Monday, September 30, 2013

Retail Fairytales: Sears Mattresses

Gather 'round kids! It's time for Retail Fairytales!It all begins last May, Sears sends a Memorial Day sale email with huge, one-day-only savings on mattresses. It just so happens I have been looking at mattresses, and see the one I am interested in for a great price.   I proceed to buy it online during the 6 hour sale marathon.   I schedule delivery for July.   

A few days later, Hubby and I, while at our local mall, stop by Sears to see the bed and quickly get the bum's rush by a sweaty, wild-eyed close-talker mattress salesman.

His spittle-fueled patter basically drove home the point that we were sold a TERRIBLE product but not to worry . . .

that he had a MUCH better one for the same price, and he could cancel the first transaction, and take care of everything!

Memorize it!  MEMORIZE IT!
He proceeded to give us a 1 hour and 20 minute dissertation on every mattress in the store.  At one point, there was a PowerPoint presentation and an audience quiz.   Hubby had long fallen asleep on the tester mattress, and I had developed a nervous tic from the indoctrination/reprograming, and would have agreed to ANYTHING at that point.

Sensing our weakness, he showed us a Stearns and Foster mattress that was apparently made of clouds and ground-up unicorns.  It SEEMED quite comfy, but then again, we would have walked across hot coals to escape to the food court.  We gratefully signed the sales slip and watched him scuttle to the back like a roach under a dishwasher.

So, fast forward . . . mattress is delivered, and it is literally like laying on a fabric-covered marble slab. 

Disappointing, yes, but no fear: Mr. Mattress at Sears said that the mattress had a comfort guarantee, so I immediately call Sears to return the slab. The Sears troll that answered said that returns were not allowed, so I battle on to the Assistant Manager troll, who asserts that there IS a comfort swap allowed, for $250. I dodge and parry and encounter the SENIOR manager troll, who admits that the fee was brand new, but waived for us. 

SO . . . Another mattress is purchased, old one is picked up on a Monday, and the new one arrives Wednesday and all is well.


I fully paid for the first one and was told the funds would be refunded upon its return. In the meantime, I also bought the second one. Weeks go by, no return. Hours on the phone with the Sears mall trolls, who have VERY short memories, Sears customer service, Sears delivery, Sears warranty. Nothing.

Today, I traveled the world via conference call, zinging through space from one overseas Sears Oompa Loompa to the next, each less able to help than the previous one. Records are incomplete, computers are frazzled, every Oompa Loompa says they have no proof of the return despite having all of my scrolls in order, my Sears card number, my receipt number, my local store number, the dates of the purchases and the return.

All hope seems lost.


I kept a teeny, tiny, little, eensy, weensie slip of inconsequential paper that the deliveryman gave me when he picked up the slab.   It had his initials, the date and a magic code. Once uttered to the Searsians, the heavens opened up, and I was instantly transferred to a chuckling, bubbly Glenda The Good Witch of a woman who uttered the beautiful words, "I have processed your full refund, Mrs. Martin."

Moral of the story: Keep your paperwork. And don't trust mattress salesmen.

Friday, September 13, 2013

All skate . . . EVERYONE skate, please!

All skate . . . EVERYONE skate, please . . .

In 1976, Boogie Nights was THE song to roller skate to on Dollar Night at Jonquil Skating Rink. Usually following a couples skate, you'd wait with breathless anticipation for the DJ's "All Skate" announcement and the dreamy opening harp of "Boogie Nights". 

It was a free-for-all, everyone pushing for the floor like salmon swimming upstream, a human flurry of wheels and elbows. From the chaos emerged the elite . . . and woe be unto you if you stepped in the path of the satin-baseball-jacket-wearing Jonquil Speed Club, each with their custom boots and wood speed wheels. 

There's no room for wall-huggers or crybabies when the mothertrucking Boogie Nights started spinning, y'all. 

