Big box stores – no friend after TBI

No friend of mine

So, I went out to a big box store and picked up my new gadget. It wasn’t cheap, but it also wasn’t the most expensive one in the store, which was good. The store I went to is a nightmare for me — I need to remember that for next time, and just buy these gadgets online, so I don’t have to deal with the stress.

Basically, it’s all open, so there is no block to the noise or visuals or smells or any other sensory input. The overhead lighting is fluorescent and overwhelming. There are tons of gadgets and screens all playing something with no escape from them. And there are no distinct aisles where you can take a break — it’s all open. That’s probably to reduce shoplifting, which I’m sure is a problem with them. There are a lot of little items that people can sneak out of the store, so they have to keep an eye on people. But for someone like me, who doesn’t do well with environments like that — I’m trying to get away from one at work — it really is a nightmare.

Fortunately, I wrote down a lot of my questions before I went. And I got all my questions answered. But when I needed to think on my feet, it all came crashing down, and it was all I could do, to get the hell out of there. I was incredibly sensitive to it all, and I started to shut down, midway into my discussion with the sales guy.

I hadn’t expected to be so sensitive to it all, quite frankly. I knew what I wanted, and I intended to get in and out, which is what I did.

At the time I was talking to the sales guy, I started out pretty relaxed, then I got increasingly tense. There was so much activity going on around me, and yet the store was not packed. I can’t imagine how it would have been, had it been full. The longer our conversation went on, the harder things got for me. It felt like everything was coming in on me at once, and I couldn’t block it. The overhead lights, the conversations going on all around me, the choices in options, the products on the shelves… so many choices, so many different prices, so much math… Being tired didn’t help, of course. It didn’t help at all.

As the conversation proceeded, I became less and less interactive. The sales guy was looking at me oddly, as though I looked like I was going to pass out or something. I just needed to get out of there, and whenever he asked me if I wanted to purchase something else in addition to what I was getting, I practically snapped at him, “NO.”

Seriously, I didn’t have time to be upsold. I needed to get the hell out of that place and into a quiet, dark space.

So, I grabbed my gadget and high-tailed it out of the store. As I was walking across the parking lot, I saw an outdoors store across the way that I usually check out when I’m in the area. I tossed my stuff in the car and headed into the outdoors store, which was not only much quieter, but also dark, with clearly marked areas where people could look at things without being interrupted, and didn’t have this avalanche of options to pick from.

It was like a breath of fresh air, and I got a chance to chat with a sales guy about a paddleboard I’ve had my eye on. It was the complete opposite of the conversation I’d had with the gadget salesman, and I was in no great hurry to leave that store.

Night and day.

I can’t believe anyone can actually thrive in those glaringly lit big box stores. Especially the ones that are all open, with tons of screens and speakers spewing stimuli into the environment. I would imagine it makes some people feel very much alive, but it makes me crazy. And as for holidays and the sales? Add teaming crowds, and it becomes a total friggin’ nightmare, if I’m not expecting it.

The key for me is really to be prepared. During the last holidays, I handled things pretty well. I was able to get in and out of those big boxes in short order, with a minimum of stress. Of course, it helped that my spouse and I did not have to travel to family over the Christmas season, but the other thing I did was prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the big box experience. I knew it was going to be hard, and I prepared for it.

Yesterday, on the other hand, I thought it was going to be easy. I was shopping early in the day, when the store wouldn’t be too crowded, I knew what I wanted, and I thought I could just get in and out, with a few questions asked. I had forgotten about all the other factors, or just underestimated the effect they were going to have on me.

Bottom line is – when I’m tired, everything becomes an issue.  All the things I’ve been handling well, suddenly turn into things I don’t handle well. And I just need to plan for that.

If I plan and prepare, I have a chance. If I just “wing it” and carry on as though there’s no issue, and there’s no potential problem, I’m just setting myself up.

I’ll keep that in mind today, when I go shopping later. My spouse and I need to pick up some essentials while the Labor Day sales are still on, and I do need to pick up another item for my new gadget. Preparation… preparation. And I’ll get a nap before I go, too.


Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

4 thoughts on “Big box stores – no friend after TBI”

  1. I took another shot at the big box store the following day. Did okay for the first five minutes, then not so much. Interestingly, the salesperson who helped me was also having trouble speaking and being coherent. They seemed extremely agitated, as well. But they were hanging in there, as was I, and I was halfway successful. But from here on out, it’s the store’s online option for me.


  2. Online is a terrific option. I live in a rural area. I end up getting much of the speciality stuff I need online, anyway. Grocery shopping can be a bit challenging. I shop one store, the local Safeway. I know the layout and it’s smaller, lower roof. If I have to go elsewhere, a friend takes me. I avoid HellMart (WalMart) like the plague. Hate that place!


  3. Yes, online is ideal. Especially with so many videos out now showing the products so I can see them before I buy and spend money I can’t afford to lose. That happened to me last weekend – I went back to the Big Box to get some things I had overlooked before, and I came away with one thing I could use and the other that was worse than no good to me. Speaking of spending money I can’t afford to lose…

    So, I went online, found a better product, watched a video about it, and got it. Three days later, it was in my mailbox, and I am now using it quite happily.

    I suspect that some big box stores — esp. Hellmart — are specifically designed to confuse and overwhelm customers, so they just buy without being able to really think about what they’re doing.

    If that was the plan, it’s working.


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