I would like to return this

By Jim Callicott

The fun part of Christmas and birthdays may not be opening the presents but returning the presents. Admit it. You’ve taken a gift back to the store and received a refund. You either pocked the cash or bought something you wanted but didn’t receive.

But you probably never met this lady. Her name tag says Bertha but her resume’ says former professional wrestler, body builder, carnival barker, arrested for stalking, army drill sergeant and a televangelist. She was hired by a certain unnamed department store who wanted to reduce the number of refunds issued after the holiday season. I met her in person.

“What do you want you measly excuse for a human being,” she barked at me.

“I would like to return this item and receive a refund,” I meekly answered.

“What is it? What’s wrong with it? Why do you want to return it? Do you have four forms of identification? Where is the receipt? Do we have your photo and fingerprints on file and are you skipping work to come here and waste my time,” she said without blinking once.

“It was a gift. It’s a scarf with build in gloves. I don’t wear scarfs and I have a pair of gloves at home. Besides its neon pink and I don’t like pink,” I replied after backing up a couple of steps to be out of her reach.

All two hundred and fifty pounds of Bertha leaned over the counter to look me in the eye and also let me know she had tuna salad for lunch. “Somebody worked hard to earn the money to buy you this gift,” she said in almost a whisper.

Her voice is starting to rise and boom across the store. “You ingrate, you don’t care about other people’s feelings. You could care less about the time someone spent to select the perfect gift for you. The fact that they sacrificed putting food on the table to buy this for you doesn’t keep you up at night, does it?”

Now her arms are flinging wildly. Her drill sergeant’s voice is ringing loud and clear. “Some poor mother had to leave her children at home alone with dirty dishes and unmade beds so she could go to the factory and labor in unsafe conditions to make this scarf so you could return it and put money in your pocket.”

“It was made in China,” I said.

“Communist,” she yelled at me. “I suppose you eat Chinese food too! Here, take this pen and pad and write a formal request, no more than four hundred words, as to why you deserve a refund.”

“I would like to speak with management,” I said firmly.

“Management is afraid of me,” she replied.

The line of people behind me had disappeared. It was just me and big Bertha. I was at a disadvantage, I was unarmed. Suddenly I heard myself shouting at her, “Have you tried Midol?”

Bertha is coming around the counter. I grabbed my scarf and ran. No refund but no broken bones either. I gave the scarf to my priest as a birthday gift with instructions on where to return it. If anybody can handle big Bertha it would be him.

I had a message on my voice mail. It was my priest. He said quite simply, “I have met the enemy and she won. Thank you for the lovely scarf.”

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