September 9th, 2019


In which I feel suddenly out of sync with technological trends.

My watch has started losing time, which I'm fairly sure means it needs a new battery.

This should be fairly simple, right? It's a standard watch battery size, and while department stores and the like have stopped replacing the batteries when you buy a new one, I can do that part. Just need to stop by the store and buy a battery.

The first indication that this would not be so simple was this morning, when I stopped by the grocery store. It turns out that grocery stores, or at least the one I go to, have stopped carrying watch batteries of any ilk. So that was a bust, but at least a straightforward one.

This evening, I stopped by Fry's, which is our local "electronics superstore" -- sort of an small-local-chain equivalent of Best Buy except that the Sunnyvale store is at least twice the size of any Best Buy I've ever been in. Their website said they had the right size in stock. However, the store itself is ... well, first off, the electronic components and suchlike shelves gave me an immediate understanding of why the first Google autocomplete suggestions for "Sunnyvale Frys" was "closing". They are not closing the store, to my knowledge, but Orchard Supply had more stock on their shelves until the last week of their two-month-long going-out-of-business sale. The small rack of watch batteries, in the middle of a mostly-empty aisle, did have stock on most of the pegs. But they did not have a peg for either the claimed-in-stock 2-packs of 377-size batteries (which cost $2.99 online), or a peg for the claimed-out-of-stock single packs (which cost $0.99). They did have a rather sad, old, and battered-looking "check the size of your watch battery" display/tester thing sitting on top of the rack -- and I looked, and essentially all of the sizes that it had on it did not correspond to anything they had a peg for, and vice-versa.

So, I then went to Target, which also claimed to have them in stock on their website. I didn't see them on the rack in the "electronics" section -- although they did at least have watch batteries there. The helpful attendant in the section tried to find them on his little phone-sized handheld inventory-searching device for me -- as he noted, there were something like 8 or 10 battery displays around the store, and it could be on any of them. He didn't find them with any of the obvious searches (and, for some reason, the device converted his search on "377 battery" to "377 Batterybattery"), but eventually we tried "377 watch", which worked and gave the location as "checkstand 20". It was not at all clear what it meant, given that the checkstand numbers only go up to 14, but there was a battery display next to one of the checkstands, with different watch batteries on it, and a square mobile "battery" display rack in middle of the aisle near the checkstands that had yet different watch batteries on it. Neither of these had a peg for 377 batteries, though.

And this all leaves me with the realization that in the very few years since I last tried to buy watch batteries, watch batteries have basically stopped being a thing people buy with any regularity. People who want wristwatches get rechargeable smartwatches, I guess, which has rather quickly killed whatever part of the watch market was left after cellphones became popular. I'm left with the thought that fiddly mechanical watches will probably keep running long after the durable and simple and reliable quartz electronic ones are unusable for lack of batteries, and also the more relevant thought that I feel unexpectedly completely out of step with "normal" in a way I wasn't at all expecting to.

Anyway, I ended up ordering a replacement from Digikey. Although I see that there's also a reseller on eBay who's somewhere in Sunnyvale (probably closer to me than the Fry's is) and will sell me a box of 200 of them from China for $19 including shipping.

It's a weird world.

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