Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pure Evil...

"Tell me, Mr. Crow. What's the best time of day
to go pecking through the compost pile?"

     "Dave...  it's not a big deal."

I didn't say a word as I tensely gripped the steering wheel and tried to focus on the road.  We were moving along steadily in the left lane of bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

     "Honey, everything will be OK.  It will all work out."

I was vaguely aware of the cars whizzing by on our right, but my mind was befuddled in a state of agitated disconnect.

     "Dave, everybody goes through this.  Honey...  "

I glanced down at the stereo display several times, but I was so upset that I wouldn't have been able to tell what time it was, or which radio station was playing.  I probably shouldn't have even been driving, but we were only two miles from home.

     "Dave, my mom has a ton of them.  I mean, she's got a whole purse full.  This makes, what...  TWO for you?"

My wife was trying as best she could to make me feel better about my irresponsible behavior.

     "Is this really bothering you that much?"

     "Yes...  yes it is."

My wife sighed as she took another sip of coffee from her paper cup. 

     "Honey, I'm sorry," I said, slowing to a halt as the Lincoln Navigator in front of me stopped at the red light.  "I know that I shouldn't let it get to me, but...  I can't help it.  It really upsets me...  ya know?"

     "Yes, I know how you don't like to do that," my wife said, trying to console me.  "But you know, you didn't have to do it if you didn't want to.  I wish...  Damn it.  I KNEW I should have brought my license with me...  This is all my fault."

     "Honey, it's not your fault," I said, releasing the clutch and tapping the gas pedal.

The parking lot on our left passed us by, giving way to a Home Depot, followed by Target and Staples.

     "You can't blame yourself," I continued.  "I knew exactly what I was doing at the time...  I just didn't think it would bother me so much.  But, whatever...  it's no big deal.  I mean, we'll use it."

     "Yeah, we will."

     "And...  I mean, we DID save almost thirty-five dollars."

     "Mmm-hmm," my wife agreed, nodding.

     "And I did need the belt...  AND the pants...  "

I was trying as best I could to justify my careless actions.

     "...and the shirt.  Well, the shirt I guess I didn't need...  but it was on sale sooooooo..."

I trailed off, waiting for my wife to reassure me again, but she only took another sip from her cup and remained silent.

As we passed under the Interstate, the knot in my stomach grew even larger.

     "Honey...  Oh my God...  are you sweating AGAIN!?"

     "I know, I KNOW," I said, wiping the dribble of sweat away from my forehead.

The decision that I'd made an hour earlier was one that I swore I'd never entertain...  ever again.  I had done so once before over eight years ago, and the results had been disastrous.  For years after that, I'd remained strong and resisted the urge to succumb to temptation.

But today, I'd been caught completely off guard in a fleeting moment of weakness.  As hard as I tried, I was ultimately unable to resist the urge to relenquish my unsuspecting soul to absolute evil.

I had done it.  Right there in the Kohl's checkout line, I had made the decision to apply for a Kohl's credit card.

What was I thinking?

There's no other way I can say it.  Department store credit cards are the embodiment of unadulterated evil.

On their 'Integrated Scale of Absolute Evil', officials at the Wiener-Hardenburg Institute have currently ranked department store credit cards fourth, just behind Fox News, Monsanto, and Adolf Hitler.  (See Figure 1 down below)

When you carry a department store credit card in your wallet, you're basically trying to give yourself an excuse to spend money...  money that you probably don't have.

There's no justifiable reason whatsoever that anybody should need a separate credit card for a single store...  not one.

You go shopping...  you find something you like...  and you pay for it with cash, a check, or a major credit or debit card.  It should be as simple as that.

Figure 1:  Weiner-Hardenburg Integrated Scale of Absolute Evil

Unfortunately, major department stores have sucked in consumers, giving them reasons to have their store credit cards.

Free shipping...  double rewards points...  all cardholders take an extra 10% off your purchase...  spend over $100 on your store card and get fifteen extra bonus dollars to use on third Tuesdays of the month during the year 2016.

I've managed to stay free of these 'special offers' for most of my adult life, knowing full well that these gimmicks don't save you money.  Instead, they actually get you to spend more money in the long run.

For example, JC Penny may run a special in which I can get $20 off a future purchase by spending at least $100 today on my JC Penny card.  They'll say that by using my card, I'll be saving $20 down the road.

However, I'm smart enough to know that if I just spend $17 on something that I need, instead of $100 on stuff that I may want, but don't really need, I'll be saving $83 in the long run.

This is called common sense.  Unfortunately, many of today's consumers lack common sense.  Instead, they're easily wooed by coupons, sales, special deals, and rewards points.

