My ex-girlfriend decided to buy me a pair of jeans for my birthday a couple of years ago. We went to Express for Men, where they were having a sale on various jeans. I tried several pairs on, and eventually decided on one that I liked. A few days later, I put them on to go to a different mall with the same ex-girlfriend to buy a gift for a mutual friend. At one point while we were in the car, I realized there was a discolored spot near the crotch of the jeans. ‘Maybe I can exchange them at the Express store in this mall,’ I thought. I suggested it to my ex-girlfriend, and she seemed dubious of the success of my idea.
When we got into the store, we found that there was a guy working there that she knew from school, and we asked him if it would be OK if we exchanged the pair I was wearing for another pair. He said he didn’t see why that would be a problem. I arched my eyebrows and grinned at my ex-girlfriend, who rolled her eyes. I found another pair of jeans of the same style and size, and brought them to the dressing room, along with a couple of other pairs of pants I was interested in. After a few minutes in the dressing room, someone knocked on the door and asked if I was alright. I said I was. I decided against all of the pants except the one that I would exchange for the ones with the spot on them, and when I came out, the man who had knocked on the door was standing there smiling at me patiently.
“Did you find everything OK?” he asked me. He looked like the kind of person who would be a manager at a hip mall-fashion store for men. Denim jacket.
“Yes, everything was fine. I’m just going to take the ones I’m wearing.”
“Well, you’ll have to take them off so we can scan them and take off the security tag.”
“Ah, but I’m going to exchange these,” I began, holding out the ones I was going to exchange, “for these,” I finished, pointing to the ones I was wearing.
“You wore those in?” he said with a concerned look.
“I’m afraid we can’t exchange them.”
“But your policy is that ‘No sale is ever final.’ They even have the tags on them still. See?”
“Sir, you can’t wear a pair of jeans into the store and expect to exchange them.”
“If I hadn’t worn them in, you wouldn’t have any idea whether or not I had ever worn them. What’s the difference? Go over there, do the exchange, and I’ll wait here while you take the security tag off and stuff.”
“I can’t exchange these jeans.”
“Because sir, as I explained to you, you can’t just wear something into a store and exchange it. It’s already been worn.”
“But they’re in perfect condition.”
He was growing less patient with me. “Let’s see if this makes it easier. You know when you buy a pair of shoes, and it turns out that you’ve changed your mind and you’ve already worn them? You can wear them around in the store and see if you like them, but once you take them out of the store and wear them around, you can’t return them. Do you understand?”
“That’s because there’s stuff in between the soles and the shoes can’t be resold. If someone wore the shoes around their house, or a hotel or something all day long and then decided to return them you would never know the difference, would you? You would take them back.”
“But you were wearing the jeans, sir. That’s the difference.” He seemed pretty pleased with himself for outsmarting me. I wanted to punch him in his middle-aged face.
I went back into the dressing room and took off the new jeans, folded them neatly, and stacked them on top of the pair of jeans I walked in with. When I left the dressing room, pantsless, the smug manager was still standing outside my door.
“I’d like to exchange this pair of jeans,” I said, holding up the old pair, “for this pair.”
“Sir, I can’t make any exchanges for you today.”
My ex-girlfriend later told me that the headsets of every employee in the store were buzzing with the news that some crazy guy with no pants was arguing with the manager. I could see customers and employees alike watching the situation develop as they browsed.
“Why not? I bet you couldn’t even tell which pair of pants are the ones I wore in and which were the ones are the ones were picked here.”
“I’m sorry sir, I can’t allow you to make any exchanges today,” he repeated.
“I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here. The situation is simple: I have some pants I need to exchange. These pants are in good condition, and the exchange is within your policies as I understand them.”
“I’--------ir, I ca-----------ou to make any-----anges to---.”
I stopped listening, and was now trying to locate my ex-girlfriend, who had grown horrified at the idea of anyone in the store knowing that we were ever associated with each other, and had left the store. I went back into the changing room and put on the original pair of pants, grumbling to myself angrily. I tried to hatch a plan that would show that damned smug retail manager who was really more clever: me. Nothing came.
“Are you OK in there sir?” a woman’s voice called out to me loudly. I learned later that Denim Jacket called on the female manager from Express for Women to see if she could take over for him. When I came out, the male manager was standing next to the Express for Women manager, who had the audacity to ask if I found everything alright in there.
“No, frankly I didn’t.” I faced Denim Jacket with my armful of pants that had remained in the changing room and dropped them at his feet, a move that was proudly approved of by 100% of the petulant children in the world who had been denied dessert after they rejected their peas.
The only solace I had was when I made my ex-girlfriend drive me to another mall (after a quick stop at home where I changed my pants and put the jeans into their original bag), where I exchanged the jeans with absolutely no trouble at all, because, just like I told that son of a bitch at the other mall, there was absolutely nothing wrong with them.
Just after I exchanged the jeans, the earth was attacked by giant space-birds. However, my leadership and strong presence in the jeans-exchange situation ultimately led to my becoming their master and commander, and the entire situation was of the utmost importance.