Trying to maintain an ever-stylish wardrobe, I bought a bright and colorful new dress shirt a couple weeks ago.
The color was listed on the tag as hyacinth, which I recognize as a flower but not necessarily a color -- unless maybe you owned the mega-box of crayons my parents never bought me.
Really liked that purplish shirt and looked forward to how it would match a pair of striped socks and a couple of ties I own. So I intentionally kept it out of my wardrobe rotation initially, ticketing it for a special date to spring it on a lovely lady.
That evening eventually emerged, and as I started to don my XL/XT hyacinth beauty, I noticed for the first time the tag inside read, "Fitted." Not "big man's" or "husky" or even "regular" but the dreaded "fitted."
Yeah, fitted, which I believe means lean and trim and svelte and all those adjectives foreign to those of us whose shirts fit more like sacks of potatoes.
Yep, the new shirt was way too snug in the shoulders, where I once had an opposing baseball coach holler, "make him take off his shoulder pads" as I pitched against his team.
So the shirt had to be returned. Right in the midst of the awful after-Christmas returns.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Way, way, way ahead of myself.
Let's go to the checkout counter at the store, which shall remain nameless (although its initials are J.C. Penney). The wait didn't look too bad. I had plenty of time that Saturday morning as only a date with Chick-fil-A was in my immediate future.
At the register ahead of me, a woman with a mammoth baby stroller was returning an armful of clothing, armed with at least a yard-and-a-half of cash register receipts. At the register to the right, an elderly woman whose store credit card had expired was getting a new one so she could save 10 percent on her purchases that day. I stood silently between them, holding a recycled Burlington bag containing my hyacinth Van Huesen shirt.
In front of me loomed a younger woman, clutching a couple pairs of men's khaki pants to return, which she informed me in a sweet Kentucky accent, weren't the right fit for her 85-year-old dad.
The whole thing just made me smile.
Don't worry about it, I told all around, my return would be simple. Easy-peasy. No muss, no fuss.
As the woman with the stroller polished off her return, I was set to be next, but being the gentleman I try to be, I motioned for the woman with the khakis to go ahead of me, figuring on the other spot to open up momentarily. That was before I realized they were asking the elderly woman there to punch in her birth date, her Social Security number and the combination to her junior-high locker.
It began to grate on me even as the blond with the khakis collided with store-return-policy hell. She'd paid for the pants with a credit card, apparently purchasing the khakis at different times at different stores, including Lexington, Ky. The register at Plainfield apparently couldn't handle that and kept giving up only one refund. Of course, it didn't help that the frazzled cashier twice scanned the same pair rather than each individual pair being returned.
The woman kept apologizing to me, at one point offering to give me her Chick-fil-A gift card when I said I had no where to go but there. But I assured her I was just returning a $14.99 sale shirt.
Now at least 20 minutes into this mess, my turn finally evolved -- just as the clerks were re-enacting the changing of the guard. Patty out, Karen in. And Chip, who I also try to avoid in the men's department, hovering about.
Well, I was about to get my full refund when old Chip spotted that my receipt showed I had used a rewards coupon to save $5, so my refund was going to be only $9.99.
Bold as a hyacinth shirt, I suggested they hold onto my return while I went to look for a replacement not of the "Fitted" variety.
I pawed through stacks of sale shirts, seeking the right size and right color. About to give up, I pulled out one last hyacinth Oxford version, spotted "Big and Tall" on the label and thought I'd struck gold.
One problem, the price tag said $24.99 -- 10 bucks more than the same shirt I was returning.
Just then old Chip walked passed and I waved the shirt at him, suggesting I wanted to do an even exchange since they were the same shirts.
"No can do," he said, "this one's from the Big and Tall section."
"It requires more material, so it costs more," he explained.
(Insert size matters joke here).
So, we're talking $10 for an extra inch of shoulder width. I wasn't buying it or the shirt.
Took my $9.99 refund, left and bought a new Jerry Garcia tie at Kohl's.
And I'm certainly not about to try and return it.