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I won’t name names of a certain giant retail conglomerate that has a reputation for entering small towns (and several rather large ones) and driving out competition by undercutting prices. I’m not complaining about that — after all, competition is the name of the business. However, I will complain about something else.

When you wait in line to check out longer than you spent shopping for a buggy *full* of items, then something is wrong. If your store lies along a route used for business traffic, chances are that the hours of 4:30 – 6:30 PM are going to be very busy, right? All those people stopping for groceries or milk or that perfect widget they just realized they absolutely need don’t want to have to get out again. So if that’s the case, wouldn’t it make sense to make *sure* that you have adequate checkers to handle the surge?

The paternal, almost-grandfatheresque founder of this company is rolling in his grave. No longer are we promised “no line longer than three” or “return without question”. Walk into any of the unnamed retail establishments and you’ll find that there are never more than *half* of the checkout stands open. And for the love of God, don’t think you’ll ever get to return anything. Ever.


Uh…my name is Michael DeVault

“Serial Number?”

Excuse me?

“Serial Number,” the service person repeats. I think at this point I’m detecting hints of a German accent, but I can’t be sure.

I’m not sure, ma’am. It’s still in the box.


“Serial Number!”

I don’t have it, ma’am.

::Sigh:: “Receipt?”

Right here.

::Eye’s the receipt::

“It says here you purchased this item at 12:47 am on the third Sunday of the fourth month of the Chinese New Year, as calculated by the Mayan Calendar. Is that correct?”

I’m not sure. I just picked it up yesterday.

::Rolls eyes:: “Then that is correct. I’m sorry. I can’t accept this item.”

Excuse me? I just want to exchange it.

“If you’ll refer to our revised corporate returns guidelines, Section seven, sub-section b, part 1a, you will find out that we can only accept this item for return if it is purchased at 12:46 AM on the FIFTH sunday of the fourth month of the Chinese New Year, as calculated by the Mayan Calendar.”

That makes no sense ma’am.

“It’s really perfectly clear.”

No, ma’am. There are only four weeks in a month. Five sundays? That doesn’t happen very often.

::Evil smile:: “Why do you think we use the Mayan Calendar? NEXT!”

You see what I mean? Why can’t we go back to the simple Five-and-Dime days when the manager of your store is old Jim, who’s granddaddy started the town with your Aunt June’s second boyfriend before the War? I don’t think that Old Jim would be any more prone to offer me a refund, mind you. It’s just that he would be less geshtapoesque in his tactics. “Refund,” he’d say, scratching his head. “What the hell is that?”

And then you’d have a conversation about the weather or Aunt June’s THIRD boyfriend, who died in a horrific, freak collision at the tractor-pull. Alas, no. Rather than Old Jim’s Five-and-Dime, we’re stuck with SuperMegaMonothicioniacal Giganticenters. The next time I decide I can only get something from one of those places, I’ll remind myself of the people in Afghanistan, and be happy for me that the manager of my local SuperCenter isn’t a dictator. Because I’m sure he’d have pulled my fingernails out by now.