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Is this who we now are? A bunch of self- centered people trashing Target stores?
Correct Dennis Wyatt mug 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Shoe laces — or more precisely the search for them — was a reminder the world is getting more and more self-centered with each passing day.

I was in a local Target Saturday before 9 p.m.

Shoelaces were the last thing on my list.

Surprisingly given how every third item you look for these days seems to have a chain supply issue of some sort, Target had what I wanted — straight-forward, 54-inch sport shoe laces.

That was a pleasant surprise.

What wasn’t pleasant was what was between me and the shoelaces.

Someone — or more likely a lot of people — looking to buy shoes are slobs. Two aisles and part of a third were strewn with loose shoes and scattered opened shoe boxes. It required a detour to avoid running over shoes or boxes with the shopping cart.

I honestly don’t mind taking the long way to go from Point A to Point B. What bothered me was the 900-pound Tasmanian Devil of a question in the big box retail store that I was asking myself: “Is this who we now are?”

What was before me violated a lot of social mores — common laws of decency, if you will. It also contributes to the high price of goods we all like to moan and groan about without realizing our actions can contribute to rising costs.

The shoes weren’t going to be paired together correctly, returned to the right boxes in a presentable manner, and placed on the shelf where they belong by themselves so another customer can find what they are looking for. It will take time of paid employees.

This isn’t a rare occurrence.

Someone that structures Target’s pricing dynamics has already figured out it takes X-amount of hours per store each night to clean up shoe department clutter.

If it takes a half hour a day at $15 an hour plus benefits, the task of placing shoes back in box and returning them to the proper places at the end of a day is an $8,000 annual expense for each Target sort.

Given there are 1,948 Target stores, that means it can cost around $15 million a year for Target to properly place shoes back on shelves that customers toss in the aisles.

Granted, it’s on a smaller scale, but it’s a cost of doing business just like spotlighting losses.

This is not something that only happens in shoe departments although clearly it is the worst case scenario in a general merchandise store like Target.

There are employees at Target, Walmart, et al who are in charge of doing store sweeps, finding items put in the wrong place by shoppers who have changed their minds, and return items to their proper places.

The shopper obviously couldn’t be bothered returning the item to the section of the store they picked it up on in or they didn’t want to be bothered telling the cashier at checkout that they no longer wanted the item.

It clearly would be less of a problem for a store if items you have a second thought about were surrendered when you were checking out instead of just placed randomly in a store as if you were hiding Easter eggs.

While it does not constitute any losses beyond employee time, that’s not the case when someone decides to take refrigerated or frozen items they longer want and place them on shelves with canned goods.

How our behavior in the aisles of Target has deteriorated as a society is just one of numerous examples of small things we are doing that are inching us closer to social chaos.

Ever get to a four-way stop and have someone who is too absorbed with texting to bother to pay attention?

It also happened Saturday. They were stopped at the eastbound stop sign and clearly reached the intersection before me. And there was no car behind them.

I was northbound. After waiting 15 seconds or so, both my car and a car heading southbound moved forward. By then there were several cars behind me. As I glanced back in the rearview mirror, the car behind me went through the stop sign after waiting. Meanwhile, the driver on eastbound Atherton was still texting away.

The texting scenario is more common, obviously, involving people stopped for a red light who fail to notice that it has turned green.

Earlier in the day, I was in the Food-4-Less parking lot about to get out of my car when I heard the distinct sound of glass being crushed.

A lady pulling into a nearby space had inadvertently run over what appeared to be a beer bottle.

It doesn’t matter that her tire didn’t go flat — or at least it didn’t while she was shopping. Barely 10 feet away chained to a tree was a trash can. In front of the store — although more like 80 feet away — were more trash cans. 

If this makes me sound like an old fuddy duddy, so be it.

But take three quick snapshots from one day, multiply it by 39 million Californians, and then by 334.2 million Americans and it adds up.

The flippant attitude in the shoe department is a nuisance for most to deal with and a cost item for Target.

Making driving subordinate to texting while behind the wheel may irk others at a four-way stop sign or a traffic signal but it can also lead to an accident.

Discarding a glass bottle in a parking lot is littering and requires someone else to clean up your mess but it can also create inconvenience, expense, and even safety issues for others.

All three represent a creeping malady of self-centeredness.

We are all guilty of being self-centered at times.

Mores — norms that are widely observed within a society — have always been changing.

But in an era of where technological advances have clearly thrust us beyond survival mode to the point where we can devote a lot of our waking time to the pursuit off instant gratification, self-centered behavior can run rampant.

In the big picture, there is relatively little harm when we don’t put shoes back on the shelf, text while sitting at a stop sign, or nonchalantly litter. Imagine, though, what the world would be like if we all made an effort to be a tad less self-centered.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia.