Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I didn't want to get back to ranting on this blog, but, golly, trying to buy something in various stores has become one heckuvan exercise in futility.  So here I am getting this off my chest.  Sorry.

I had my semi-annual heart checkup a couple weeks ago.  The check up was just fine, but my cardiologist was disappointed that an exercise cycle I had been using three days a week at home had completed it useful life.  Actually, the bike's electronics gave out after about 30 years of use.  It became virtually impossible to make the wheel go round and round.  My next door neighbor was making a run to the recycle place late last November and he let us toss the dead bike on the pile.

I do go to a local fitness/rehabilitation center where I ride a stationary bike twice a week.  If you've read this spot in the past, you've seen my mentioning of my senior fitness routine.  Those two days include other exercises as well, but they're all done machines I don't have at home.  So, to fill in the week, I at least rode that old, sick stationary machine at home.

My cardiologist had been somewhat happy with that schedule.  He was not anywhere near happy when I told him the three days at home were no longer being accomplished.  I got the lecture.  I tried to appease him by saying I'd "see what I could do" about getting a replacement.  I think he totally understood.

Unfortunately for me, my doctors all talk to each other; at least they send reports about my visits to each other.  I had my annual rubber glove visit with my personal care physician last week.  I have to have this annual physical in order to get my cart full of prescriptions renewed each year.  The physical went just fine.  Even all the numbers of the many blood results I had had earlier were in the "normal range."  You know, the cholesterol and the other lipids, the blood sugar, kidney and liver functions, et al.  He may have mentioned I could lose a pound or two.

Like all physicals, the exam ended.  But the doc didn't.  Remember I mentioned my docs communicate?  Well, the PCP looked me right in the eye and said, "I agree with [Doc Cardio guy].  Two days a week of fitness routine isn't enough.  You've got to get more exercise."  Damn!

The worst part is I know they're both right.  Even with my hearing aids off, I could tell Gator Wife was telling me she agreed, too.

So today we bit the bullet.  We decided to get a new stationary exercise bike.  I searched on line and did my homework very carefully and picked out three or four I thought would do the trick.  But, although I buy a lot of stuff on line, an exercise bike was something I wanted to sit on and try before parting with my money.  So off to do some shopping GW and I went.

The first place we visited was a national sporting goods chain.  The company's web site had said it sold at least one of the bikes I had picked out.  We went to see the bike first hand.   The store wasn't exactly filled with customers.  Nor did there appear to be many employees, either.  In fact I only saw two other customers and four nice people to help us.  GW and I found the bike with ease as the greeter headed us in the right direction.

And there was the bike.  It was exactly what I wanted.  I sat on it, tried it, and looked for the manual.  There was none.  We waited for a worker to appear to see if we needed help.  None came.  Finally, GW returned to the front of the store and asked for help.  We waited a little longer before a clerk appeared.  Gator Golden knows more about stationary exercise bikes than that clerk.  He tried to bluff his way answering our questions but couldn't.  He also looked for that manual.  It still wasn't there.  Off he went to get the answers.  He returned with none.  We left.  The answer to a couple very simple questions, one of which was, "Does the power supply come with the bike?", would have seen us leave with a new exercise bike in our car.

The next stop was another huge national department store chain.  It didn't have the same bike we had just seen, but it did have one of the others I had researched.  Unfortunately, no clerk was to be seen.  Again, we left without a purchase. 

Nothing changed in the third store we visited.  One or two customers were there along with two, perhaps three employees.  No one spoke to us.  We found the fitness section and yes, one of the bikes was there.  But the customer service wasn't. 

We didn't bother with a fourth store on our list and simply came home.  It wasn't too long ago when one couldn't get inside a major store before a clerk, or 'associate' as they're now generally called, was right there to offer help.  If that person was dismissed, several others were right there for assistance.  It would appear those days are over.  We haven't experienced such poor customer service as we had today in a very long time.  If our experience was anything like the norm, it is easy to understand why stores are in such trouble.  It'll probably be a very long time before I return to one again.

One store, Home Depot, comes to mind as an exception.  Whenever I go there, the first person who asks if I need help not only points me in the right direction but also accompanies me to the item for which I'm looking and makes sure all my questions are answered before heading off to help another customer.  I could name some stores in South Portland's Maine Mall area that could use some training at their nearby Home Depot.

As for my exercise bike, it'll be delivered in a few days.  And I saved more than  a hundred dollars and got free shipping.  At least the stores I visited today gave me the chance to see and compare the bikes in person.  The one I bought was the model with which I wanted to leave that first store. 

My love for Amazon.com has been affirmed.


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