As a wee lad, all of 16 years old, I worked at the world’s biggest toy store, Toys R Us. Like the working crew of any other retail establishment, my coworkers and I had developed dislikes for certain types of customers that came into the store. Parents who initiated their conversations with things like “I have a son who’s eight but he has the intelligence of a twelve-year-old” spring to mind. Another was the tearful mom who showed up at our door sobbing on Christmas Eve after the store closed begging to be let in and buy some trendy tchotchke her kid had seen an ad for on TV. We always let her in, but I imagine the toy usually wound up in pieces at the bottom of the kid’s closet by Valentine’s Day. One of the most difficult parts of my job however was dealing with people who wanted to return an item. You would be surprised at the number of people who hope to return something after it’s been subjected to months and months of abuse. On many an occasion I had to turn away the forlorn cash-seeking customer trying to return just such an item. Bearing that in mind, you can imagine how hesitant I was this weekend when I had to return a computer to Sam’s Warehouse Club that I had owned for barely under 90 days.
I hated having to take the computer back because I not only had recently installed $70 worth of virus protection software on it but I had also gotten the computer for a steal. In December when I bought it, the original price at the Gwinnett Place Sam’s was $750, and that was probably a good $40 cheaper than it would be in any other retail store. All they had available however was the floor model. The Mall of Georgia Sam’s, also in my area, had it on sale for only $700, but they had no more in stock. When I asked a manager at one store if he would match the price of the other, he not only agreed but also lowered the price of the floor model to a mere $650. When I complimented him on how well his store was handling the post-Christmas rush, he took the handwritten price tag from my hand, scratched out the $650 and wrote $600. Floor model or not, this was a whopping $150 savings, the last $50 of which was due to nothing more than simple flattery on my part. So pleased was I with the courteous service and generous discount that I received that I sent an email via samsclub.com expressing my gratitude.
Sadly, the computer had issues from the start. Somewhere in the inner workings of the machine I would hear a ticking sound. This being the first desktop I had owned in a long time, I thought maybe that’s just how they behaved. I let that slide but the Compaq Presario’s errant demeanor didn’t stop at mysterious noises. It refused to burn CD’s, and let’s face it, in this modern era of bootleg music and movies and disrespect for that antiquated thing we used to call copyright, making CD’s is one of the main reasons many people use computers. If it can’t make endless copies of Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits, what good is the thing? Did I mention that it corrupted several files on a flash drive I had received as a Christmas gift? This thing wreaked of bad juju, and try as I might, there was no taming the ghost in the machine.
I knew obtaining a cash refund was a near impossibility, and because technology outdates itself every twelve minutes getting an identical computer (minus the Poltergeist activity of course) was also out of the question. I would have been happy with a store credit. I did want another computer after all, and I was happy to get it from Sam’s. A coworker had suggested having my visibly pregnant wife accompany me into the store which I thought was a novel idea. What self-respecting clerk would deny an unborn baby 512 megabytes of memory and a 17″ flat screen monitor? With no box, incomplete paperwork and a receipt showing I purchased a big-ticket item just two days short of the 90-day return cutoff, I headed to Sam’s to plead my case.
If you’ve never ventured into a Sam’s Club, it’s worth a visit. Yes, I know their corporate cousin Wal-Mart is trying to snatch away people’s property by way of imminent domain to build more stores, but as long it’s not my backyard, what do I care? Much like Wal-Mart, Sam’s always has a senior smile and greet customers at the door. Apparently his job description is just that: smile and greet. Occasionally you’ll see him perform more physically demanding tasks like coo at a baby or pick his nose, sometimes not in that order, but for the most part he smiles and greets. When I walked in with pieces of a computer in tow, I thought for certain red flags would go up and sirens would blare, but nothing of the sort happened. The greeter smiled, offered a hearty greeting, put a sticker on the monitor and directed me to the return desk.
Once at the return desk I presented my receipt to Claudia Cashier and explained that I had purchased the computer as a marked down floor model. She listened as I nervously explained that the drives weren’t working and that I had attempted to rectify the issue several times myself by using Compaq’s online chat support. Allow me to interject here that trying to communicate with a non-native English speaker halfway around the planet about technology via a medium that was designed for tweenagers to tell who hearts who is an utter waste of one’s time. At any rate, Claudia at Sam’s was most helpful. She called someone over from the computer department who gave a cursory glance at the cart of failed technology. Without being prompted I rehashed my story of trying to repair it according to the transoceanic cyber-tech’s shoddy directions. I went on to explain that I regretted having to return it after buying it for such a bargain basement price. I maintained the calm and courteous composure I usually find gets me what I want in negotated retail transactions, but I was also prepared if need be to defend myself against potential accusations of computer abuse. No, I didn’t download any malicious software; No, I didn’t stick peanut butter in the disk drive; No, I didn’t trust Dotcomma BinLaden to tell me how to fix it. But the Sam’s computer guy just nodded saying that all the components were there.
“Do I have to get store credit?” I asked Claudia.
“You paid cash: You’re getting cash,” she said counting out hundred-dollar bills. Sweet.
I returned to the Mall of Georgia Sam’s that day and purchased a nicer computer than the one I had returned. It only set me back $700. Three months ago the upgraded model would have gone for around $900. I also successfully reinstalled the virus protection software on the new computer without much ado. In fact, I’m really floored at how little to-do there was regarding the whole transaction. The way I see it, I got three months worth of free computer use. I even restored the gifted flash drive to its original unblemished state.
Sure, I had to reformat and wipe off all the tunes, but in the age of modern technology Barry Manilow’s hits are just a mouse click away.