Many Happy Returns

secretlondon_Green_presentAh, the day after Christmas.

As your last overnight guest ambles off toward home and the dishwasher gurgles contentedly on its final load, your holiday stress melts like the slush in the entry.

(Deep sigh)

Only one task remains on your Christmas to-do list: returns.

Yup, it is time to revisit all the stores you swore never to step foot in for another year.

Black Friday may open the holiday season but Return Day closes it and you will not be free of your holiday obligations until you have spent your morning in a line, eyes focused on the floor, slowly shuffling forward, clutching the zebra-print sweater you received from your Aunt Edna.

It is what she gives you every year.

And every year you plod along in a procession of holiday refugees, slowly inching ever closer toward the surly young clerk whose face is half-hidden by a mop of carbon-black hair.

Do not be fooled. This clerk is not who you think she is.

Look past the cobalt-blue eye liner, past the foundation applied with a putty knife, past the tear-drop tattoo on her cheek. Despite her appearances, she is a professional. She is the closer.  The one who our economy depends upon to retain the hard-won profits of the Christmas season.

She is now demanding to know why you are returning the item.

“It’s a zebra-print sweater,” you say. as if that were explanation enough.

She falls back on the incredulous. “Is it defective?” she asks (as if a defect was the only acceptable reason for returning a zebra-print sweater).

“No, other than the concept,” you say, “it’s in fine shape.”

Then comes the gotcha. “Do you have a receipt?”

“No,” you say, knowing that although the store policy clearly states no receipts are required, we all know such policies come with a companion policy that mandates anyone who returns an item without a receipt be sneered at by clerks well-schooled in the art of sneering.

She sneers – but you are well-schooled in the art of enduring sneers.

She pivots in another direction. “Was this item a gift?” she asks.

You admit it was.

She says nothing but her sneer says, “you ungrateful sot.”

Again you endure.

Eventually the sweater passes from you to her. She accepts it like an abandoned puppy. She folds it lovingly and places it carefully upon a cart of rejected gifts, stacked high with loud sweaters, as-seen-on-TV gadgets, candles, fuzzy robes, boot racks, soaps-on-a-rope and neckties.

“Without a receipt,” she says, “I can only give you store credit.”

This is an acceptable compromise; the store preserves its profit and you are armed with credit to spend on after-Christmas mark downs.

As her fingers clack across the keyboard and the printer zips off your credit slip, another clerk in torn blue-jeans and a floppy t-shirt, wheels away the cart.

He bumps the cart through the swinging doors of the return area and makes his way toward a series of hastily constructed card board signs hanging from the ceiling.

“DEALS!! DEALS!! DEALS!!” the signs declare.

And there waiting beneath the signs stands your Aunt Edna.

You see her but she does not see you. How could she? She is as focused as a famished cheetah on the marked-down zebra-print sweater rolling her way.

Author: Almost Iowa

38 thoughts on “Many Happy Returns”

  1. So funny! Zebra stripe sweater. OMG! By reading your story we can see Auntie buying that sweater again and saving it for next Christmas. I’ve been lucky. The worst gift I can remember is some cheap, stinky perfume. sd

  2. Omg that is hilarious!! The 2nd to last paragraph caught me completely off guard! Bravo! PS I’m new here. Saw your comments on another new to me blog. Can’t wait to read more of your posts. 🙂

        1. I’ll look that up. I was born in southwest Iowa and lived there until my dad took a job south of the line into Missouri. All of my family was born and raised in Iowa. Great place. 🙂

  3. I gather you don’t see Aunt Edna often enough for her to notice you lack of zebra sweater. Unlike grandma & the matching barber pole tops she gave to my 4 daughters & I. 🙂

  4. Very funny, especially the ending! (Now you know it really is the exact same zebra sweater.) And also very true.

    In our family, we make actual Christmas lists of items we would like to receive, but it doesn’t make a difference. I have an “Aunt Edna” who doles out what she thinks others ought to have, in the size she thinks they ought to be. And they’re the lucky ones, because those items are returnable. She’s a teacher, and the rest of us get her recycled teacher gifts: no receipt and no idea what store it came from. But at least we don’t have to deal with the sneering teen-aged clerks!

    1. I come from a very large family and my extended family is so large, I have no idea exactly how big it is. Let’s just say that if we were living in Italy in the Middle Ages we would be a national power…

      Anyways, giving gifts became ridiculous after a while and so my sister who was volunteering in a woman’s shelter suggested that we adopt a family. We found a mother and six kids who left home with only the clothes on their backs and everyone in our family got a clothing assignment. I was assigned sweat clothes. It was pure shopping joy, I rushed into Target, grabbed the sizes on my list and rushed out. Happy family, happy me and a very, very, very Merry Christmas. The best ever.

  5. Aunt Edna’s a classic! I’m thinking she staked out the return counter waiting for you to appear in line! Sneaky Aunt Edna got the last snicker, and a deal on the revolving Christmas present! Happy New Year! 🎆 Christine

  6. ‘“Is it defective?” she asks.
    “No, other than the concept,” you say, “it’s in fine shape.”’

    This made me laugh. Your final twist made me laugh louder…my kitty is now hiding!


  7. LOL. I was concerned when I didn’t see your title convention being employed “My Many Happy Returns.” I feel better knowing next year you can write about the zebra sweater.

  8. I remember soap on a rope. But no zebra sweaters for me. Loved that ending! Perfect! And Christmas continues. Hope you’re having a great Boxing Day.

  9. Good chuckle this morning! Bought a few soaps on a rope in my early life when Christmas funds were low. And my dad always received a new tie. No returns for this household this year, a blessing. 😊

  10. Soap-on-a-rope. I’d forgotten about that. Now I’m remembering English Leather, Tigress, colored glass decorative bottles, and organdy aprons. If you don’t mind, I have some memories I’d like to return. Please don’t sneer.

    1. In the film, “The Imitation Game” the character portraying Alan Turning says, “Of course machines can’t think as people do. A machine is different from a person. Hence, they think differently.” If you substitute the words, Aunt Edna, for the word machines….

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