Return the Thing


Photo: flightlog

Immediately upon my sister’s return from outside, it was clear that the litter box we had carefully ordered from the internet was much too big. It was comically large, the kind of thing that felt more suited to a sprawling suburban tract home, to be tucked into a corner of a hallway so big you could rollerblade from bathroom to bedroom in one fell swoop. Despite our best efforts at measurement — which consisted of my sister yelling the dimensions to me from another room while I hovered over the box with a measuring tape — we miscalculated. Various attempts at placement yielded no results; it is clear that we need to return the thing from whence it came.

There is nothing I dread more than a return and I do almost everything I can to avoid them. My biggest bugbear with online shopping is that returning an item that was shipped to me means I have to engage with two of my most-hated tasks: mailing something and returning something. There are people who shop for clothing online with little to no care, tossing shirts in different sizes and dresses and shoes into their carts willy-nilly. I will never understand this process; I will never be that person. If I buy something from the internet, it is because I’ve researched it exhaustively, poring over reviews in an attempt to assure myself that I know what I’m getting into.

“If it doesn’t fit me, I’ll return it,” they say. “No big deal.”

Who has the money? Who has the time? Returning something feels like admitting that you made a mistake. Shopping like this feels fiscally irresponsible, even though it all shakes out in the end: You still spend the same amount of money even though you spent twice as much in the beginning. You’ll get your money back, but you’ll have to wait a while. You should’ve bought the right thing the first time around. If you did, you wouldn’t have to return it.

Like most things in life that aren’t really that bad, thinking about doing it is way, way worse. I returned a coat hook the other day, purchased in a moment of panic. Yes, it stayed in my bag for a week and I tried to pawn it off on anyone who came into my house — all to avoid returning it — but when I went back to the container store, there was no line. I hadn’t thrown away my receipt. I marched up to the counter, returned it and was done in five minutes.

The litter box was an online order that was shipped to the store. It can be returned to the store — half the battle — but it is unwieldy, large and irksome. I don’t want to return it, but someone’s going to have to. For now it sits in a plastic bag in the dining room, bumping up against the thing we use to hold the mail. I’ll return it; maybe my sister will. We will probably get in an argument about it. Still, it will go back. It has to.

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