I feel like a criminal–but we didn’t steal a thing

Hope your shopping season is going better than mine. Of the last three gifts I bought, I have returned two. I hear the credit card companies and the stores are keeping track of that these days.

It was easy enough to return one $100 item to Bed-Bath-Beyond, but when it came to returning this stupid mattress pad to Penneys, you would have thought the clerk was James Cash Penney in the flesh. What does she care if they take the item back? I had the receipt, and she had been the one to sell the thing to hubby and me two evenings ago, so what was her problem? Well. . . .

This was a “comfort memory foam” topper for a king-size mattress. It was two inches thick and weighed the same as two elephants in a Hummer. It was rolled up and compressed into a box not quite the size of a washing machine. I do not know what possessed me to convince Hubster to buy it in the first place. “We might be able to fix the mattress with this,” I had argued. Our mattress is worn out and I have started actually falling out of bed some nights because the sides slope so badly (the dog holds on with his claws, and sleeps in the exact center on the “hump”), but a king mattre$$ is hideou$ly expen$ive everywhere. I also had some idea that memory foam would be nice.

Wrong! When we opened the box at home, the monster popped loose and expanded like one of those inflatable rafts. And it STUNK. I don’t mean it just “had a noticeable odor.” I mean my two asthma patients started coughing, and we had to open the windows. A little card fell out of the box. It read, “Thank you for choosing RancidPee Comfort Foam! You may notice a slight odor. Before using the product, allow it to outgas for at least 48 hours in a well-ventilated area.” Hubby was already dragging the behemoth down the bedroom hall (having knocked down at least one bookcase on the way through the den) when I got the card and read it. He argued that we could just sleep without breathing in the stink, but I made him drag the thing out to the garage and drape it across the bicycles and such to outgas.

The garage became unlivable. Shoo! The smell was still there last night, when I decided to surf the ‘net to see if any mattresses might be available. You see, this dang foam pad was originally $470, but had been reduced to $280, and with my coupon it became more like $259. If it had been $30 total, I would have just donated it to charity along with the stuff I set out on the patio this morning, but $260 was simply unreasonable. Especially since I found a Sealy mattress (no box springs–mattress only, but I already have nice box springs) on clearance for $450, delivery $60 with haul-away of the old one.

So I bought the mattress online and set up delivery, and when hubby got home, I made him help me get the monster back into the box. Well! God never intended that this beast go back into the box. I always knew this fat would come in handy for something, but I’d never dreamed it would be used to force air out of a contrary sea of foam membrane that was busy clinging to the carpet and picking up every speck of dust. I stretched out full-length on it to compress it enough to fold it, and both of us had to lie on it as we rolled it like a log and then folded THAT into fourths. We must’ve looked as if we were trying to execute some esoteric tantric-sex foreplay thing, rolling around on that pad fully clothed in the front hall. It was a wonder that we could get the evil roll compressed enough to get the box sort-of closed. We hauled it out to the van and put the dog’s stroller on top of it so it wouldn’t break through the tape before morning.

The box was so heavy that I had to get a guy from package pick-up to take it into the store for me. As we approached the counter, the Russian lady we’d bought the mess from said, “What wrong? You not bringing this back!”

Well . . . yes.

“This damage! Nobody gonna buy it.”

It wasn’t damaged. We did take it out and put it back, but we never used it.

“Damage. It damage.” She shook her head.

“Well, here’s my receipt and here’s the JCPenney return policy.” They have that written on the wall behind the counter.

“Why you not keep?”

“It smells too bad, even after we aired it.”

“They all do. All do. Always smell.” She stared me down.

Just because the products ALL stink, that doesn’t mean I am required to keep this one, so I stared back.

She finally took my receipt and let me swipe the card. She was very cranky about it. Heck, how much stock in Penneys must she have? The item will just go back to Lenexa (or the nearest warehouse) and will be sold as an open-box clearance. And I’m sorry about that, but I can’t help it. I made a boo-boo buying it. I’ll be sure to buy some cashmere sweaters there next week to make up for the lost revenue.

She must lose Princess Points for having to take that back.

Moral of the story: don’t buy things without smelling them first.

Or just don’t buy things, period. I am having terrible judgment as Santa this year.

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Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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