This is, first of all, a story about a toaster, a simple enough device. Nothing techie about it at all.

I bought a new one a couple of months ago.  It cost a mere $18. and had all the features I need. Two slice, thick enough for bagels.  No fancy bells or whistles but enough to make my morning bagel toast and announce itself with a discrete bing.

Unfortunately after less than two weeks it worked only if I stood with it and held down the lever.  Was my toaster longing for companionship?  I doubt it. It had to go back.  Well, after discovering how needy my toaster was in New Jersey, we headed to Herzliya for a month or so, leaving the lonely toaster behind.  When we returned to New Jersey the toaster had not cured itself.  Time had done nothing so it was appropriate to bring the toaster back and get a replacement.

Not so fast!  I packed it into a bag and returned with it to the store where I had bought it.  No receipt. No box. And a manager who said I’d need both if we were going to discuss a refund or store credit.  I balked.  I’m not a hoarder and wouldn’t save the box from an $18. item.  No doubt somewhere I could find an online receipt but he wanted a physical paper receipt which I could not produce. End of discussion?  Definitely not. Just the beginning.

I don’t like being a sucker and I do respond to challenges like this with fire and fury. I rarely lose, especially since I only fight when I’m right. The toaster should have worked for longer than a couple of weeks.

Back to the toaster in a moment.  I will now relate a battle lost. This was with the ubiquitous H & N (name changed so they don’t sue me) in the Herzliya Mall, Shevat Ha Kochavim. That’s my mall in Israel; close, convenient, and with all the usual stores. Our daughter had arrived in Israel after a nasty event at the Brussels Airport which necessitated her luggage not even being an afterthought. She left her stuff and hightailed out of there, arriving in Israel two days later with only the clothes on her back.

She ran to H & N and bought over 1,000 NIS worth of clothing to serve her in the interim between her arrival and her suitcases’ arrival.  One sweater, it was quickly determined, had a loose thread that signalled an early demise.  I volunteered to return it and get another of the same.  No such luck.  There were no more.  So, I asked for what anyone else would ask for:  return of money.

Not so fast! Although I did have the receipt I did not have her credit card. I suggested the obvious, give me cash or put the credit on my card. Nope.  They wouldn’t do either.

Then I suggested that she could come in the following day herself, credit card in tow.  Nope.  The return had to be within two days.  Two days! ???  So, in the end, she arrived quite late and tired after a day of meetings and we shlepped with her to the mall.  The clock was ticking and by the next day the money for the sweater would be down the drain. Annoying to say the least. She got her money and I left with a bitter taste.

I contrast that to what I witnessed at Costco in New Jersey.  A man was returning a car battery.  It no longer worked.  The agent who was helping him asked him how long he had had the battery.  Deadpan, he replied: 12 years.  He got his money back.  That’s customer service. That’s why he’ll continue to spend lots of money at Costco, and so will I, and I will never go to H & N again.

So back to the toaster.  And I have to confess that I argue more succesfully in English.  I told the store manager that I would just not take no for an answer and wanted to speak to the store owner.  This happened to be a large New Jersey-New York chain so he gave me the phone number of the main office and I spoke to a receptionist and told her the entire story. She promised a callback within two days.  Ten minutes later, in my car, I got a return call telling me that they would issue store credit since they no longer carried this toaster.  Wonder why.

That dispensed with, I still needed a toaster. My husband went to K Mart and spent $10. for a new toaster. Shehechayanu!  But here’s the thing: they wanted to sell him an insurance policy that would guarantee the new toaster for a full year.  The cost, a mere $4.  Who’s nuts here?  Buy a ten dollar item and insure it for one year for an additional four dollars? If this toaster doesn’t last, believe me I will get my money back, and it certainly won’t be insured.

My first experience with being a consumer crank came along many years ago.  I bought a couch from one of the most reliable department stores in the world, Macy’s.  The couch was treated with something called Scotchguard which was supposed to make it very easy to keep clean.  We had four little kids in those days and, after about three years, the couch was about as far from clean as the pendulum could swing. So, rather than tossing it I contacted Macy’s and they sent someone out to meet our couch. This person agreed that the couch was not clean at all and volunteered to provide us with a new couch in the price range of the dirty one.

So we dashed off to our local Macy’s furniture department and settled for black vinyl.  Even our kids could not dirty black vinyl!  The new couch arrived and was happily peanut buttered for about another four years. Then something strange began to happen.

The black vinyl was turning green.  Seriously.  I guess the couch was born green and, for some reason, had been sprayed black.

I called Macy’s and they sent out their inspector, by now a friend!  He agreed that it was a green couch, dyed black, and now reverting to green.  Most unattractive.  Another new couch on the way.

The third couch made the cut.  It lasted and lasted.  And my relationship with Macy’s did too.