Bringing it Back

Stan Washington

Here I am standing in line pushing my cart forward.  I try to reread the gift receipt return process for a gift.  I still can’t understand the fine print. I’m at the local sports equipment store.  My wife got me an inflatable pontoon boat for Christmas.  This thing is massive.  She came in to talk to someone about what she should buy for me. The person she talked to was someone on commission.  He sold her the largest, most expensive boat available for pickup that day.  I am next up and still not exactly sure what the return process is.

I move up to the returns counter and state my case.  He looks at me and asks, “Where is the item?”  I point to the gift laden cart.  The boat is somewhat deflated and very bulky.  I have the original box balanced precariously atop the deflated boat on the cart.  The guy looks down at the cart and informs me, “The item has to be in its original container for any return.”  

I begin explaining the problem of fully deflating the boat and I have been trying to repackage this monstrosity for hours.  It just will not fit back in the box.  He starts shaking his head.  He looks at me with no emotion and says he cannot take the return back if it is out of the original package.  I plead one more time to see if I could sway him.  That brought the same blank expression.  

I ask if there is someone who could help me put it back in the box.  He points down the aisle at a door marked “Employees only.”  He directs me to look in the back for a Sam.  He says Sam can help me.  I find Sam and he looks at the cart and then at the box.  All he does for 5 minutes is to shake his head.  Finally, he seems to see how to do the repackaging.  He leaves and comes back with an electric pump that is used to inflate things like basketballs and such.  He fiddles with the pump and connects it to the partially deflated boat turning some valves to further deflate the boat with the pump.  

The boat shrivels to all rubber and no air.  Thirty minutes later, we have folded the boat into a shape that could possibly fit into the box.  After wrestling the boat back into the box, we pick up the massive box and load it on the cart.

Swinging back out into the aisle to the returns desk, I get in a line which has thankfully fewer people than originally.   I finally get up to the returns desk.  Same guy is there but he shows no signs of remembering me from before.  He fills out the paperwork and gets me to sign the return request.  I ask him about my refund.  He looks at me with that blank face.  He says, “The merchandise will need to be inspected for any damage.”  I turn around and there is none other than Sam standing there.  My returns clerk must have summoned him. 

I ask, “How do you inspect it?”  Sam states with an equally blank face, “We take it out of the box and unfold it, blow it up and inspect it.  Then you can put it back in the box.”  It is important here to not be visibly upset despite my shaking in frustration. I am barely able to keep from jumping over the counter and shake the return guy silly.  The returns guy turns to me and asks, “So how was your Christmas?”