gift return horrorIt begins Christmas morning.

You rip off the wrapping paper and instantly think, “What the hell is this? Why would anyone think I wanted a motorized coat hanger machine?”

“Do you like it, Honey?” your wife asks.

You smile stiffly.

“I saw it in a catalogue and immediately thought of you.”

“It’s great,” you lie to your wife. You don’t want to start your own private war on Christmas.

And lucky you, there’s an eight pack of AA batteries for the motorized coat hanger machine in your stocking.

The morning rolls on, presents are unwrapped and praised, leaving you to wonder how many members of your immediate family are also lying through their teeth.

That doesn’t matter. The motorized coat hanger system is yours to keep.

There are seventy-eight mail order catalogues in your house. They are in bathrooms, on top of nightstands or under sofas. Since you have no idea what you’re looking for, the odds of success are exceedingly low. And if, by chance, you do find the book and page advertising this technological marvel, you will choke when you see the price.

Of course, you could just come clean with your wife. Sure, that’s it. Tell her that it was a stupid gift and it needs to be returned. Then she can remind you that she asked you five times for gift ideas and you never gave her a list. That’s a conversation worth skipping.

So what are you going to do? Turn your closet into a dry cleaning business? God, no. You can’t find anything to begin with.

In the moment of despair, your brain coughs up a word.


You’re not sure what it means but it does sound like a solution. Thank God for Google.

While you’re wasting a good chunk of the weekend reading up on the etiquette of re-gifting, the malls are packed with quasi-hostile crowds in long lines to return wrong-size, wrong-color gifts found under the tree.

Peace on earth and good will are now history. When it comes to returning gifts everyone in the mall wants the same thing. Get in and get out as quick as possible. And, if your car doesn’t have an extra door ding when you finish your mile long walk through the parking lot, that’s a bonus.

In the days following Christmas, you may be at Customer Service but it’s more like Hotel California. “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.” The stores are staffed with poorly trained, temporary, holiday season clerks. But, even though they may not be the A team, they’re doing their best to keep things moving.

No, this roadblock is caused by the the post-sale patrons of the store.  They come in all sizes and shapes but they have one thing in common. They ain’t happy.

And you’re one of them. You shuffle forward, waiting your turn. How long can this take? You gauge the number of items the people ahead of you have and calculate the wait. Not too bad. You grow hopeful as the line in front of you thins. Then it suddenly grinds to a halt.

Who’s holding up the line?

Scenario #1: Missing Receipt Lady

Clerk: Hello, can I help you?

Lady: I need to return this blouse.

Clerk: Do you have a receipt?

Lady: It was a gift.

Clerk: Okay, but do you have a receipt?

Lady: If I got it as a gift, why would I have a receipt?

Clerk: Well, you would usually have a gift receipt.

Lady: That’s rude. I don’t want to know what she paid for it.

Clerk: A gift receipt doesn’t show the price.

Lady: She paid too much, I can tell you that. My daughter doesn’t know how to shop.

Clerk: Fine. Store credit okay?

Lady: No. I want cash.

Clerk: I’m not allowed to give cash without a receipt.

Lady: Since when?

Clerk: I don’t know. I’ve only been here a couple of weeks.

Lady: You expect me to buy something else here?

And so it goes until the Assistant Store Manager comes over and gets a faceful of Missing Receipt Lady’s rage.

Scenario #2: Narcissistic Phone Guy

Narcissistic Phone Guy has a phone crammed into his ear as he arrives at the front desk.

Guy: (talking into the phone) Yeah, I know what you mean, Harry.

Clerk: Hello, can I help you?

Guy: (into the phone) I’m at the mall returning something for Peggy. She’s too busy, like I’m not.

Clerk: Sir, can I help you?

Guy: (Holds up one finger to the Clerk. He continues talking into the phone) The place is mobbed, I don’t know when I’m going to get out of here.

Clerk: Sir?

Guy: (into the phone) Hey Harry, I gotta go. This little girl wants something.

Clerk: Sir, you’re holding up the line.

Guy: (laughs) Oh that’s a good one, Harry. No I’m not going to say that to her. Okay…yeah…later. (Hangs up, put the phone in his pocket and turns to the Clerk). That Harry, he’s a crack up. I won’t even tell you what he just said.

Clerk: Is there something I can do for you?

Guy: Wow, Harry would have a field day with that line.

Clerk: I’m going to help the next person in line.

Guy: Whoa, hold on. I’m returning something.

Clerk. What is it?

Guy: Sweater, I think. Receipt’s in the bag. (Turns around and faces the line behind him.) She seems a little on edge, am I right?

No response from anyone else.

Guy: (Turns back to the Clerk) Boy, that’s a tough crowd. Know what I mean?

Clerk: (Pushes the receipt and pen in front of Narcissistic Phone Guy) Sign here. The refund goes back on the credit card. Next!

Scenario #3: Life Sharing Shopper

Clerk: Hello, can I help you?

Life Sharing Shopper: And a very Merry Christmas to you!

Clerk: Thank you.

Shopper: I guess we’re not supposed to be saying Christmas anymore, is that right?

Clerk: It’s fine. How can I help you?

Shopper: My daughter told me that. She’s a teacher. She and her husband are in from Buffalo.

Clerk: That’s nice. Are you returning…

Shopper: (cuts Clerk off) Buffalo should be covered with snow this time of year, don’t you think?

Clerk: Uh…

Shopper: Well, it’s not. Do you think it’s global warming?

Clerk: Really, the line is…

Shopper: (cuts her off again) My nephew was over for Christmas. He went on and on about the global warming thing. I’m not sure what to believe.

Clerk: Ma’am…

Shopper: (ignores Clerk) I was trying to ask him how he was doing in school but he kept interrupting me. I just hate it when people interrupt me, don’t you?

Clerk: Oh, yes. I really hate it.

Shopper: It’s very inconsiderate.

Clerk: Can I please help you return something so you can get on your way?

Shopper: Why thank you. It’s probably getting late. You know you can’t tell what time it is in December without a watch. It gets so dark, so early. And I didn’t put on my watch this morning. My husband gave it to me on our tenth anniversary.  Such a sweet man. I’m so lucky.

Clerk: Lucky to be alive.

Shopper: That’s exactly what I think. We could be sisters.

Clerk: No.

Shopper: Just kidding. Oh, I have a return to make. And don’t worry, I have the receipt. I don’t want to hold up the line.

Clerk: Right.

Shopper: (Holds up receipt.) Oh, would you look at this. I’m in the wrong store! Can you believe it?

Clerk: Next.

Shopper: What a Silly Susan, I am.

Clerk: Next! Next! Next!

Do you have any gift return horror stories? Leave a comment and share your post holiday nightmare.

Gift Return Horror
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