Today I went shopping. One of my land line phones had had a sick battery for some time and finally gave up, so I decided to go to a large local electronic supply outlet and get one rather than buy one over the web and wait for it to be shipped. I had gone there often, and was pretty sure they would stock the battery, and while I was there I realized I could pick up a couple or USB hubs, since both my wife and I were out of slots, and another external drive.
BUT, the resulting trip took much, much longer than I had planned , because (1) as many stores tend to do, they had re-arranged their stock, and (2) I was simply overwhelmed by choices, and had the common store experience of not being able to find anyone who knew much, if anything, about the options I had.
As to batteries, there were yards of them displayed in a section labeled something like “Battery World”, and many, many customers standing in front of it agreeing that there should not be so many of them. While old-line battery equipment makers seem to do fine with the traditional letter sizes (AAA, D, etc) and numbers (6 volt, 9 volt), makers of digital equipment have gone wild in configurations, sizes, voltages, and connectors. Standardization time?
After looking through the whole mess, and squinting at the fine print, I could not find a match, so I ran down an actual employee, and taking my dead one he disappeared, (telling me the usual “give me a second”). After 5 minutes he came back with a big smile, and told me that since it was a telephone battery, it was undoubtedly in the telephone section.
So I set forth for the telephone section, and initially discovered that the batteries were not in the aisle entitled “Batteries”. I found them after looking through the section, but couldn’t find any numbers that matched the old battery. The first employee I hunted down could not solve my problem. The second one did.
Then off to find the hubs and the drive. After I found the locations in the store (they had moved), I encountered an overwhelming number of each, at a variety of prices, each boasting of their superiority on the box. I once again found the rare employees, and asked them questions such as “what is the difference between them”? and “why shouldn’t I just buy the cheapest one"? Once again, no satisfactory response, and in defense of the employees, probably because there was no way that the relatively few of them could understand the details of the overwhelming number of products in the store.
Incidentally, on the same trip, I found the same result in the drugstore in which I was looking for more products. It was a big store, but not a “big box” store. The staff seemed to consist of a woman at the cash register and a pharmacist in the back, with long lines at each location. I was looking for eye-drops, and the choice was over whelming, Looking at the ingredients, there seemed to be much more similarity between them than the packages suggested, but once again, no help available. Remember “floor walkers”? No more.
I enjoy owning high quality products, and some are better than others, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to discriminate between products in these days of overwhelming marketing, packaging that does not let you get your hands on things, and decreasing numbers of informed store employees and trustable web sites that could help. I sometimes think that many times there is less easily available usable information in the "information age", than there was before.