I like the sign by the till in the government alcohol shop – it points to a ‘Regrets box’. Here you leave that extra bottle you picked up, just in case, the one you didn’t really need. It’s unusual to have a shop encouraging you to buy less, and we all need that at Christmas.
One way to buy less is to return things afterwards. I don’t mean after you’ve used them, but the presents you didn’t really appreciate.
I bought myself a present this year. Studs for my boots in case of icy conditions. I’m a bit traditional so even though I bought it myself, I saved it for Christmas. When I opened my own present and tried it on I realised I really didn’t appreciate it. I don’t know what kind of boots these studs were designed for because there’s no way they would attach to mine. They had to be returned.
I hunted for the receipt, a purchase made in a flurry of last minute shopping the day before Christmas Eve. Of course, those small pieces of paper had quickly been pushed out of the way to make space for everything else and were long since consigned to the bin. There was only one thing for it. Send Rolf back to the shop to plead for a refund without a receipt.
At the shop, Rolf pointed out that the studs must have been made for people with very very small feet, and the sales assistant willingly agreed. However. No receipt was a bit of a problem, so he began to search the till records to try and find the right one.
Rolf wasn’t absolutely sure of the date. Did he remember, he asked, what I’d bought at the same time? Rolf had been out of the shop at the time because, although I’d come out clutching a present for myself, I’d really been in there to buy ‘stocking fillers’ (small items to put in a sock) for him. He now had to rack his brain to remember what inconsequential items I’d given him.
Then he had a light bulb moment: well, no, he said, he couldn’t remember the items, but he did know that they would have been blue. The sales assistant looked doubtful. No really, he insisted, we gave each other a colour code this year, to try and help the buying process, and I told her to buy only blue items – so the other items on the receipt would have been blue.
Rolf and the sales assistant looked at each other for a moment.
To his eternal credit the sales assistant calmly proceeded to look for receipts which featured studs, where the other items listed could have been blue. It was probably the first time he’d ever had this particular task. It might have been the most interesting thing that happened to him at work all day.
(I hope everyone in the queue behind, waiting to pay, were making a mental note to remember the colour code idea for next Christmas.)
He was triumphant when he identified a receipt featuring studs, a blue parking card, and a blue ice scraper. I got my refund.