Hello There - "Returns"

This is a love letter. I write to my wife each night I am away from her. This is one of those letters …


Hi  Honey,

I am at the returns counter at Kohl’s doing a return that sister Ann has directed me to do here. I am second in line and patiently await my turn. There is only one man in front of me, currently at the counter. 

The returns manager is a mature woman with white hair stylishly done in the way of women’s retail clothing stores. My read on her is that she is hard-bitten from years of customer excuses for returns. I will not trifle with this woman. She is on the phone repeating back a 12 or 15 digit sequence to some unknown individual, “ .. 243 .. 300 .. 622 ..”, she bites off the numbers. I am sure the person on the other end of the line is being oh-so-precise so that this communication is accurate .. and as short as possible.

Banging the receiver down, the manager marches back to the register, punches a few keys, and takes the emitted receipt and card over to the man. 

“Okay,” she says to him, “I’m giving you this much back on your Kohl’s card and that much on store credit. I can’t give you cash. Your wife must have done the transaction in this way because this is the only way I can do the return. She’ll know when she sees the receipt.”

“Thanks, much appreciated,” he says carefully, gingerly. He slides the store credit in his wallet and goes to put the receipt in his pocket. He stops and somewhat ruefully looks at the document. He shrugs, completes the action and, turning away, half apologizes to the lady.

“Unfortunately,” he says, “I’m going to lose this receipt in 15 minutes.”

Instantly aware, my complacency shifts and we are comrades. I understand the man perfectly. What do you do with small pieces of paper? 

Here...here’s a personal take on this: At a golf course, one of my biggest stress points is getting the receipt from the clubhouse to the starter’s shack. I know if I put it in my pocket, it won’t be there when I get to the starter. I’ll go through six pockets of a four pocket pair of pants searching for the thing. The starter will look at me like I’m a moron – no comments please, especially from family. It’s even worse if I keep it tightly clenched in my fingers .. because I fear that something will sing a Siren’s Song on my way. In my passion for...15 extra yards on my drive...or a putter that will always ring true...all of a sudden I won’t have the foggiest of where I put the receipt down.

So...I hand my receipt to my son – because his green fee is on there, too.

Now being the only one in the department, the lady scrutinizes me over her glasses. I softly place my bag on the counter and smile benignly.

“Sorry, I don’t know much about this. Was just instructed to return this. Understand the receipt is in the bag.”

“Already got it,” she says. The item is out of the bag and onto the counter, receipt in her hand, before I finish my sentence. Typing up the transaction, she says, “So you’re just the gofer, huh?”

Startlingly, she has hit it exactly. In stores like this, I gofer (one word) something. If it is there, I getit (one word). If it is not, I getout. She hands me the completed returns receipt.

“I had me a gofer once,” she tells me over folded arms. “My husband was 12 years older than me. He died riding a Harley. Stopped the bike, got off, looked at me, and was gone. Said he wanted to go out one of three ways. One was in his garden, face down in the dirt. He had a huge garden,” she laid it out in front of me with her hands. “After he died I counted 135 tomato plants in it!” She pointed to the rows in the garden and then waved her hands. “He’d give away tomatoes and produce to everybody: friends, family, food banks. Or he wanted to go out on that bike, which he did.”

She stopped.

I canted my head, waiting...

And, suddenly as vulnerable as a schoolgirl, she murmured, “Or in my arms.”

After a pause, still a schoolgirl, she said, “I bet you didn’t want to hear all of that.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,”  I softly returned. “I just have to tell my wife...that I’ve found one more thing for my wish list.”

I love you, Honey.


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Volume 20, Issue 3, Posted 12:29 PM, 02.07.2024