If at first you don’t succeed, I’ll meet you in customer service

[BEEP] Hi, this is Ned. I’m out of the blog-o-sphere today and probably curled up with an empty carton of egg nog and a pile of Almond Roca wrappers. But if you’ll leave your name, blog and a brief message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can think coherently which, coincidentally, is one if my New Year’s resolutions! Happy Holidays! [BEEP]…

image It was many Christmases ago when I found myself standing in line with approximately 800 other husbands (conservative estimate) who, like me, had been sent to return the Christmas gift they had gotten their wives.

I should probably point out that I’m not still waiting in that line and have since re-married. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

However, I can distinctly remember the experience for a number of reasons. First, because it’s rare to see so many men standing in line for something that isn’t leading to a sporting event, urinal or more beer.

Not necessarily in that order.

Secondly, I remember it because the loudspeaker, which was positioned directly over my head, played the same Christmas song 16 times. This was over the course of an hour, by the end of which I was making up lyrics I can’t print here.

What I can tell you is that my son will never, EVER be allowed to have a drum.

The main reason I remember this so well is due to sheer coincidence, i.e., coincidently, every man standing in line with me was returning an Epilady Shaver. Each conversation with the customer service person went something like this:

“Can I help you?”
“I’d like to return this.”
“Is there something wrong with it?”
“Yes, my wife can’t use it without throwing it at me.”
“It looks like it’s been damaged. Is this the way it came?”
“No, that happened when it landed in the driveway. My wife has a good arm but not much aim.”
(Uncomfortable pause.)
“I’m serious. She chased me. Naked. I don’t think I’d be alive if she hadn’t slipped on the linoleum. I’m just glad the dog was there to break her fall.”
“Sir, unfortunately I can’t give you a refund because of the damage. All I can do is give you a store credit, which you can use to get her something else.”
“…oh God…”

This is the typical male reaction when it comes to gift buying for their wives, particularly in this case, when the stakes have been raised exponentially by the “make-up gift” factor. For example, let’s say a man gives his wife a robe that is too big. Exponentially speaking, we’re talking about a factor of one because, in spite of the sizing error, his wife had been made to feel petite. Therefore, he can simply exchange the robe for a smaller one. Looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s say the robe in question is too small. Exponentially speaking, we’re talking about a factor of 50, which is the number of times he will be rat-tail whipped with his wife’s robe before she has exhausted herself enough for him to yank it away.

As I stood in line that day, it was obvious that every man was attempting to calculate the exponential “make-up” factor for a gift that had come from the heart and left through the bathroom window. It was also obvious that most of us had forgotten every mathematical equation we’d learned since the seventh grade, which could explain why several men broke from the line and disappeared into the business supply section.

I, however, was not one of those men.

I’d like to say it was because I managed to calculate the “make-up” factor in my head and, through my mathematical prowess, determined the exponential number to be…

Well, a big one.

Possibly involving something algebraic.

But, no. The reason I didn’t race for a calculating device is because, by that time, my brain had been lulled into submission by a drum-beat pattern. When I got to the customer service counter, our conversation went something like this:

“How can I help you, sir?”
“Are you returning that Epilady?”
“Sir, it looks damaged. All I can give you is an in-store credit. Is that OK?”
“Rum-ba-ba…oh God…”

So men, as you return that special gift this week, remember the “make-up” factor and exchange your wife’s gift accordingly.

It probably wouldn’t hurt to bring a calculator.



(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

29 thoughts on “If at first you don’t succeed, I’ll meet you in customer service”

  1. Well, Ned that was hilarious, although I can say this – your wife is a much more understanding woman than mine was. For instance, the robe example. if it was too small,she would be morose and take it out on me, as she would assume that she had gotten fat; if the robe was too big, she would be furious that I peceived her to be fatter than she was and she would take it out on me. She might also be upset at the robe on general priciples – i.e.did I find her that repugnant that I wanted her to cover up? You see I could never win with a robe – so I stayed away from them – discretion is the better part fo valour.

    Funny post Ned. Thank You.

    1. You’re a smart man, Paul.

      I actually stopped buying my wife robes several years ago. Plus most of her pajamas have “gone missing.” She hardly has anything to wear to bed… poor thing 😉

      I think she’s on to me, though.

  2. Ned:
    Absolutely LOVED this, I almost Peed my pants. Actually, after checking, I DID pee my pants. This was Hilarious as all of your writing is. Keep up the good work, it;s great for Humanity. Hey…Thanks for stopping over and reading mine too…That was very nice and appreciated…

    1. Thanks Sooz 😉

      By the way, you’re on my New Year’s resolution list of blogs to make time for — because it’salways time well spent.

      Cheers to you in the New Year!

  3. You had me at Almond Roca wrappers, which I am crumpling up in their tinfoil goodness right now. My husband, who was told specifically not to replace our jacked-up coffee maker, decided to gift me a coffee maker for Christmas. So he will get to be one of those husbands in line. Candy apple red on the outside meant bright pink on the inside. When will he learn colors are not accurate?

    1. I don’t think I could drink anything non-alcoholic from something bright pink. Especially first thing in the morning.

      By the way, have you tried the dark chocolate Almond Roca. I ate half a can all by myself. This morning…

  4. Household rule #32: Appliances are not gifts.
    My husband and I have come to an understanding – I point to the new swish techie thing I want and he points to the piece of stereo equipment he wants and we enter the relevant credit card details. Boring, but it gets the job done – no standing in return lines!

    1. I hear you. My wife and I are both big fans of Vans’ Marvel Comics shoes, so we’re both easy to shop. I got her Wonder Woman basketball shoes and she got me Star Wars shoes. The Force is with us…

  5. Ned, I luckily avoided this hassle. One of the positive of being newly divorced! haha… Thanks for letting me be thankful for yet one small thing.

    1. I’ve been there myself, about 10 years ago. I’ve been happily remarried for six. It’s amazing how easy it is to shop for someone when you’re with the right person.

      The fact that I bought my ex-wife an Epilady pretty much says it all 😉

      Cheers and happy New Year, my friend

  6. “Came from the heart and left through the bathroom window.” HILARIOUS. And it certainly explains the proliferation of flying vacuum cleaners at this time of year.

  7. I’m chuckling… no! I’m laughing! Because that was a funny story. But alas not one true in this house. My husband is smart enough to ask me what I want and gets EXACTLY what I tell him! Smart boy! OR he has asked the daughter what to get me (after which I have told her what I want) and THEN he gets it! I can’t remember the last time anything has ever been returned! And yes…. I even got a blender for Christmas one year! 😉

No one is watching, I swear...

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