Let me be clear right from the start: I’m not a proponent of getting something for nothing...unless it is running gear or race entry fees or stolen cable or donation jars for a local hospitalized kid left unattended on the convenience store counter or health care or Extreme Makeover homes or Russian brides or petty cash drawers from every small business with which I’ve ever been employed. And maybe a few other things as well. But, beyond those few dozen loosely defined, ever-shifting things, I draw a strict line at receiving something for doing nothing.
But I’m getting screwed here.
My local running store is kind of a Big Deal as far as running stores go. You know those shoes they review endlessly at the back of Runner’s World? Ever notice that the individual reviewers (from which there is a brief quote about their test trial with the shoe) – from every issue over the last several years - are either from Reading, PA or East Lansing, MI? Yeah, the East Lansingers come from their affiliation with my local running store. I’m not going to mention the place by name out of fear. I’d like to race again somewhere in the Midwest. If you’ve paid attention, I’ve good-naturedly needled this store before so I may already be on probation.
The truth is that I browse this store constantly. They have many new shoes, clothes, and gadgets for the fashion conscious runner you know me to be. Then, after I browse the store taking note of the new, interesting items, I drive off to find a cheaper place to buy them. Truly they provide a great service.
They held their second of two yearly SEMI-ANNUAL SIDEWALK EXTRAVAGANZA SUPER TERRIFIC BLOW-OUT SALES again the other day. I came in armed with $120 worth of gift cards bestowed upon me by grateful soccer moms. Since it wasn’t my money, really, I was sure to find something to “buy”. And I did (though I skipped a pair of shoes. Sorry, won’t even spend $75 free gift card dollars on “sale” shoes that I can get for $55 elsewhere even if I have to pay real money for them elsewhere. No sale.)
I knew I had run a few dollars past $120 and, with tax and after gift cards, I was looking at a deficit of nearly $11. Eleven dollars? My inner Viper immediately recoiled at the thought of paying that in actual cold hard cash. I started looking over the items to see if there was something among them that I could make or buy second hand from the Salvation Army or go “minimalist” (i.e. high-minded excuse to cheap out). Eleven dollars?!? Do they think people are made of money??? I got a North Face fall jacket, Adidas running shorts, and Wright running socks and you want $11 of MY money?!?! I think you can understand my rage. I’m going to emphasize it again with a few more exclamation points with alternating question marks?!?!?!?! <--That’s some serious fucking rage right there.
Then I realized my Ace-in-the Hole. You see, I’ve allowed this store to use my image to promote themselves for years without saying a word. I’ve appeared on their TV ads in footage from previous races and currently (and for the last THREE YEARS) my image is on a poster in their front windows. Sure, I’m half concealed by someone in the foreground but I’m clearly visible, along with several dozen others, as part of a starting line shot from a local kids race (my filly was little at the time and parents ran with their kids aaaaand I WON IT! My filly came in three minutes behind me scared, confused, and crying for her Daddy. She wasn’t much cheered when I explained that Daddy kicked all of these other kid’s asses and told tales about how their little legs couldn't keep up. Through tears, she inquired, “Even mine?” I wiped a tear away and whispered back, “Even yours, sweetheart.”). My filly is in the photo too though you can only see her left arm and left leg. She’s lucky to be in that much because I just noticed the camera a half second too late and was in the middle of pushing her to the side to center myself better when the picture took. What does a poster sized ad promotion run these days? At least $11, I’d think.
So here I am at the counter with a bag full of merchandise and a bitchy saleswoman who keeps repeating that I “still owe $11” no matter how many times I roll my eyes and reach for the bag. Finally, exasperated, I motioned my head in the direction of the storefront poster. She looked out the window confused and back at me. I nodded again. She crinkled her brow and nodded back. The chick just wasn’t getting it. “Look, that’s me on the poster. I haven’t asked for anything before but, you know, you never asked to put my picture up. And you never paid me anything either. You see what I’m saying?”
She didn’t. I was forced to pay $11 and “escorted from the premises” as the manager gently but firmly explained to the security guard. Pretty ungrateful, I thought, to a customer who, on average, spends $11 a year in their store. Their loss...guess they'll have to make up that $11 some other way for fiscal year 2012.
Meanwhile, my image is still on the storefront. And RIGHT NOW their web page has an image of me AGAIN advertising one of their races this weekend as part of their rolling front page shots. You would think that, for all I do for that place, they could have comped me $11 right? What’s next, full life-size cardboard cut-outs of me in a mankini* next to your shoe display?
Next time, we’ll see if I bother to peruse their store first before buying my running gear elsewhere. We’ll see if the only money I spend in there is free gift card money given to me by others. They called down the thunder so now they get the horns. I’m not going to get mad, I’m going to get a bull. Or whatever, I’ve never been very good with sayings. All I know is that revenge is a dish best served by making the whole world blind.
Either way, I’m out $11 and someone owes me something.
*I have them already made up. Just specify color of mankini and shade of bronze you prefer on my torso. Cost is $11.