Many happy returns – if you do it right

May 5, 2024

Last week, Jeff opened a package of printer ink and found that it had dried up and wouldn't perform. He came downstairs angry about this revelation since he had just purchased it a month and a half ago from Walmart. He uses a lot of ink on my behalf, so I felt a rather unusual amount of guilt about this predicament. "Let's take it back!" I offered. "How are you going to do that?" he asked dramatically, as he threw his hands up in the air and performed his Richard Nixon-like head wobble. "They won't know if the cartridges are defective or empty and I'm just trying to scam them," he said. "Oh, I'm good at returning things; it's fun for me," I offered. "No! No! No!" he shouted, but then remembering my gypsy talents, he said, "Well, OK."

So I planned out our maneuver! Here are my expert tips: 1) Take a Walmart bag to show store loyalty. I've bought probably 50 of those bags, because I forget to bring one into the store every time and have to purchase a new one. 2) When you get to the store, go to the aisle where the same items are sold and bring the exact replacement item to the customer service desk along with the item you want to return. It makes the even exchange easier to process and saves time. 3) Also pick up and bring along a few other items you need to purchase. I always need something from Walmart anyhow. 4) Find a customer service clerk who looks receptive. I chose the old hippie man because he looked like he was from the Summer of Love and would probably be hospitable. 5) Smile broadly!

Jeff didn't keep the old receipt, which was a mark against this exercise, but I've done it before without one. He did, however, have his bank statement with the date of purchase, price paid, store location, etc. The clerk said that since there was no receipt and Jeff had opened up the package, he'd have to call the manager. I mentioned that Jeff opened it up and installed the ink cartridges, only to discover that the ink was dry and wouldn't properly print. I thought that was a good point, plus it was already near the expiration date stamped on the box.

The kind and understanding manager gave Jeff a gift card for the same amount of money meaning he could "purchase" a new pack of ink cartridges at no cost. Jeff was very happy, and my future printing needs would be satisfied. "Next time, save your receipts for awhile," I said. This is what I did with Rusty's $60 flea collars. The cheaper ones don't work on a 25 pound orange tabby, and besides, I like the ice cube-sized reflectors that snap on the collars like a Henry VIII mace.

When we got home, I began to sort through my envelope of receipts. "Why do you save all those receipts?" asked Jeff. Short memory, huh? I've always been adept at this kind of thing.

The heart of the house has always been the heater for both me and my mother because it heats both the inside air and our hot water. One time she was out at a senior citizens luncheon and left the back door unlocked, and some rogue heater man from a company different from the one she always used came in and serviced her heater.

She got a bill and of course didn't want to pay for this unscheduled service. They strong-armed her and kept sending her bills with compounding interest. She would never give me any credit for my talents, but she did call me up and wanted me to fix this pickle. "First of all, you were breaking and entering," I told the scary credit manager at the propane & oil company.

That's all it took! He sent her a check that very day. But instead of giving me the credit that was due, my mother said, "Ann Johnson [her best friend] could've done that, too!" The last note she ever posted was, "They shouldn't have messed with my heater!" It was written with a wobbly hand. As I always have said, no good deed goes unpunished.

Speaking of punishment, my mother always wore baby doll pajamas – those short polyester creations with a chiffon top and ruffled bloomers. She would strut around the house in them, trotting by in front of the TV, bow in hair and chin up. She had seen them in an old  movie starring Jean Harlow, a peroxide blond with a hair bow. My mother thought they were the essence of glamour, both nocturnal and diurnal.

She even conducted business with heater men while wearing them and a quilted housecoat. She would also gift some to me, and I would have to figure out how to return them to Braunstein’s or Peebles.

She even bought me a white polyester pantsuit for my wedding to Jeff without even consulting me, and not caring that I never wore pantsuits. "Wear this!" she commanded. She secretly wished that I had a job where I could wear it to work, but I did not. "Isn't this supposed to be a mother/daughter tradition?" I asked. She never would return anything, as I guess she feared the salesperson might think she couldn't afford it.

She sent me lots of outfits, and I had to figure out how to return them or sell them to someone else. I think she ended up not returning the white pantsuit and wore it herself to my wedding ceremony.

Anyhow, that's how I got so good at returning things!

  • Pam Bounds is a well-known artist living in Milton who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art. She will be sharing humorous and thoughtful observations about life in Sussex County and beyond.

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