The Machines Are Screaming

At Best Buy yesterday, the products screamed. Some of them did.

They were smartphones and other devices cabled to tables that would suddenly siren at ear-splitting volume. When people tugged at them with a fractional excess of energy, they began to shriek with alarms. I was there about forty minutes and this happened five times. (No, I didn’t trigger one.) Can you imagine the stress of working there with that happening all day? Each alarm gave out a different repetitive, squalling, nerve wracking sound–it’s own proud, distinct variation. Sometimes it went on for four or five minutes. A Best Buy employee had to come and turn off the things manually each time they squalled.

And in no case did it really appear that anyone was trying to steal them. They were triggered by clumsy adults and impulsive children tugging at them a little.

This alarm–high pitched, piercing, and LOUD–when someone touches a sample item, one they’re being enticed to touch, seems to be a recent innovation at Best Buy and it’s a hamfisted one. It’s as if the store is hysterical, half-mad with fear of shoplifting.

On and on it went. After awhile, I started to understand what the sirens were saying, “HELLLLP! SOMEONE IS STEALING ME! THEY’RE PULLING MY CABLE TOO HARD! OH GOD! I CAN’T BEAR IT! I HAVE TO WEEEP WEEEP WEEEP WEEEP SHRIIIIIIIEEEEK! Please God! If you steal me Best Buy loses several hundred dollars! PLEASE NOOOOOOO! I HAVE TO SCREEEEEEAAAAAAAAM!”

Someone shoot that smart phone and put it out of its misery.

And you know what happened when I went into the parking lot? Right. A car alarm went off. The machines won’t stop screaming.


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