Monday, March 17, 2008

Just What We Need

Dave Barry's blog (this time posted by his so-called "stealth bloggerette" Judi) occasionally points in the direction of some pretty fun, funny, and downright outrageous gadgets and/or technological wonders.

Add to this growing list something called the "MediaCart" being developed by a company of the same name, and in conjunction with (cue evil Darth Vader theme) Microsoft.

It sounds great. But then, these things always sound great when described in a paper. The concept is to have your shopping cart become "interactive," which is geek-speak for "annoying as all get-out." This new cart will hook into the store's local network. Using maps and your shopping history, not to mention all the nutritional data for the items they sell, the cart would be able to help you navigate your way around the store, taking you directly to the items you need, and even helpfully suggesting recipes using the items in your cart.

I'm sure this would prove to be a boon for those moronic scatter-brained organizationally-challenged shoppers who never make shopping lists, never plan meals, and refuse to memorize the layout of their favorite market. For the rest of us, this thing sounds like a nightmare.

I do most of the shopping for Hacienda Woody. This is because of a tacit understanding between myself and Mrs. Woody that a) I am a pretty decent shopper when I have a list, and b) she makes lists. This does not take into account the fact that, without a list, I become the Congress of grocery shoppers. "Ooh. Pork! Gotta have me some o' that!" This is simply one of those "divisions of labor" that couples decide upon in a marriage out of love, mutual respect, and a desire to remain financially solvent until they retire.

My idea of a perfect shopping trip has three basic elements:

1. The List, lovingly provided by my Sweetheart.

2. The Store. Preferably the same store I've been haunting since moving to the Hacienda over six years ago. If I end up in another store, I'm lost. I have no idea where the cashews are in my local Vons, even when the aisle markers helpfully state "SNACK FOODS HERE, IDIOT." I'm too busy fretting that I'll never make it through my list. I don't see them! They must not have them! Grocery Store Anxiety. Look it up.

3. No Kids. I love my children. Really, I do. But taking them on a simple shopping trip is like being a department-store Santa on December 24th. It's a no-win situation. "Daaaaaddy! Can we get some of those?" "No." "But, Daaaaaaaddy...!" And so on. Plus, they fight over whose turn it is to push the cart. They started this particular argument, which has not been resolved to date, four years ago when neither one of them was tall enough to see over the top of the cart. I actually let Jelly push it one night and she immediately toppled over a display of champagne bottles, strategically placed in the same aisle as the bottled water, which was my original target. This did not deter her determination to push the cart, while simultaneously preventing her sister from having that privilege. No kids. Not in the store, anyway.

Now, instead of worrying about my kids, I get to worry about arguing with this technological infant ("But, Daaaaaddy!").

I'll grant you that keeping track of your cart total is a good thing for folks on a budget. I am less impressed, on the other hand, with store navigation.

I have a GPS. Flim-Flam, or Jungle Jim, or one of those. We programmed it with a very nice British female's voice. That way, she can nag me but it sounds cool. The problem is that I disagree with her frequently.
"After fifty yards, turn left."

Sorry, can't do that.

"Turn left. Now."

No, ma'am. Not gonna.

"Turn around now."


"Go back and turn where I told you, or I'll tell your wife about that milkshake you bought on the way home from work the other day."

Cute, but where you told me to turn is a ONE WAY GATE, AND WE'RE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF IT.
Anyway, I can't imagine some upstart shopping cart is going to improve on this process. Neither am I a huge fan of voice-activated anything.
Where're the eggs, please.

"Did you say... 'legs?'"


"Did you say... 'wigs?'"

You don't sell wigs.

"Wigs are on aisle 13."

Of course they are.

"May we interest you in today's special on pantyhose?"

Then there's this business of a "loyalty card." Apparently this card will allow one to "download shopping lists," along with recipe suggestions and — like we need this aggravation — diet checks.
"You know, you've put on an extra 5 pounds."

Have not.

"Oh, yes. I was chatting with your doctor's computer yesterday and you were in for your checkup. 5 pounds and your cholesterol is up another 12 points."


"May I suggest a nice Caesar salad tonight?"


"At least take a trip to the gym."

Get lost.
No, all things considered, I think we're better off without automated shopping carts.

"Rice cakes are fifty cents off today."

Go away, already.

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