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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Many Happy Returns

This past Christmas shopping season I realized I haven’t set foot in a shopping mall for about three years. No food court. No phone case kiosks. No Apple Store. In fact, the last time I was in a mall was probably when I purchased the Apple laptop I’m typing this on right now.

So, we probably won’t be going to the mall for any returns, since most of our shopping has been online and at several hyperlocal stores. I’ve made a number of returns to Amazon over the years with no problems. In fact, it’s quite a simple process.

We also made a return recently that didn’t involve actually returning anything. A bookcase we ordered online arrived damaged. When we contacted the company, they said they would ship us a new one. And not to bother disassembling, repacking and returning the original.

I call these “many happy returns.” It’s not always that easy, however.

Some stores don’t share in that happiness. On Dec. 26 they act as if they have never heard of returns. And if they do, they’ll make you run a gauntlet to discourage you from ever doing that again.

I tried to return a duplicate something-or-other to a large mall store pre-Covid. With a valid receipt and an unopened box, it shouldn’t take long at all, I guessed. Guess again.

I waited and waited at customer service, only to be told to make the perp walk to the department where it was purchased. There I was given a form (in triplicate) longer than a mortgage application. I filled it out, had all my documents in order, and expected to have my money cheerfully refunded.

Not so fast. I had to take this form back to customer service, where they would dispense the actual cash. But first it had to be initialed by “Marge.” And Marge was on dinner break, and Marge – and only Marge – could initial in that exclusive real estate on the form that says “DO NOT WRITE IN THIS AREA!”

Then they insisted on my phone number. Why do stores want your phone number for returns? Has anyone really ever received a phone call about a recent return? They say it’s to reduce fraud, but more often the numbers seem to end up in the hands of telemarketers. But Marge was insistent so I said I don’t have a phone. I got rid of it when the voices on the phone started confusing the voices in my head. I really said that. Marge was not amused.

I got the refund, and also a dose of attitude. And you know what? That store chain has moved on to the great retail Dumpster in the sky.

My personal award for the most customer-friendly store for returns goes to Costco. On Dec. 26, they are ready. They set up an entire triage unit for returns. You hand them the item, they hand you your refund. Returns don’t get any happier than that.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.