At my favorite computer store, I stood line behind a short man who looked like he had walked in from the beach (he wore a bright, sunburned, bald head, floral shorts and sandals).
Despite the peaceful atmosphere of the small store, he shouted as he pressed a wireless earpiece into his ear with one hand and held a cell phone in the other. A new laptop and stack of software titles that totaled over two grand sat in front of him by the register. An anxious clerk opposite him drummed his fingers beside the boxed merchandise and stared up at the ceiling, his lips pursed in a silent, bored whistle.
The customer yelled, "Tell her I need her to fax her student ID to me here at the store so I can get this discount...Her teacher will let her out of class...well then just have her teacher fax it."
A couple more people joined the line behind me. The man tapped his earpiece to end the call and walked from the counter. He grabbed two more boxes of Microsoft Office Student-Teacher Edition off a shelf. The clerk held up a finger and said, "Only one sale per student."
"Oh c'mon!" the guy whined. He sucked his teeth and pouted his way back to the counter in front of a now-amazed audience. He flipped open his phone, held it to his lips and said, "Call wife at home."
I turned to the person in line behind me to share a smile.
The man said, "Honey, have one of Heather's friends fax her ID too or they'll only sell me one."
The clerk interrupted, "Sir, you can install Student Teacher edition on up to three computers."
"Really?" he said, tapping his earpiece and cutting off wife at home. "Then give me just one -your fax is on its way," he said. He turned to us in line and said, "Used to be able to install on as many computers as I wanted. Now the software geeks are getting greedy."
I coughed a laugh that I couldn't stifle -the irony of this guy accusing anyone of greed. I would have been annoyed by the five minutes of my time he wasted -except that all of us in line were so entertained by his desperate, wireless attempt to score a discount with is daughter's friend's student ID. He could have come back the next day with Heather's printed credentials. Or, perhaps more his style, he could have found a less scrupulous retailer who'd sell it to him hassle-free.
Software Activation (the process where software authenticates itself over the Internet to ensure only licensed computers can run it) has thrown a wrench into casual software theft. I'll discuss software activation in more details in the next Technology Triumphs.
Meanwhile, I'm all for using any legitimate software discount, but holding a line of shoppers -while I'm on a cell call demanding the faxed ID's of children that aren't my own -is extreme.