Earlier this week, we ran out of note pads. As it is with many people, I need note pads to work like I need oxygen. I fill them up with notes, page after page, and go back to them constant for a record of pretty much everything that's going on. So, I grabbed my jacket and immediately headed for the Staples stores a few blocks away. (In Quebec, the Staples banner is not in fact, "Staples" - it is "Bureau en Gros" which translates as "Office in Bulk").
At Staples, I picked up a packet of note pads and some printer paper then headed for the cash register. When the Staples employee scanned the packet of note pads' bar code, the thing wouldn't read. She tried several times, pressing down the plastic wrap, bringing the scanner to the bar code from different angles. Nothing worked.
So, she typed up the numbers printed below the bar code. Twice, she typed and twice her register could not register the note pads.
She called over her supervisor. He smiled confidently and went to retrieve the shelf tag where the note pads are sold. He waved the shelf tag under the scanner. The register didn't budge. The supervisor huffed and typed the numbers under the shelf tag barcode. Even this had no impact.
"I'm sorry", he said, looking up to me, "the problem is we don't have this product in our system. We can't sell it to you."
"Oh", I said, stunned into dumbness. I turned to leave.
"Don't you want to buy the printer paper?" he asked.
"No. I came in for note pads. If I can't buy that from you, I'm not buying anything from you."
Let me end with this: I wasn't buying watermarked notepads, or pads made from papyrus; there were standard, ordinary, boring old note pads. Alongside pens and paper clips, note pads are the very essence of office supplies. When a consumer walks in to an office supply store and can't buy essential office supplies when they are staring at him on the retail shelf, that consumer develops a poor impression of the office supply store.