The other problem with store credit cards is the balances which can all add up really fast.  It's easy to be walking around a department store, see something that you really like, and just put it on that store's credit card without giving it a second thought.

     "Wow...  look at those pre-shredded, scarlet pink, custom-painted, boot-cut, sun-faded jeans.  They're really nice, they're on sale, and they make my left butt cheek look hot and toned.  I don't really need them, but...  oh, what the hell!  I'll just put them on my JC Penny card.  They're only $79.99, right?"

Emperor Palpatine wasn't too happy
about missing the Top 10...  again.
The above incident may seem fairly harmless by itself.  But for shoppers who have ten department store credit cards, these incidents rarely occur in isolation.

After entering ten different department stores on a Saturday afternoon and making ten different purchases of 'only $79.99', these shoppers will have spent well over $800 in less than three hours.  As you can see, the situation can get out of hand very easily.

The only card new card that I've opened up recently is a Sears Card, and that's just so we can take advantage of 'No-Interest Financing' whenever we need to buy a new appliance.

I've been extremely persistant and mostly successful in my efforts to steer clear of store credit cards.

Kohl's presented me with my first serious challenge in about five or six years...  a challenge which I would ultimately fail miserably.

What makes Kohl's different from other department stores where I buy clothes is that they don't typically offer additional sales and specials for non-cardholders.  The clothes and other merchandise in the store might be marked on sale now and then, but you have to use a Kohl's credit card if you want to take advantage of any additional coupons or sales that they advertise in their weekly ads.

Unfortunately, this was the dealbreaker that would make me the shameful carrier of a Kohl's store credit card.

I had no intentions of selling my soul.  I simply needed to make a quick shopping trip to shore up a few minor wardrobe malfunctions.

At the end of March, the hem on the left leg of my black dress pants had started coming apart.  I'd continued to wear them to work, but my wife let me know that I looked slightly sloppy.  I nodded thoughtfully, making note of her observation.

The drama continued into April, when my co-worker Abby pointed out that I might be in the market for a new belt.  I didn't think that there was anything wrong with my current belt, but Abby was adamant that it was a fairly urgent matter.

Fair enough...  I have no problems trusting women when it comes to fashion advice.

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes this past Sunday morning, my wife and I jumped in the car and headed over to Kohl's to look for a new belt and some black dress pants.  I typically get all of my work clothes at JC Penny, but I had seen some pants at Kohl's just a few days earlier that were on sale for a great price.  Plus, we'd have to contend with mall traffic, mall parking, and mall drama if we went to JC Penny.  Kohl's was actually in a stand-alone plaza several miles down the road from the mall, so we wouldn't be dealing with endless networks of mall parking lots, mall traffic lights, and clueless drivers.

FOX NEWS Reporters (Reporters Steve Wilson & Jane Akre) uncover that most of the milk in the USA and across some parts of the world is unfit to drink due to Monsanto Corporation's POSILAC®, which has been proven to be a cancer-causing growth hormone (known in short as "BGH" "BST" or "rBGH" ).  They were fired by FOX NEWS for attempting to inform people of the truth. 

Click HERE to watch this story.  Sounds Fair and Balanced to me...

The shopping part of the trip went without a hitch.  It took me less than five minutes to try on the pants and belt, along with a gray dress shirt that I had pulled off the rack, just to model with the pants.  My wife and I liked the shirt so much that I decided to add it to the purchase pile.  It was one of those shirts that would wear well with a pair of jeans for a casual night out.  Plus, it was marked down to $24.99, from $55.99.  Oh boy!

As we headed towards the front of the store with clothes in hand, I was feeling really good about myself.  But the trouble started when we got to the checkout line.  A sales associate had just opened up another cash register, and he'd called us over to check out.

     "Hey, how are you guys doing today?"

     "We're doing well," my wife replied.  "How 'bout you?"

     "Oh, I'm good.  Did you find everything you needed today?"

     "Yes, we did," I replied.  "Thanks for asking."

Our cashier was pleasant and engaging.  He appeared to be around twenty...  maybe a sophomore in college?  He rang up the shirt and pants and then folded them carefully before placing them in a big Kohl's bag.  Finally, he rang up the belt.

     "Your total today is $93.27," he said, stuffing the belt inside the bag with the pants and shirt.  "Will you be putting this on your Kohl's card today?"

     "Um, I was just going to use my Discover Card, but..."  I trailed off as I studied the price on the computer display.  That seemed like a lot of money for a shirt, pants, and a belt...  especially when two of the three items were allegedly on sale.  But the math added up.

My wife said I needed a new belt.
Frankly, I'm still not sure what
was wrong with the old one.
I was about to reach for my Discover Card when I noticed the alternate figure on the electronic display.  This was the total price of the purchase if we used a Kohl's credit card.  I turned to my wife and uttered the now famous last words.

