I hate to shop. It almost always puts me in a sour mood. I’m leaving Friday for a week on the mission field — Albania, to be exact. I had to go shopping today. It was the only time I’ve had to go for two weeks.
First stop — Target. I have a fantastic electric razor made by Braun. Top of the line. Nearly $200. It cleans itself automatically. It uses fluid. You have to buy replacement cartridges of the fluid. Guess what the Target where the carry the razor told me? We don’t carry the replacement cartridges. I ask, “Why would you carry a $200 razor that requires the use of refill cartridges, but not carry the cartridges.” The clerk looks at me blankly. I go to Wal-Mart. A lot of people hate Wal-Mart. I like them. They carry the cartridges.
I need a sport coat. I always buy my clothes at Men’s Wearhouse. They usually get me in and out very quickly. They know me there because that’s where I buy (or should I say “bought”) ALL my suits. They hustle when I walk in the door. I sometimes bring guests with me to get them new suits. I spend thousands there each year. Apparently, they have new managers at this Men’s Wearhouse. I recognized no one. They didn’t acknowledge me when I walked in the door. They didn’t offer to help me. They were understaffed. They didn’t even say they’d be with me in a minute. I waited 10 minutes anyway. Still no one offered to help me. I left. I’ll just wear my old sportcoat a little while longer. Then I’ll go somewhere else and buy a new one.
But I need some books to give to someone I’m counseling. I’m in a hurry. I go to Lifeway Christian Books (owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention.) I buy LOTS of books every year. I’m a major bibliophile. Lifeway gets tens of thousands of dollars of our church business every year. In general, I get treated worse at Christian bookstores than just about any other bookstore where I shop. Lifeway is no exception. I always use the same books for this kind of counseling. I buy them in bulk from Amazon.com. The reason I buy them from Amazon is because everytime I go to Lifeway to pick up a couple of copies, they are “out.” It’s a best-selling book. The last three times I’ve gone to Lifeway to pick them up, they are “out.” I’m an optimist. “Today’s my day”, I think. No it isn’t. They are out. Again. I find 3 other books. I go to buy them. I ask to charge them to my account which is part of our church account. We have like a dozen church accounts at Lifeway. That’s because we buy SO many books there. I have my own account. I have a discount card that gives me 10% off as a pastor. I ask the clerk to put them on my account and hand her my discount card. She tells me that she can’t give me a discount if I use the account. I can use a credit card. I can pay cash. I just can’t use my account and use my discount card. It’s only 10%. I can save 30% by shopping at Amazon. My church buys tens of thousands of dollars of books from them. No discount. It’s only 10%. I put my card away. I mention to her that she is making it much easier for me to shop at Amazon.com in the future. I wasn’t being rude. Actually, I was just making a promise outloud. I wasn’t angry…just aggravated. She looked at me with the same blank look that the girl at Target gave me. That’s OK….I like Amazon.com. The clerks don’t look at me and they give me a nice discount. Shoot, I almost always get free shipping. Plus, sometimes they send me a free mug or mousepad or something. They apparently like it when I shop there. I wonder why Lifeway doesn’t?
My screen on my cell phone goes berzerk. Strange lines and funny colors. I can’t see anything on it anymore. The phone is 1 year old. I have 1 year left on my 2 year contract. I go to Verizon. I stand in line. Finally, they take my phone. Come back in an hour. I do as I’m told. Can’t be fixed is their diagnosis. You need a new phone. But that one’s only 1 year old and I have a two-year contract. We know, but too bad. How much will it cost me to get a new one? Sixty-five dollars. What’s the warranty on it? 30 days. 30 days? But I have another year on my contract. What happens if it breaks again. $65 more dollars. I get out my credit card. I remember that for some inexplicable reason, Verizon’s service isn’t strong enough for my phone to work at my house or office. So I say, I want to upgrade to a more powerful phone. Fine, they say. You will have to extend your contract for two years. I don’t want to extend my contract, because when this contract’s up, I want to switch to a plan where I can get email like Blackberry. Sorry. Upgrade your phone and you must extend your contract. But I want a better more expensive contract with better more expensive service as soon as this contract runs out. I know sir. But you can’t upgrade your phone, even if it doesn’t get service at your home or office, unless you extend your contract. I buy the $65 cheapo phone. I privately vow to switch carriers when my contract is up. The clerk looks at me blankly. The clerk sitting next to him suddenly mutters, “I HATE THIS PLACE” over some problem with her computer. I ask them if they’ll transfer my numbers and settings to the new phone. Sure! Come back in 30 minutes. I do as I’m told. I pick up my phone. On the way home, I use it. My settings are gone. I’ll have to completely reprogram them. Thanks for doing business with Verizon.
Target, Men’s Wearhouse, Lifeway, Verizon….they don’t care. I’m just a face. They get what they can from me. If I like it, good; if I don’t, no sweat. Someone else will come in tomorrow and buy another razor or sportcoat or more books or a new cell phone plan. They don’t really need me.
Aren’t you glad that Christ doesn’t treat us that way? And, if we are being honest, too many times our churches act more like a business in that regard than Christ. Every person is important. Impressions last. A heart of service and concern make a deep impression. People should know we care. We shouldn’t take each other for granted. Particularly at church.
I’m not mad, just disappointed. I’m not ranting, just venting. I’m also hoping that in all things, I can learn to see the greater spiritual lesson that God is trying to teach me.