T'was The Day after Xmas
And All through the Mall
Folk returning their gifts
How I despise them all.
Boxing day is one of the busiest days for stores in this neck of the woods.
Not for people shopping for stuff, although there are usually some pretty agressive sales on, but because it is the day the lumpen hordes stampede into the shops to return all the tat their thick as two short planks relatives gave them in the mistaken believe that despite years of experience to the contrary, the recipient's tatstes have taken an abrupt right turn in the last day or two. If ever there was an argument for abolishing Xmas, the Boxing Day mass gift return is it.
Gift cards are popular solutions to this sort of thing, of course, but some people feel they lack the personal feel of a billious yellow sweater two sizes too large or a musical ashtray shaped like a bat skull. Not so the Stevieling, who was grateful that people gave her gift cards for books and other stuff. Today, in the absence of Mrs Stevie, we would attempt to convert some of these joyless plastic oblongs into wonderous gifts just perfect for her tastes.
The Saturday before Xmas, Mrs Stevie had asked me to "pop into" a store called "Hot Topic", a mere eight miles from anywhere I would be that day, and pick up a gift card for the Stevieling for an unspecified amount. It turned out that the store was a "goth" store, catering to young people, particularly young ladies who desire to dress in black, wear black makeup and wear their underwear on the outside. Such was my disgust at the state of undress of the sales personnel that I purchased a fifty dollar card.
I took the Stevieling to the store on Boxing Day, fighting for a parking space with the crowds of dissatisfied giftees, so that she could convert the card into tee-shirts and hoodies with "Invader Zim" characters on them. Normally I would have remonstrated with this unremunerated advertising of a popular TV cartoon character, but I was so relieved she didn't want to explore the world of exo-corsetry that I said nothing discouraging, adult or sensible.
We got to the check-out desk where an very personable pair of salesgirls were perkily taking care of things. I traded some witty banter with one of them, who jokingly set the mall security on me, after which the Stevieling attempted to redeem her gift card. Twenty minutes went by in which the clerks called various support hotlines because the computer would not recognise any sort of electronic cash. No credit cards. No debit cards.
And no Hot Topic Gift Cards
We ascertained that the problem was not state-wide (working in the industry, as I do, I had no faith in the holiday-period staff getting things up and running again in any short order) and made a dash for the Massepequa1 mall, where they had another store.
After fighting to get a parking space with an even more determined crowd of disgruntled gift recipients, we found ourselves in a smaller, noisier version of the store we had quit half an hour before.
"Are your computerised card readers up and running?" I screamed at a young man who was wearing a Hot Topic tee shirt and was possessed of the most unfortunate combination of facial piercings and acne I have ever personally witnessed on a human being.
"Should be!" he howled back, straining to be heard over the thrash deathmetal "music" being rendered at volume 11 on the P.A.
With this encouragement we raced around the store reacquiring the garments we had so recently managed to avoid buying and got on line.
When I saw young Pimply Shrapnel Face race for a back room I intuited the reason and said to the Stevieling that I thought we might be seeing the same problem as we had in Bayshore. She moved to the front of the line with many "excuse me please"s and asked "Excuse me sir, but are your computers broken down?"
The collection of misfit disenfranchised goff yoof standing around adopted startled and disbelieving expressions at the olde worlde politeness of the Stevieling, but were then shocked to hear the staff member reply in the affirmative (since none of them had thought to ask why they hadn't moved towards a cash register since getting on line eight months ago).
I told the Stevieling that I thought we were in for the same nonsense we got in Bayshore, and that unfortunately, if I had to listen to more than a minute more of what was passing for music I would be forced to go on an extended rampage of unimaginable violence that would likely get me arrested and her kicked out of the mall with no ride home.
We left Hot Topic purchaseless. Again.
I offered to go back to Bayshore on the off-chance someone had had an attack of competence, but she wouldn't hear of it. We stopped in at Waldenbooks and managed to get two books she was looking for despite the staff trying their level best to ignore us, and we left the hateful anti-consumer environment of the Westfall Mall2, never to return in my case. I know when I'm not wanted.
Mrs Stevie has offered to go back to the Bayshore store with the Stevieling tonight to re-re-attempt consumerism. The child didn't look as enthusiastic as she did yesterday. Possibly due to the fact that shopping with Mrs Stevie is a never-ending torment as she adds one store after another to the itinery and turns a four minute foray to buy a bar of soap into a six-hour marathon ending in her carrying eight bags of stuff into the house, or possibly due to the fact that Mrs Stevie just isn't as much fun to be out with as I am. I dunno.
It does mean that I can squeeze a short game of laundry basket Fashion Model in before they all get home though.