     "Honey," I said, pointing to the screen.  "This would only cost us $60.88 if we used a Kohl's card.  You have a Kohl's card, don't you?"

     "I actually don't have one," she replied.  "But I've been meaning to get one."

     "You...  don't have a Kohl's card?"  My mouth dropped open.  "How is that possible?"

     "I just...  don't."

I was absolutely stunned.  This particular Kohl's store had just opened over a year ago.  I was under the impression that all women within a fifty mile radius of a new department store automatically received that store's credit card, within days of the grand opening.  How else does one explain women who carry around a purse full of forty or more store credit cards.  Could this actually be by choice?  There was no other possible explanation.

I looked from my wife back to my wallet.  I paused for a moment before foolishly making eye contact with the young cashier.

     "Ya know," he began, tenting his fingers at sternum level.  "You could apply for a Kohl's card and receive over thirty-five dollars off today's purchase..."

     "I, uh..."

     "...receive your card in the mail within ten days, you'd be eligible to begin all sorts of great Kohl's benefits..."

     "Wait, please let me..."

     "...all sort of coupons to take advantage as one of our valued cardholders..."

     "Honey, help me out he--"

     "...can add your wife to the account anytime."

"Why didn't I make the Top 10!?" 
I felt like I had been punched in the face.  I turned to my wife for assistance, but she wasn't offering any on this particular day.  I looked over my shoulder and noticed that the line behind us was growing.

     "Wait," I blurted out frantically, trying desperately to avoid applying for credit.  "I, um...  have a question."

     "Certainly, sir," an ominous voice replied.

I gasped in horror as I turned back towards the cash register.  Standing behind the checkout counter was a red demon with glistening eyes, a pair of horns, and a row of razor-sharp fangs.  A seedy smile tugged visciously at the corners of his mouth.  He wore a charcoal-colored cloak which shrouded the rest of his body, save for his bony, red hands and a long, pointy tail, which he waved back and forth above his head.  He carried a long, slender trident in his left hand.

     "I...  I, uh...  Even if we don't have a Kohl's card, we can still take advantage of the sales and specials that you have in your weekly flyer...  right?"

     "Unfortunately, most of the weekly deals that we advertise are only valid...  IF...  you use your Kohl's card."  The demon growled at me, gesturing towards the Kohl's credit display with his gleaming trident.

I threw up in my mouth.  He had already referred to it as your Kohl's card, even though he knew damn well that we didn't yet have a Kohl's card.  I knew that our souls had been compromised.  I turned to my wife and relented.  I was frightened for my life.  I just wanted to get out of there.

     "OK, Honey...  Go ahead...  Apply for a Kohl's card."  I sighed, as I felt my shoulders slump forward.  I began toeing the floor listlessly with the end of my shoe.

     "Dave...  I don't have any identification with me," she responded calmly...  almost too calmly.  "You said... that I could just leave it at home since you were driving...  Remember?"

My lower jaw started moving up and down, but no words came out.  Slowly, I looked up from the ends of my shoes, to the my hands resting on the checkout counter, and finally back up to the demon who stood before me.  His eyes were glowing in a nauseating shade of scarlet red.

     "Sir," he hissed.  "Do you have any...  identification...  with you today?"

I gulped, as I nodded my head up and down.

     "Out--STANDing...  All we'll need is a credit or debit card from your bank...  to verify your personal information..."  He paused to wipe the drool from his fangs.  "...and electronically ruin, er--  PULL your credit."

I looked at my wife one last time.

     "It's OK...  Dave," she said, nodding her head up and down in a sickening, robotic fashion.  "Go ahead...  We'll use it...  all the time...  Everything is...  going to be...  alright."

     "OK," I said, trying my best to compose myself.  I took a deep breath.  "Alright...  "

     "Good...  Gooooooood...  We're ready to begin," the demon cackled, rubbing his hands together.  "Now...  hand over your Driver's License...  and a credit card from your bank."

I fumbled through my wallet for my license and credit card and set them on the counter in front of the demon.  He snatched them up and began typing at the keyboard.

     "Type your Social Security Number into the keypad in front of you and press 'Enter'...  Do it now."

I did as I was told.  After pressing 'Enter', a prompt flashed across the screen asking me to confirm what I'd typed.  I verified that the number that I'd keyed in was correct.  As I pressed 'Enter' a second time, I noticed that two other Kohl's employees had started stacking old boxes and other paper scraps in a pile behind the demon.  Their eyes were green and filled with mucous, and they spoke to each other in gibberish.

     "Type your total household income into the keypad and press 'Enter'...  Do it now.

