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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Many Unhappy Returns

I've never been the type of person to return things to stores. If I buy something at the grocery store and find that it is spoiled (or was already opened, ick!) when I get home, I'll certainly take it back for a replacement. But if I buy something and don't care for it, I just chalk it up to experience. Something that I haven't ever done is returning a gift that was given to me. I've received things in wrong sizes, duplicates of things I already owned, and one or two gifts that were downright baffling in their complete clash with my tastes. I don't know if it is something I was taught by Gram, or something I came up with on my own, but I have a guilt or sensitivity related to the subject. Someone thought about me, if briefly, and chose to gift me with something that they thought I would like. If they knew that I returned it, it might hurt their feelings or cause them embarrassment. I really hate to hurt anyone's feelings. Wow, it just cleared itself up in my mind. Having been abused both physically and emotionally, I shy away from doing anything that might cause another person unnecessary pain.

When I worked in a retail shop in an upscale shopping center (which looked like a mall but was never called a mall because that is so common) I learned that a lot of people are the opposite of me when it comes to gifts. Their behaviors were quite an eye-opening experience for all of us in the shop, and sometimes in a very unpleasant way. Naturally, the returns came in droves in December and early January after the gift-giving holidays.

It was the day after Christmas that I learned about an interesting type of holiday shopper, the one I tended to think of as Mr./Ms. I-love-my-grandma-but-not-enough-to-pay-full-price. This is the person who would come blustering into the shop right when it opened the day after Christmas and demand to see the "sale section." In those days, the parent company of our shop did not have sales. They charged the same prices for their products all year long. Since we assembled our own gift baskets and bags, if they didn't sell, we simply took them apart and put the products back on the shelves. When the customer was told that there were no sales, they would sometimes start yelling at us that we were supposed to have a sale today. "I have to get a present for my grandma! What am I supposed to do now?"

I freely admit to thinking unkindly of the people who treated us this way. They obviously told dear granny that they couldn't see her until the day after Christmas because they wanted to get her gift more cheaply, and then blamed us when their plan went astray. Let me add that the people who made the biggest stink were often the people who could obviously afford to pay the full price. (If they weren't, I'd go out of my way to help them find Grandma affordable but thoughtful gifts. It was one of my great joys in working retail.) After seeing several of these ungenerous people in one day, I had to fight the urge to spend a day's pay over at the Godiva store on my little white-haired Gram, and at full price.

There were others that were much worse than the day-afterers, though. They were the ones who thought of every gift as an opportunity to get some cash. They would toss their birthday gift on the counter and say that they wanted to return them. When asked the reason for the return, as was customary, they would say, "I don't like it." The gift was unopened, but they knew, magically, that it wasn't good enough for them. They wanted cash. Unfortunately for them, this was not the shop's policy. We did exchanges or gift certificates when there was no receipt, or repayment in the same form as the original payment if there was a receipt. You can't imagine some of the colorful names I was called on these occasions, and often by people who were young enough to have barely entered middle school. If I weren't naturally polite, I would have asked if they kissed their mom with that filthy mouth.

There were all sorts of people with all sorts of behaviors related to both returns and shopping, and most people are kind and decent to others. Serving them gave me a great deal of happiness while I was working. The overriding feeling I have related to the unhappy returns is a simple one. The people on the other side of the counter are just that - people. They usually don't own the store or make the policies there. They're just trying to help you and make a living. They will usually respond better to kind treatment, just like everyone else. I hope that I always remember that, no matter which side of the counter I'm on.