Retailers should consider training better their associates.

Not everybody feels comfortable with online shopping, specially when it comes to electronic products like PCs, but when you have to go to a big retailer, the Associates are more often than not a useless piece of decoration.

Sometimes you have to, well, you know, go to an actual store and buy your stuff there. Like -for instance- when your mother asks you to help her purchasing a new laptop, then you go online, find an offer on something with decent specs for web browsing, text document editing and video streaming (say Netflix and Youtube) and you go, show it to her and... of course! She has to see it before ordering the damn thing.

Ok, good thing we have a Technology Showroom called Best Buy about half mile away, and they happen to have this exact model as well, so you can go and see it, play with it or do whatever the hell you like doing to it with your hands before you actually buy it.

So there we are, Friday at 6:30pm. I routinely ignore the Clueless non-commissioned Sales Associates that are hovering around and go straight to the PCs section. I quickly find the potential target, point it out and brief my mother in why this is what she needs: hardware that meets or surpasses the requirements of the applications she will run, good warranty/customer service and a very affordable price. Then she starts doing with it whatever the Generation X likes calling the shopping experience, but I know that pretty soon another laptop will draw her attention, then another one... and the process will span for several minutes, if not hours.

Like a good Millennial I lose my patience pretty soon, leave her alone and find myself hovering around too, as the Clueless Sales Reps. are, until I stop in front of a misplaced shelf where two Chromebooks rest ignored. Maybe because of my tendency of always going against what is mainstream or maybe because I happen to be writing a review of the Acer C7 Chromebook, these tiny machines attract me and I start playing with them, and blaming the fact that no Pixel is at display to, well you know, play around with it meanwhile I'm here. And then, out of nowhere, one of the purported member of the Clueless Tribe shows a sudden interest in me, approaches me and asks the question that will soon change his status from Clueless to Sales Troll: "Can I help you with anything today?"

"Well" - I say to myself - "this might work, the kid seems to be asking honestly" And just to chat for a while I ask him:

MC: "Do you know why you guys have no Pixels at display? I mean, you have a Samsung and this Acer but it would be nice to have a Pixel here!"

ST: "A Pixel? I don't know what it is. Sorry. Is it a laptop?"

I swear I am not making this up. We're standing in front of the crappy shelf they have designed for the Chromebooks, it is Friday around 6:45pm by now, and this guy apologizes because he cannot help me, just because he doesn't know what a "Pixel" (in this context) is. But I taught kids of around his same age for three years, so I don't show my surprise and go ahead and explain to him what it is:

MC: "The Chromebook Pixel is a high end device, sort of like these two but with a Retina-class display, an i5 processor and 1Tb of storage on Google Drive for three years." - At this point I'm waiting for him to ask me what an i5 is, or Google Drive, or Retina display.

ST: "Oh, I didn't know that! I will definitely 'Google it' when I get home" This reaction restored a small percentage of my faith in mankind, for a second:

ST: "But, I'm surprised you know that much about it, most people don't care about these laptops because they do not run Windows..." - So he knows they do not run Windows? Mmm... suspicious.

MC: "Well, I do not care too much for Windows anymore. I have dual boot in my working laptop just because I still need to use some software only available for Windows, if not, I wouldn't use it at all"

And here the Troll reveals himself in a determined sales pitch in favor of a Windows PC:

ST: "But what are you going to use this laptop for? There is no software for it! For the same price you can get a Windows 8 laptop that is on offer and you can do more things, like gaming!" - A Windows 8 gaming laptop for $199.99. For real?

MC: "Thanks! I will let you know if I need anything." - I turned around and walked away.

This is the kind of experience that is killing big retail companies. Specially the ones specialized in technology. Number one, a Sales Associate should always be working for commissions. Second, a Sales Associate must know the products he's selling. I don't care if it is only sold online and you have none in the store, if you work at one of these places you have to know what's going on in the technology world, or you will put yourself in a very lame position. Third, you're not supposed to discourage customers or favor one product over others. State the facts, provide details, compare features and let the customer make the decision. And please, do not say you have $199.00 Win8 gaming laptops.

Oh! And if you are wondering what ever happened with the laptop my mom was trying to buy, well, she didn't like it. Or any other in the same budget range. She did like, however, a $999.99 ultrabook with touchscreen and a very slim profile. "Perfect" - she said- "there's nothing like seeing 'em in person, right?"

Wrong.