Many unhappy returns

Joey Garcia

I have a problem that I have never seen in your column, which ruins the holiday season for me every year. I work in retail sales for a local store. Every year, after Christmas and New Year’s, people return merchandise that they have used or worn. When they are informed that the merchandise is not returnable or that it can be returned for store credit only, these people take their anger out on the sales clerk who has no responsibility in the situation. The clerk is just following store rules. People also return items after Christmas that they purchased months or even years earlier, hoping we will believe these items were gifts. Can you please help me to deal with these Grinches who are stealing my Christmas joy?

You’re asking for an overhaul of the American system of self-centeredness! Our consumer culture breeds boorish behavior. It will not change until people mature spiritually. When a store’s customers take their anger out on innocent bystanders (like salesclerks), those customers are revealing their own lack of self-respect. Similarly, only a customer who is emotionally immature would expect a store to accept merchandise that is used, worn or older than 90 days. When a customer demands that the store absorb such merchandise, the customer has exposed his or her own deficit in financial integrity. Consider this: Their demand is actually a form of stealing from the store. I think the principle of “Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you” is not rooted in many human hearts—not even during what some profess to be their holy days.

The other slope of this moral mountain is less slippery. You have spoken out about a difficult issue. Now your task is not to allow bad-mannered customers to intrude on your joy. Do this by remembering that your job is to stay lighthearted, even when you are dealing with a customer’s dark side. It should help to understand that a customer’s rudeness is the result of his or her own unresolved personal issues, so, in the situations you’ve described, it’s not your fault. The customer is not always right (minded).

My uncle is very ill with cancer. I think that he is near death. He needs full-time care and is not well mentally. Until we were able to hire a nurse, my uncle’s son (an only child) cared for him. The family was very impressed that my cousin was so good to his father. When a nurse became available, my cousin returned to his out-of-state home. He then left for a trip out of the country.

We have since learned that while he was here, he took my uncle to the bank and cleaned out my uncle’s safe-deposit box. All of us are in shock and uncertain what to do, especially the relatives who laid guilt on their own children by praising my cousin’s care of his father. Should we confront my cousin or let it go because his father is probably dying anyway?

Does your uncle have a will? If so, you have clear directions regarding who should be the eventual recipient of his various belongings. Beyond that, I urge you to contact an attorney, your local elder-abuse hotline and your county’s ombudsman to gain information on how to protect your uncle. Select a small group of family members who will work together to assess the information gained from these sources. It also will be their job to decide how to talk to your cousin about betraying his father and the family. Loving confrontation of your cousin is vital for his personal growth and for the health of your family system.

Meditation of the week
“We live in a culture of instant gratification,” said the Rev. Anthony Garibaldi, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, during a recent homily. “To be a heretic in this culture is to do what you don’t want to do. You have to move from 'I want it now’ to disciplining yourself to do what you don’t want to do but you know is good for you … what God wants you to do.” Can you resist the culture this holiday season?

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