Do you remember when you actually had to leave the house to do all your Christmas shopping, and you couldn’t just happily sit in front of your computer screen and do it from home? I remember those days well, and I’ve no clue how I ever accomplished anything back then other than Christmas shopping. There’s no way I’d have time to do all that now.
I recall never ending schlepping from store to store, squabbling over parking spaces, hauling heavy packages all over the mall, and standing in impossibly long lines—with blisters the size of golf balls—while someone coughed the latest germ all me just in time for Christmas. All this to find that special gift for someone who’d probably get it exchanged on December 26th anyway.
Now it’s just a matter of a couple dozen clicks on the internet and I’m done. All the while I get to sit around in my ratty-looking pajamas—with even rattier-looking hair—sipping a nice hot cup of cocoa. Usually it works out quite well for me.
Although one particular online order would’ve been easier if I’d just thrown on my boots and hiked it up to the North Pole to get it directly from Santa’s workshop. It should’ve been simple enough; the site said the item was in stock and I already had an account with the store. All it would take was a few simple clicks and the purchase would be on its way—or so I thought.
I typed in my info and they told me my account didn’t exist. I knew it did, so I tried a couple more times. It still wouldn’t recognize it, so I gave up and signed up for a new one. They further informed me I couldn’t use that email address because there was already an account set up for it. Yeah, mine. With seemingly no other option, I set up a new email address and then, at last, I was able to proceed.
After I re-found the thing I was looking for I went to put it in my “shopping cart,” but their site froze, which happened over and over and over every time I tried. I considered going elsewhere online to buy it, but after all the darned time I spent setting up a new account—giving them more information than even my own doctor has on me—I was determined to see it through to the bitter end. Plus, I had a substantial store gift certificate from there to use on my purchase. A good long while went by, and then finally I was able to get the gift into my cart—although I think it would’ve been easier to try and cram a mid-sized sedan into a real shopping cart.
I then put in my credit card information, which surprisingly went smoothly. I was nearly done. All they needed from me now was my gift certificate code. This wasn’t one of those internet coupon codes, either—I had it in my hot little hands as I’d gotten from a prior purchase through their physical store. So, I plugged in all three thousand, eight hundred and sixty-five digits and an error came up proclaiming the number invalid. Since the number was longer than a football field I thought maybe I typed it in wrong. Nope. After a few more tries I realized the error was on their side, not mine.
Irritated to no end, I called customer service. After talking to a computerized operator and then being on hold for all of eternity—listening to Christmas music that sounded like it came out of a tin can, and getting “accidentally” hung up on twice—I was able to get through to a living, breathing person. A person who, of course, spoke very little English. After explaining my situation to her, she transferred me to someone else, who transferred me to someone else, who transferred me to someone else. Finally, I got through to a person who told me that the coupon was only valid in their physical store, even though the gift certificate itself said nothing of the sort. After I threw a rather un-festive fit over the phone, they decided to do me the greatest of favors and give me a different code to type in, which would take the same amount off that the gift certificate would have, had I been able to use it.
This should’ve been the end of the story; however, after spending an eternity on the phone with customer service, my order timed out and I had to sign in all over again. And this time—joy upon joys—the item I wanted was now “currently unavailable online.” I’d absolutely had it. I got dressed, got in my car, and went to the store with that rotten gift certificate in hand. After grabbing the item off the shelf and standing in line for longer than I’d been on hold, I finally got to the checkout where the cashier scanned the gift certificate. She gave me a cheesy look, paused, and then sneered as she said the following into the store’s speaker system: “Manager to the front, I have a woman here who just tried to get away with using a gift certificate she already used online.” While I wanted to crawl under a Christmas tree and die, several shoppers looked my way and shook their heads in disgust. Fuming, I waited for the manager.
When the manager finally came he was nice enough, but explained to me the scanner clearly indicated my gift certificate had already been used, that the scanner is always right, and I was probably just confused due to all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. At that point all I wanted to do was get out of there. So I quickly purchased the item—without the savings of the gift certificate—and left the store.
If it hadn’t been the season of good will—and a dozen or so people hadn’t been standing in line behind me to hear—I would’ve told him and that cashier exactly where they could’ve stuck the present, the idiotic scanner, and that gift certificate.
(excerpt from my book Christmas Madness, Mayhem, & Mall Santas, available at all major online bookstores)