Edward Southerland: Many happy returns
By Edward Southerland
Jan 4, 2017
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The phrase, “Many happy returns,” takes on a whole new meaning after December 26. After all, it’s not really the thought that counts; it’s the utility. Time to repackage those fuzzy green armadillo skin slippers Aunt Isac sent from East Rahway and see if you can swap them for an electric toothpick.

“Save the tags” is the by word around many a Christmas tree on the big morning. Saving the tags and folder of detailed disclaimers being necessary for the successful return of the Eskimo Bob, Jr. Ice Carving Set. Saving the packaging material also is helpful, but often impossible.

Computers and inscrutable minions skilled at descriptive geometry, an obscure and wrenching discipline banned by the Geneva Convention shortly after I finished the course, design modern packaging. The goal of these packagers from Hell, is to make repacking the gift in the same box it came in a feat worthy of celestial recognition.

Scholars of the black art still speak of the “Miracle of Sandusky,” wherein a large, food processor, with all its attachments, was put back in its box with the surrounding cardboard infrastructure in less than an hour by Maitland T. Gorcey of the aforementioned Ohio city, in 1983. Hagiographers are still working on Gorcey’s application for sainthood, and are shooting for acceptance in the post Christmas season, 2017.

Some retailers make things difficult by demanding the sales slip before they will accept a return. Even if you have it, which is unlikely, as any piece of paper floating by during the package opening frenzy of December 25, was likely consigned to the trash bag and is by now part of a land fill, many stores offer only store credit.

No fools these tight fisted business types. They worked hard to pry that buck out of someone’s pocketbook and they’re not going to give it back without a fight. If they can’t deny the Swiss Cheese Weaving Loom complete with three flavors of Gouda, came from their store, after all, it reads, “House of Unnecessary Plastic Objects” right on the box, they have another ploy. “Well, we can take it back,” they say, “but since you don’t have a receipt, your credit will be $2.78.”

“But Granny Froid, paid $24.95 plus tax,” you protest, “marked down from six easy payments of only $19.99.”

“Tough tacos,” says the returns clerk, who is always the one person who failed the personality test required to sell do-it-yourself mortician supplies.

Christmas clothing carries a double whammy of usefulness and size. The patent leather dancing slippers with the grosgrain bow, looked stunning in the catalog, but are impractical in the feed lot. You could save them for the New Year’s soiree at the bowling alley, but they are size five and you take at least a 10.

Such a shame, they would have looked so good with the size 3XXX Large, gold fringed, purple Hawaiian luau shirt with orange flamingos. That’s all right, the shirt would have hung down over your feet anyway and you might have tripped while trying to pick up a spare on a 7-10 split.

For many, the idea begins to take root, if you can’t take it back, try passing it along next season.” This approach, officially known as “regifting,” is most often used with fruitcake, since its half-life defies even carbon dating, but it sometimes works well with other items.

It is best to regift items to recipients in another state or at least a couple of counties over to avoid the awkward situation that occurs if original giftor accidentally meets the regiftee. On the other hand, that could be a blessing. If they are miffed, and who isn’t these days, you can cross both off next year’s list and eat a peach.