Monday, November 28, 2011

If There's Enough, It's About the Money (Cleveland Post, November 3, 2011)

So, a couple of years ago I informed my husband he could give me gold hoop earrings for Christmas. I hadn't lost a cheap pair in years and deemed I could now be trusted with the real thing.

He obliged. He gave me a lovely pair made of twisted wire, sort of a filigree pattern.

I lost the first one within the hour. Fortunately, we were in the house and it was soon found. Even so, I was not happy.

You see, funny things can happen when you mix women and manufacturing engineering experience. "Pretty" just doesn't cut it any more, not when trouble-shooting inspection reveals how "pretty" will fail way before it should.

The design of the earrings was defective. The clasp was flimsy. The earring easily became tangled in long hair such that, something like tucking a loose strand of hair behind the ear would cause the clasp to come undone. Gravity takes over from there.

I ask you: what idiot would put a cheap clasp on an expensive pair of earrings? Do they not know that such things are often given as gifts, have sentimental value, are expected to be treasured for years? Do they not know that hoops are favored by women with long hair? Do they expect people to shrug off the loss of a Benjamin or two as easily as they would a George?

Or do they just think girls won't notice as long as its shiny and pretty?

Not this girl. Customer complaints are a professional obligation: no continuous improvement without feedback. I collected the receipt and the box and was off to the department store to return them.

In congenial but no-nonsense terms, I explained the defect to the sales associate.

She did not see the problem, did not politely pretend to see the problem or even breathe an insincere "So lucky you found it!" in sisterly commiseration. Not at all interested in this opportunity to improve quality and customer satisfaction, she terminated the debate by rapidly processing the return. She was even less interested in preventing future dissatisfaction, for she tucked the earrings back into the display to sell to the next unsuspecting customer. And her bearing seemed to say, "If you can only afford the low end of the fine jewelry department, then maybe you should stick to the cheap stuff."

I should have used that one economic power I had to register my disgust and walked out, but sometimes I'm a little slow. I picked out a new, more substantially constructed pair of earrings, and left.


The earrings were not the only annoyingly defective gift. Finished with them, I turned to the tape measure. It broke the first time I tried to use it, so I was off to hold them to their lifetime guarantee.

Again, I was prepared to show the sales associate how it was broken. But, like the woman in the jewelry department, he wasn't interested. Like her, he seemed to find my presence annoying, perhaps thinking "Must be nice to have time to worry about such small stuff. He directed me to the shelf where I could find a replacement and that was that.

Strictly speaking, I suppose you could call these "no hassle returns." And, to be fair, it was only a week or so after Christmas, a time when the patience of even the best sales associates have been severely depleted.

But I think that, on a very small scale, they point to the same things that get under the skin of both the Occupy protestors and the Tea Party folks: money talks, but not in the denominations ordinary people carry.

As for my new earrings? The pair didn't survive the summer. I'm back to wearing cheap ones. I don't lose those. And the tape measure still works. When I can find it.

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