The following is a verbatim transcript of yesterday's visit to a coffee shop with my friend, Etta:
Me: "I'll have a small strawberry smoothie, please."
Etta: "Me, too. That sounds really good."
Barista: "Certainly. Do you have a rewards gold key card membership number?
Me: "No, I don't have one of those cards."
Barista: "You could save 5 percent if you had a rewards gold key card membership. Would you like to complete a membership application today to receive one? The annual fee is only $20."
Etta: "So if we spent $20 now, we'd save, let's see, about 37 cents, right?"
Barista: "That's right!"
Etta and me: "Pass."
The barista seemed disappointed but began to work on our smoothies. Finally she returned, rang them up and then, to our horror, set them just out of our reach.
"Good news!" she said.
"You've been approved to receive a free trial of "Entertainment Weekly," "Time" or "Better Homes & Gardens." Just fill this out (shoves form at us) and your subscription will be on its way to your mailbox!"
Me: "No thanks. Can I get my smoothie? I want to drink it while it's cold and, right now, it's starting to sweat more than Speidi during an Al Roker interrogation."
Barista: "Certainly. But first, would you like to apply for our frequent smoothie card? If you drink just 25 smoothies, you get one smoothie free. Oh! And here's a scratch-off card just for coming in. You can win anywhere from 5 cents to $500 just by scratching off the little berry symbols. Go ahead and see how much you've won!"
We scratch, although we don't really want to, and discover that we have won a "Sorry! Try Again!" which makes the barista frown.
Me: "I don't want to be rude, but, really, can we just get our drinks and go sit down? We don't have gold memberships, we don't want to buy magazines and now I have scratch-off crud under my fingernails."
Barista: "You bet. That'll be $7.45. May I have your telephone number starting with area code first?"
I swear I am NOT making this up.
"No!" we said, again in unison.
"Oh," the barista said, smiling broadly. "I get it. You should know that we don't sell your personal information to anyone if that's what you're worried about. We just want to send you free coupons for special offers in the mail. And if you share your email address with us, too, you will automatically be entered in our jackpot sweepstakes drawing!"
"OK," I said. "You win. My email address is givememyflippingsmoothiebeforeistrangleyou.com."
She looked hurt but finally released the hostage smoothies.
"Here's your receipt with our Web address on the bottom. Just take a brief online survey and you can get a dollar off your next visit!"
Next visit? Not berry likely.