• I hear retailers are feeling the pinch these days.

    Their sales are getting soft and they're blaming it on that payroll tax hitting consumers hard. Maybe. But I think there's a bigger culprit: them. That's right, them -- their stores, their workers. They're getting too pushy. Particularly the way they badger you at the register.

    It happens to me all the time. Just the other day, I step up to the register and the cashier immediately asks if I'd like to open a store account.

    I politely say, "No."

    The guy proceeds to tell me I'd save 10 percent off my first purchase. I still say, "No. Thanks, anyway."

    He's hearing none of it.

    "Ten percent is a lot of money," he continues. "And you get cash back with every additional purchase."

    "Thank you, again," I say. "But no."

    Now he gives me this incredulous look as if to say, "OK, imbecile. Your loss."

    But he rings up my stuff and, while shaking his head, reminds me that I just paid $10 more than I had to.

    "My loss," I add as I quickly exit the store -- to another store. Same thing, only this time, I'm not at the register. I made the mistake of asking for help while wandering an aisle. I must have had that "deer in the headlights" look and this woman -- the assistant store manager, no less -- pounces.

    "Oh, you'll find all our printer cartridges in the next aisle. We're having a sale on all of them and if you sign up for our card, you get an additional 20 percent off."

    I decline. I'm only interested in buying a couple of cartridges, not opening my own office supply store.

    "Thank you very much," I reply. "But I'm fine with just these and I'll pay cash."

    She just leaves me, but she must have called ahead to the register guy who, after all had a head-set on, and wouldn't you know, looked a lot like the other store's register guy, offers me the same spiel, the same deal: Open an account now, save a bundle now.

    And I'm thinking to myself, "What would I do, where would I go, to splurge the three bucks I'd be saving on this transaction?"

    Again, I decline. Again, the smirk in response. Again, the "have it your way, idiot" look.

    Speaking of looks, I dash in to the haircut place next door. The stylist -- or whatever she calls herself for the 20 bucks I'm paying her -- hands me a card with the numbers one through 10 stamped across the front. She punches the "number" one and tells me I get a free haircut once all 10 numbers are punched.

    But seeing as I'm visiting and won't likely be back any time soon and certainly not to this particular hellish shopping center ever, I just take the card and say thanks.

    It's actually got me tense, this whole trying-fecta. I suspect I'm not alone. I think more than a few shoppers are just like me: They just want to be left alone.

    That's why retail sales are falling hard. It's because we don't want the damn card!