It was a mesmerizing choreographed drill team, taking curves in sync at 60 mph, executing perfect crossovers and death-defying backward spins on the straightaways. Combs in the back pocket of Jordache jeans, winged bangs shellacked down to withstand the hurricane-like gale force winds of their passes, round and round and round the rink, wheels and floor like ice on glass.

All skate .... everyone skate, please. 

It was a call to arms, a dazzling introduction, and a sinister warning, all contained within the confines of a prefab metal warehouse with a high-gloss wood floor, carpeted mushroom seating, super sized pickles and the promise of greatness.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Eternally vigilant

Today's a tough day for him.

He was there when the towers came down, you know.

He was there to witness the carnage. He lived through the soot, and the screams, and the sirens, and the shock, and the semblance of life that the survivors were forced to cobble together in the aftermath.  He walked through the streets and the dust and the ash among the confused mass of humanity.

The names of the dead aren't just names that grace a memorial wall - they were people that he joked with, laughed with, welcomed into his bar, talked football with, celebrated births and marriages with, and mourned death with. The normal passages of life, not this horrific hell on earth that no one was prepared to face.

The people that died that day were real.  They were his friends and then in an instant, they were gone.

Like everyone there, he grieved.  He mourned.  He tried to make sense of the whole horrible thing.  When he couldn't shake the visions, he forged the fury and the helplessness and the grief into a hardened steel resolve to love his city and his people.  He marked his body to honor the fallen, and to commemorate the spirit of the city, and the people - both those that perished, and those that survived. I see that symbol on him every day, and I try to imagine what it was like to offer his flesh up as a living memory of the worst day in our country's history.

I try to imagine, but I really can't.

My world is so much smaller than his. I've been sequestered here, in the state of my birth, never venturing more than a few miles from the city I grew up in. I've tried to equate anything in my experience to what he endured.

I don't think I can.

I mean, how do you gain an understanding of that horror and that level of loss? How many words would I have to hear? How many pictures would I have to see? How many times would I have to watch the clips of the attack on the towers to grasp the reality of what happened?

It's human nature, I guess, to try to compare and contrast things that you encounter with the Rolodex of memories and experiences in your own head.

That's what we do, us humans. Compare and contrast. Is this better or worse than that was? Is this anything like what I have seen before?

It's how we cope. We try to make sense of everything that we encounter, and draw parallels to it, dissect it, turn it over and over in our minds to find the logic in it so we can file it away.

And then we do file it away.

So on this day, every year, I put myself through the exercise of reliving that day, or my version of it. Like most of the world, I was far removed from Ground Zero. It almost feels like I don't have the right to participate in the mourning - certainly not in the same way that he has earned the right to mourn.  I've been able to continue on with life, without being continually reminded of the pain and the anguish. I've been allowed to compartmentalize it and distance myself from the fear and the shock.

I think that's one of the most upsetting parts for him in the years since - the "filing away" that seems to have occurred as a nation.    Day to day, that event takes up less and less conscious thought for us as a nation. Fewer channels devote the time to broadcast the ceremony that is held on every anniversary to commemorate the passing of all of the victims.  The memorials are a tour bus stop, along with Rockefeller Center and Seinfeld's diner.

Which sounds cold and unfeeling, and in a way, I guess it is, but the parts of us that allow us to continue on after a tragedy are the same parts of us that "file away" the horror of the experience.

Survival mechanism, I guess.

But for him, and thousands more like him, there is no filing away. It was too big, and too senseless, and too . . . much. So the survivors commemorate the day, and watch the ceremonies, and relive the horror with the rest of us, and on September 12, we go back to our lives, and they are left to process and reprocess, without being able to file it away.

Call it survivor's guilt. Or maybe the mind's inability to handle something that monumentally evil.

Regardless, it never goes away. It just gets tumbled and turned over in the sea of their subconscious like a rough stone, the waves never able to smooth the jagged edges, never able to dull the piercing that hits them out of nowhere when they least expect it.

For some of us, remaining eternally vigilant is a choice.  For others, it's a life sentence.
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