*A Monday BONUS post*
I went to Wal-Mart today to return a dog leash. Esther, our wonder dog, broke an indestructible leash when she tried to catch a crow while Josh was taking her for a walk. The “unbreakable” cord snapped and the walk turned in to ‘try to catch me’. The crow got away and laughed from the overhead power line. I still had the receipt since the leash was only a week old and I tend to keep a pile of receipts on the nightstand next to my side of the bed for at least 3 weeks before Donna finally throws them out when I’m not looking.
I took the two parts of the leash and the receipt in this morning inside a Wal-Mart bag we had in the cupboard. (We hang on to our plastic bags and use them to clean up after Esther when we take her for walks. Doing our part to save the planet!) I walked in with confidence to make the exchange. Once, I bought an aquarium at a Wal-Mart and went back to get a new thermometer because the one in the box didn’t work. (Later I discovered it DID work, I’d just accidentally cooked the fish by turning up the thermostat too high too fast and the water heated up beyond what the little thing could measure. I discovered it by cooking my second tank full of fish.) When I took the thermometer in that I said didn’t work they opened a new aquarium box, took out the tiny little thermometer and gave it to me, thanking me for shopping at Wal-Mart. I love Wal-Mart.
When we first moved to the Island there were no Wal-Marts here. When they built the first one here in Charlottetown I was thrilled. It was like having our own American embassy built right here in town. If I woke up inside the newly completed Wal-Mart I would have easily believed I was anywhere in the U.S. (I didn’t have this same experience when I visited the Wal-Mart in Shantou, China. Chicken feet on the shelves and the security guards that surrounded me to confiscate my camera when I snapped a quick pic inside made me realize I was definitely NOT in Kansas anymore.)
But today I had the item, my original receipt and the Wal-Mart bag. A full-refund was guaranteed. I walked up to the human cattle chute and went straight to the front, no one else in line at the counter. The lady behind the counter was probably early 60 something and instead of asking me to step up to the counter she answered the phone, walked away without saying a word to me and chatted up a couple people at their registers, came back to the counter and tried a couple other phone numbers getting more disgusted by the second about something. Now there were three of us in line and we couldn’t be ignored any more. “I’ll help whose next.” She said with a tone that didn’t really convince me she wanted to do any such thing.
I opened the bag, took out the leash parts, tried to make a joke about the destructible indestructible leash which she didn’t laugh at or even seem to hear and handed the receipt to her. She looked them over and then started a rather lengthy, C.S.I. style investigation of the leash. “Hmmmf.” She said, as she turned the two parts over and over. “How big’s the dog?” she asked, without looking up and actually acknowledging me. Can I just confess that I almost freaked out at the Wal-Mart lady?
What I wanted to say:
1) Actually that’s the strangest thing, this leash is for dogs over 50 pounds but our dog’s just a Chihuahua…
2) Well, she’s a dead dog now. When the leash snapped she ran right out in front of a car and my little 5 year old son watched ‘Princess’ get torn apart by the wheels of the giant Hummer…
3) Oh, shoot, I didn’t realize there was a test with this. If I guess the right answer do I get my refund?
She knew she was going to give me a refund. I knew she was going to give me a refund. It’s freakin’ Wal-Mart. I could bring a toilet seat in after 6 months of use, tell them it’s not comfortable anymore and if I’ve got the receipt and the bag I’m walking out with my cash. The truth was I could’ve called the manager and asked for him to have the 60 something Wal-Mart lady carry me out to my car on her back and he would have made her do it.
What I said was, “The leash is made for dogs over 50 pounds and our Golden is about 50 pounds.” She took the two pieces of leash and tried to jam them back in the bag but every time she did the bag collapsed and she couldn’t get it all in. But she kept trying.
I grabbed the other side of the bag and pulled it wide open so she could complete her slam dunk. She did. Then she did the refund. The only other thing she said to me was, “Do you have your credit card?” And then she took it and credited my card for the leash. The next words were, “Can I help whoever’s next?”
Watching her try, unsuccessfully to put the leash back in the bag I moved from frustration to empathy. I’ve been thinking about her all day.
I try to imagine what it’s like to work for a store that would tell her to carry me on her back to my car. I’ve wondered what it’s like to be 60 something and stuck at Wal-Mart making minimum wage just to stay in cigarettes and groceries. How do you get up in the morning, slap on the blue vest, do the morning corporate cheer and then stand on your 60 something feet all day? What happened between the 5 year old little girl who drew pictures of ponies and dreamed of being a nurse so she could help people be better and the lady behind the counter today who hasn’t felt like dreaming for a long, long time.
And I try to remember that Wal-Mart associates, the waiter at the restaurant, the guy at the gas station and the girl at the express check-out lane are all still made in the image of God and they carry hurts and hopes. They are lives I can stomp a little more on or lives I can breathe some life into.
Next time I go in to return something at Wal-Mart I’ll take a cup of Tim’s and start my return with a peace offering.