my friends that I just bought the shoes. No, thanks. Of course, Facebook shared with my friends and acquaintances that their friend Carl liked this company and their shoes.

That person in the dark gray is still following me. He says I see you like shoes. Do you like foot porn? WTF? He then asks If I would like to buy a running supplement. No. Finally, he installs an app on my phone without even asking. Luckily, I caught him. Next up, he jumped in front of me with a sign and yelling that this doctor recommends this one exercise for improving your health. Go sign up for the subscription to read the one neat trick.

I get to the car and decide to put the new shoes on to get used to them. I notice that this pair feels a bit strange. As I look more closely at the shoes and for one they look used. The other thing that caught my attention is looking closely, the box says ᴎike. I go back into the store and after going through the annoyances of the door and trackers flowing me around, I get a hold of customer service. They allow me to get the correct shoes after telling me that I bought them from a third-party seller. These shoes were good, so I was happy.

I pull off more GPS devices and microphones as I get into the car and just as we’re ready to leave, a store employee jumps in front of the car. She wants to know how my experience was and would I please leave a review.

The shoes were good and I was happy.

A few days later, I got woken up in the middle of the night by a store employee knocking on the door to tell me that they miss me. They have a special deal to offer me if I want to buy more stuff. I asked how they found my address. He informs me that I agreed to it when I provided my information to pay.

That was six months ago, and I am still having strangers randomly jump in front of me as I am walking or doing whatever I may be doing at random times. They’re asking if I want to buy new shoes.

It turns out that the person that was in dark gray ended up selling my identity. The store won’t help me because it was in the terms that they’re not responsible. I saw the person taking papers from the cashier as I was walking out the door, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time. The store’s ownership had put up cardboard replicas of security guards to save a little money. It turns out the cashier was also outsourced to some third party.

I have had various other people following me around and trying to get me to buy stuff, but interrupting me at some of the most inconvenient times. They say that they are partners of the store.

Even now, I am still having random drones following me all around saying that I agreed to that when they amended those terms of service which I had no choice but to agree to. It wasn’t in the terms then, but they had the right to amend it as they wanted to.