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Retail Tales with Brian Brehmer: #2 Returning Condoms

Retail Tales with Brian Brehmer: #2 Returning Condoms

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Everyone working retail has a story or two, it’s the nature of the business. Everyone thinks that they have a story that is unique to them only to find out that it’s happened a hundred times a day every day. And then there is this one.

I was the closing manager one night, dealing with all the normal things that we saw each and every day. People coming and going, kids crying, a customer or two trying to walk out without paying, all the while listening to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, or being told that’s what I like about you by vacant customers or whoever.

Returns are part of the job. Every day someone comes into the store, wanting to return this or that for some sad reason. It’s not what I wanted, my grandmother died and I don’t have a use for it, I stole it and just want the money, I ate it and it didn’t taste like I thought that it should. The usual things. Then, one day, I was called up front to deal with a middle-aged woman who wanted to speak to a manager.

Me: ‘Hello, can I help you?’
Customer: ‘Yes I’d like to return this item.’
Me: (watches as she dumps an item out of her bag.)

Customer: ‘I’d like to return this.’
Me: (watches as she dumps out an opened box of condoms)
Me: ‘I’m sorry but I cannot take these back as a return.’

It was true, there were three things that we were not allowed to take back: baby formula, cigarettes, and condoms. It was the rule and it was not meant to be broken, but as I would soon learn, there were exceptions to the rules and rules were indeed meant to be broken.

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Me: ‘I’m sorry but we cannot take them back.’
Customer: ‘Well they are too big for my husband and too small for my boyfriend.’

Me: ‘So you’re telling me that you are cheating on your husband?’
Customer: ‘Yes.’
Me: (pausing for thought) ‘Well, I will make an exception and take these back but I will always tell this story.’
The next day, my manager asked me why I took back condoms, so I told her, and she agreed that it was a good story but that I should never do it again. I did keep my word; I never took back another package of condoms and I have told the story as often as I am able to do just that.

Cover image courtesy of Thomas Hawk via Flickr

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