Many UN-Happy Returns (September 1998)

What is it these days with returning stuff?! We went to the mall the other day to get some stuff for school. As a family we had already visited way too many trendy clothing stores looking for the PERFECT pair of those ubiquitous khaki cargo pants, so I took off for the Mr. Bulky across the aisle. (This, by the way, is a really stupid name for a store that sells stuff you can eat.)

Mr. Bulky sells ďbulkĒ food at really high prices and you pretend everything is clean and sanitary even though you serve yourself with little shovels and Iíve seen more than one kid with dirty fingers stick their fist right into the bin of Gummie Bears. Thatís why I NEVER buy candy there. I bought $4.65 worth of the Oriental Mix. Itís my all time favorite. Whenever I fly through Pittsburgh, I am beside myself with joy. The airport there has TWO places that sell Oriental Mix. I love the stuff. I probably get back on the plane with seaweed breath, but what the heck. (Do you know of a better way to get your share of the armrest?)

If youíve never tasted Oriental Mix, itís delightful. Little brown crackers in interesting shapes. Some are a little sweet; some are a little spicy, and they keep trading off, so you can never tell for sure until you pop it in your mouth. Sometimes thereís nuts in there too. Itís probably saturated with artery-hardening carcinogens, but itís one of my few vices. I can shove it in my mouth faster than almost any other food. A little Coke with lots of ice and I am in hog heaven.

I paid for my Oriental Mix, sat down on one of the benches outside the store with the cargo pants and untied the bag. Evidently, Oriental Mix is not a popular taste treat here in Flint. They probably donít sell a lot to teenagers looking for cargo pants. The stuff was stale. Really stale. I started looking for bugs. I could hardly believe it. My taste buds were all lined up ready to experience the tasty crunchy morsels of delight. I took another sample. Worse than the first. And there I sat with a pound and a half of it!

I went back into the store, and told the adolescent behind the counter that the Oriental Mix was stale. She looked at me as if to say, ďAnd the problem would be........?Ē I told her I didnít want it. She asked me if I wanted to exchange it. As if there were anything else that would even come CLOSE to the flavors my tongue had already been promised. (And how could I ever hope to shovel out the exact amount of the something else to exactly equal the purchase price?) No, I didnít want to EXCHANGE it. I handed her the bag and the receipt, and so began THE TRANSACTION FROM, well, you know where.

I had to give her my name. And my address. And my phone number. With area code. All of this information was laboriously entered into her computer. I was trying to recall my motherís maiden name and the birth weight of my first born when she took the bag of Oriental Mix and plopped it on the scale. She punched a few keys on the calculator, checked it against the receipt I had given her and handed me back $4.59. Observant readers will note that I was charged 6 cents for the stale crackers I consumed during the 30 seconds I was out of the store!

They must have a real problem with returns. There must be thousands of evil malcontents who buy jaw breakers or red licorice strings at Mr. Bulky and come right back into the store 4 seconds later and return them. Just to tick off the staff. Maybe theyíre licking the candy first and then returning it. Maybe Mr. Bulky has to run a DNA test on all returned candy. Names and addresses are given so that reports can be made to the authorities. And they charge the consumer 6 cents as a way to defray the costs for the DNA analysis. This little inquisition must be to deter such anti-social behavior. It sure cured me. I wonít ever go in there again. Iíll fly to Pittsburgh for snack crackers!

But, if I ever do have to go back Iíve got a plan. Next time Iím faced with a nosy MS. Bulky who wants my vital information I think Iíll reply:

ďIím sorry, but I work for the CIA. I could give you that information, but then Iíd have to kill you.Ē
(c) 1998 by Ami Simms.