The Right of Return 1

Before I get to the main article in today’s newsletter, I want to thank the Blackstone Park Conservancy for inviting me to perform at at family concert THIS SATURDAY at Lippit Park. (The park at the end of Blackstone
Blvd. in Providence… near the farmer’s market) I’m scheduled for around 11 am. It’s free!

The Right of Return

Anyone who knows me knows that I take stuff back. I excel at returning items to the store from whence they came. Sometimes I buy things that I don’t really want. Sometimes I buy things that don’t work. Sometimes…
Well, I can’t say I’ve ever returned something just for the fun of it, but it sounds like it might be fun…

Today, as I was setting about to return a few things, I was thinking about the difference between taking stuff back to a “big box” store versus taking stuff back to a “local retailer.”

It’s infinitely easier to return something to a faceless heartless national or multinational corporation than it is to the shop down the street. I returned two video cameras to Best Buy (paid one restocking fee
on the last one) without a qualm of doubt. (a little redundant, I know)

When I take stuff back to the local guy, I feel guilty. It almost… almost keeps me from doing it. I know that my purchase refunds are coming straight from a neighbor’s pocket. Maybe I should try harder to like the
product. Maybe it was my fault to begin with… And I’m sure that keeps most people from returning things. But there is a cost to not returning something you’re not satisfied with. It’s a lingering doubt, that feeling
of, “Oh, I shoulda…”

Two experiences on Wickenden Street in Providence today highlight the bad and the amazing return.

1) Mignonette is a small, French-influenced chick store. They sell soaps and perfumes and jewelry and other tchotchkes for women. I went in looking for a birthday present. Ok, so the sign said, “No returns.” But I asked
for a scarf or a shawl, and instead I got a thing the size of a wall hanging. Yes, I should’ve opened it up and looked, and then I would’ve realized that it was big enough to wrap an elephant in addition to my
slender and lovely fiancee. She took one look at the thing I meant to be a special birthday present, and I knew I had blown it. (In the modern parlance, “FAIL!”) I walked into the store, hoping for a store credit or
an exchange. The owner (not the sales girl) listened to my story, shrugged, and said, “This was on sale. There are no returns.” I said, “Well, then I’m never shopping here again.” And I left. She didn’t seem to
care. Done.

2) The Coffee Exchange is my favorite coffee shop. I buy coffee in whole bean and cup and spend hours talking and writing there. So, when I wanted a burr coffee grinder… I got a $59 Italian model. Very cool looking. Only after three or four grinds, it got plugged up. I took it back and they, without question, gave me a new one. A few grinds later, and it plugged… Not only that, I couldn’t get the beans to grind small enough for my gold filter drip coffee machine… I waited for a while, not wanting to create a problem. (I even bought some pre-ground coffee from them in the interim.) Today, when I went in, as soon as Charlie Fishbein, the owner, saw me with the machine he said, “Plugged? Not working? I’ll get you another.” I said, “This is the second one I’ve had.” He said, “I’ll give you your money back.” I told him that I felt awful, and he joked, “you should.” I gave him a hug. He opened the cash register and gave me my money back. He said he’d sold 80 or so of the machines and
about 20 of them came back.

Store number 1 lost my business forever. Store number 2 remains near and dear to my heart. The cost to him? A few bucks and he’ll probably sell the machine on ebay.

Thanks Charlie!

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