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The Pun Also Rises

Seth Brown: Shop 'til you drop

Retail Sails

Shoppers look for bargains on July 13 in Miami Beach, Fla. 

One of the main reasons that shopping is exhausting is that everybody hates you.

If you go around a store looking at things and picking them up and considering them carefully and ultimately not buying anything, then the proprietor probably hates you. At least, I would, which is why I decided early on never to run a store. If I ran a bookshop, I would be completely infuriated every time I ran into a customer like me, who looks at a lot of books and then ultimately does not buy anything because I already have too many books at home.

(In fairness, I should point out that my non-purchasing habit was a reaction to my previous book-buying addiction that had reached a problematic level. I would go to the library’s massive used book sale with a laundry basket or two and fill them with books to buy. The cashiers would sometimes ask me where my bookshop was located, and I would cough politely and mumble.)

But then if you do buy a lot of things, you have to worry that the cashier hates you. Well, you don’t have to worry about that. I have to worry about that, because I’m a very negative person. And all of this was before the pandemic hit, so now there are new reasons for the cashier to hate you, such as the fact that you’re not wearing a mask and don’t care if you infect them with a life-threatening virus.

In general, masks pretty much guarantee that hatred fills the store. If you’re wearing a mask, then all the people not wearing masks hate you because you’re acting like we’re still in the middle of a deadly pandemic and somehow you think covering your face will keep you from getting sick. And if you’re not wearing a mask, all the people wearing masks hate you because we are still in the middle of a deadly pandemic and you are avoiding a very simple method to reduce risk.

And that’s not even including the parking lot, where the drivers hate the pedestrians, and the pedestrians hate the drivers, and the drivers also hate the other drivers because other drivers are always terrible. Perhaps you think it would be easy to avoid all of this hatred and exhaustion by just shopping online.

If only it were so easy.

Online shopping can be the most exhausting of all, because you hate yourself. At least you do if you’re like me, overwhelmed by the raw number of choices and walls of information. No matter what I am trying to buy, there are more options than you can feasibly examine carefully, and trying to compare 35 mostly similar things is an exercise in frustration. Especially because if you’re reading reviews — and you basically have to if you’re shopping online — there are inevitably 500 positive reviews and 12 negative reviews. As a negative person, guess which reviews I focus on?

And it may seem maladjusted to focus on the negatives when reviews are mostly positive, especially because of those 12 negative reviews, 7 of them are complaining about the shipping or something unrelated. So you’ve basically got 500 people saying, “This is the best product ever and completely changed my life for the better,” and 5 people saying, “This fell apart two weeks after I got it.”

Guess which people I listen to?

I can’t help it. I have to pay more attention to the negatives, because if not, I’ll just end up blaming myself when my product falls apart two weeks later. “That person on the Internet warned me!” So then I look for products with no negative reviews, but those only have 3 reviews, and are being sold by a company founded yesterday. It’s enough to drive a person to hopelessness.

I realize that having such a negative reaction to shopping is a problem. It may be a symptom of an obsession with material objects. I wonder if I’d be better off becoming a Mendicant Friar, taking a vow of poverty, and giving away all possessions. That’s a lifestyle that’s truly profound.

Maybe I’ll search on Amazon for deep friars.

Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer, the author of “The Disapproval Of My Toaster” and is more of a roaster than a friar. His website is RisingPun.com.

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