Really, I have nothing else to add. 
Again, I obeyed the demon's command.  The two employees were still adding scraps to the pile of garbage, which was now almost four feet high.  After adding a large, crumpled up wad of packing paper, one of the employees struck a match and lit the crumpled wad on fire.

As the flames spread slowly throughout the pile, the demon continued to lead me through the application, prompting me to enter my personal information into the keypad in front of me while he processed the application on his checkout computer.  I was alarmed at how easy it was for a credit application to be processed with just a valid Driver's License and a few taps of 'Enter' at the keypad.

     "SOON, YOU'LL BE MINE, er--  we're almost finished," croaked the demon, as he waved his pointed, red tail back and forth in menacing fashion.  "I just need you to sign on the electronic display above the keypad...  right now."

I grasped the electronic pen between my shaking fingers and turned to look at my wife one last time.

      "Go ahead, Darling...  Sign it...  It's for the best..."  She pointed towards the electronic display above the keypad.  "Sign it, Darling...  You'll be glad you did..."

     "SIGN THE BLOODY APPLICATION, MISERABLE WORM!" roared the demon.  He spat at me and hissed, baring his pointy fangs.

I shrieked like a five year-old girl and hastily scribbled my name on the small display.  As I clicked 'Enter', I noticed another Kohl's employee approaching from the Men's Department.  She was dragging a fully-clothed male mannequin towards the towering inferno, which was raging behind the demon.  The mannequin was adorned with a tight black t-shirt with the web address printed across the front.

     "Burn it," ordered the demon, as he raised his scarlet, bony finger towards the fire.  "BURN IT NOW!"

     "Burn it now," my wife echoed in a distant voice, nodding her head.  "Burn it now...  burn it now...  burn it now...  burn it now..."

I watched in horror as the the female employee hoisted the unfortunate mannequin above her head and heaved it into the roaring flames.

The demon cackled madly as the mannequin began to burn.  All of the other cashiers had gathered around the fire and started to chant.  After a few moments, they began dancing in a circle around the flames.


     "Um, I..."  I pressed my palms to the side of my head, as the room began to spin.

     "SIR, DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS!?" the demon roared again.

     "Ohhhhhhhhhhh...  It burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrns!" I wailed, as the heat from the roaring fire began melting my skin.  "It...  BURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRNS!"



     "SWEETHEART!" roared my wife, slapping me hard across the face.  "THE DEMON ASKED YOU A QUESTION!"  She slapped me again with a nasty backhand.


     "HIT HIM AGAIN!" roared the demon.

     "SWEETHEART, YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!" my wife screamed.  She slapped me a third time, sending me to the floor in a crumpled heap.

     "TAKE IT BACK!" I wailed, doubled over in agony.  "PLEASE...  I WANT MY CREDIT BACK!"

     "QUESTIONS...   NO QUESTIONS...  ANY QUESTIONS...  --any questions.  Sir, do you have any questions?"

     "Honey, are you OK?  Do you have any questions?  Honey...  "

I opened my eyes and stared down at the checkout counter for several moments.  My head was cradled between my hands.  I look up and turned to my right towards the sound of my wife's voice.

     "Honey, are you all set?"

     "Sir, your card will arrive in the mail in about a week.  Here's a packet of information about your new Kohl's card.  Did you have any questions?"

I looked up at the young man who was standing behind the counter.  He was holding out a packet with my new account information.

     "Um...  no," I said, taking the packet from him.  "I think I'm all set.  Thanks a lot."

     "No problem," said the young man, as he gestured towards the next customer in line.  "Thanks for shopping at Kohl's.  Have a great day."

     "You too," said my wife, as she grabbed my arm and lead me briskly out of the store.

Out in the parking lot, my legs felt slightly woozy.  I had to slow down just a bit.

     "Are you OK?  You looked like you were about to pass out in there."

     "Yeah, I'm fine," I said, taking a deep breath.  "I was just trying to think of any other way we could use their coupons without getting another credit card."

     "Honey, it's just a store credit card.  Sheesh, you act like it's the end of the world."

     "I just don't like store credit cards," I said.  "Not one bit.  Nothing good can come from them...  ever."

My wife continued to chuckle until we were both in the car with our seatbelts fastened.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I felt a sudden chill radiate from the back of my neck all the way down my spine.  I glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw the red demon in the charcoal-colored cloak standing by the entrance to the store, waving his trident back and forth.

After a few moments, a crowd of Kohl's employees poured out of the store and surrounded the demon on both sides.  They all began to wave...  in unison.  My heart jumped, as I quickly shifted my view back to the road in front of me.

     "Honey...  are you sweating?"

OMG the only evil I smell around here is
all this damn rain we've been having MOL! 

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