An even exchange isn’t always that simple

Last weekend, I went into a local outdoors store to spend some gift cards I received last Christmas. The reason it has taken me this long to spend them is I truly despise shopping. I really wanted this time to be different. I had a good attitude and a positive outlook when I entered the store.

I wasn’t under any pressure to find the perfect gift for someone else—I had plenty of time to gander their mountainous array of merchandise. Many of the things I looked at were even on sale, and, best of all, I wasn’t even spending my own money. It had the ingredients of being the most perfect shopping trip I’ve ever gone on.

After visiting many of their departments twice, I finally decided on a pair of leather fisherman’s sandals. Contrary to many other times I’ve picked out something I really liked while shopping, much to my surprise, they even had my size, so I thought. When I paid for them with my gift cards and went back out to the parking lot to try them on, I discovered that even at 46 years old, my feet are still growing. They were way too small. After struggling to release my size 12 foot from the grasp of a mean size 10 sandal, I walked back in and asked the clerk at the register if I could exchange them. He said, “No problem!” I thought, “Great, I’ll just run back and get the size 12s I saw.” I picked them up and immediately returned to the register with my bigger sandals and original sales receipt in hand.

Things were going too smoothly. I never have this kind of experience when I go shopping. This was too good to be true. Well, I was correct. When I attempted to evenly exchange the 12s for the 10s, the guy who less than 2 minutes earlier had said, “No problem!” had somehow in that short 120 seconds turned into the “Return Nazi.”

He thoroughly and meticulously went through the original size 10 box. I’m guessing to make sure I hadn’t filled it with sand instead of sandals. In that same painstakingly slow and deliberate manner, he inspected the size 12s. Once again, I’m sure he was looking for some sort of contraband.

Rest assured, I’m not the type of guy to try to smuggle out a musky lure or some deer urine in my new sandals. He must have thought differently. After he found nothing other than two sandals, a tiny bag of silica and the tissue paper and cardboard used to package them, I thought I was good to go. Man, was I wrong. Now, he wanted all of my personal information. They didn’t ask me all of that stuff a few minutes ago with the size 10s; I was more than confused as to why they would need it for the 12s.

The first thing that ran through my mind was, “Why does this dude need to know my name, rank, serial and phone numbers, address, ZIP code, eye color, dog’s name, lefty or righty, inny or outty, Pepsi or Coke, boxers or briefs, Rosie or Donald, for an even exchange on a cash transaction?” So, rebelliously, I grabbed my size 12 sandals and left the store without giving him all that extra information. I figured he really didn’t need it anyhow—he already knew my shoe size.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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