Cooking and I have never been passionate lovers, so when two friends told me at dinner last week that they love their crock pots, I decided it was time to try and spark a romance. I went online and compared the various brands and models and discovered you could spend from $25 to $125 and there were equal pros and cons for all of them. The interesting thing was that the exact same model could elicit a “Best appliance I ever bought!” from one reviewer and “Fire Hazard!” from another. Then I noticed an online special from Sears for a Hamilton Beach 4-quart cooker for $9.99. It got decent reviews and if I picked it up at my local store there was no shipping. I figured for $10 I could test the crock pot waters for myself and decide after a few meals if it was worth further investment in a more advanced model. I prepaid it and got the email confirmation from Sears to come on over.
Here’s what you do to retrieve something from Merchandise Pick-up at Sears. You go to an area attached to the main store and scan the bar code from your email receipt. On a monitor above the waiting area you see your name appear next to the item being picked up along with the estimated time before you’ll have it in your hands. There were two other women there when I arrived and we all had 5 minutes next to our name. One had been there half an hour and the other an hour. I figured that it was ten days before Christmas so things might not be running at top efficiency. I would come to find out it was just another day in paradise at Sears.
One woman had returned a giant box containing an elliptical machine that was defective. She was exchanging it for a new one that was supposedly waiting for her courtesy of an hour-long conversation she had with the Returns Dept. that morning. The other woman was picking up two pairs of men’s Levis that were reserved for her by another Sears that didn’t have the size she wanted. I was there for my ten dollar crock pot. The more time that passed, the more I came to see us as those famous biblical characters The Three Wise Women with only a bar code to guide us.
The young male warehouse clerk came out and asked the Elliptical Woman for her credit card so he could make the exchange. She told him the machine was paid for; it was just an exchange. He showed her paperwork to show the amount had been credited to her card. She showed him paperwork to show the credit was because Sears had charged her card twice.
CLERK: It says here you owe us because we refunded it.
ELLIPTICAL WOMAN: You refunded your own error. I paid for the machine. I actually paid for it twice. I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for it three times. Please get me the manager.
The clerk turned to the Levis Woman and gave her the jeans, which she inspected carefully, no doubt because she’d been to Sears before.
LEVI WOMAN: Perfect! My son will be thrilled. But the security tags are still on them.
CLERK: Oh. We can’t remove them here so I’ll have to take them into the store. Be right back.
No one believed him.
The manager appeared and stood in front of the Elliptical Woman looking almost at her but not quite, perhaps due to grogginess or vision problems. He repeated the same story about needing to charge her credit card before she could get the new machine. Words were exchanged and he retreated back into the bowels of the warehouse to do more research and possibly catch a nap. The clerk reappeared with the Levis and presented them proudly to the woman waiting for them.
LEVI WOMAN: These are the wrong size. They’re not the ones you left here with. Bring me the ones that were just here.
CLERK: These are them.
LEVI WOMAN: No. These are the right jeans but the wrong size. The ones you gave me with the security tags on them were the right size.
CLERK: But you saw me leave here with the jeans in my hands.
LEVI WOMAN: Then whose hands did you bring them back in? Go get me my jeans. Please.
Before he left, the Elliptical Woman caught his arm and begged him to get her someone to speak with who wasn’t the manager. He went into the warehouse and then left again with the Levis.
Several moments passed during which I further bonded with my fellow captives. They were lovely women on the brink of desperation. The warehouse doors swung open and the manager walked over to the Elliptical Woman.
MANAGER: (moving his head around to get her in focus) How can I help you?
ELLIPTICAL WOMAN: WE JUST SPOKE! Don’t I look familiar to you? Am I wearing a different face? Go get me someone I haven’t seen!
He disappeared and the Elliptical Woman watched him go through the glass part of the warehouse doors. She raised her hand excitedly and pointed in my direction.
ELLIPTICAL WOMAN: Someone’s coming with your slow-cooker!
The three of us clustered around the badly damaged Hamilton Beach carton. The Levi Woman advised me to open it before I left. She inspected the glass lid and the ceramic pot and pronounced them damage free. The Elliptical Woman insisted I remove the metal base. I told her it wasn’t breakable. She looked at me wearily and said, “Make sure it has a fucking cord.” It did. A plug, too. We rejoiced. My new friends held the box still while I replaced the cooker and closed the carton. I felt bad leaving them there. I wanted to ask if there were any messages I could give their loved ones on the outside. We wished each other a joyous holiday and delicious slow-cooked meals.
I wish you all the same.
Daughter’s Featured Fotos take us to SantaCon NYC 2011
SEASON’S GREETINGS TO ONE AND ALL