Saturday, May 8, 2010

What is the worst that can happen?

I bought a Garmin GPS at Walmart a few weeks ago. I feel so 21st century. Except, it doesn’t work well. Well, once you get the address punched in it works just fine, but getting it entered is a serious nightmare. I have to pound on the “Done” button like I’m driving a metal post into solid rock. I already took it back once and the new one is just as bad as the first. I’m really wishing I had selected the Tomtom.

I mentioned this to a friend and he shrugged and said, “Take it back again and get the Tomtom.”

“I can’t take it back again. Plus I've actually used this one and entered several addresses into it. Certainly they would refuse to take it back now.”

He rolled his eyes. “Take it back anyway and ask for your money back. What is the worst that can happen?”

People who ask that question do not write fiction. I sat forward and gripped my coffee cup. “What is the worst that could happen? I’ll tell you what the worst is than could happen.”

I placed the porcelain cup on the little coffee table and settled back in the wing-backed chair and told him the following scene.


I walk into Walmart and the clerk recognizes me.

“Didn’t you return your Garmin once already?” she asks, her eyes dropping to the GPS box.

“Yeah,” I say and heat infuses my cheeks. She sees it and presses home an advantage.

“So what is your problem with it this time?” Her eyes narrow into a glare.

“Same thing. When I press the “Done” key, nothing happens until I pound on it a dozen or more times.”

“Have you thought of reading the instructions this time? I noticed last time the instruction booklet hadn’t even been removed from the plastic bag.”

Thundering fires of Hades. Why hadn’t I thought to open that dang bag? I shrug and look past her at the shelves holding returned items and focus on something. She turns to see what I’m staring at and I rip open the box and attempt to open the instruction booklet bag. Her hand slams down on mine.

“Ha,” she says and her lips form a thin smirk of a smile. “I know your type.”

I hate being a “type” so I shake my head back and forth with earnestness. “No, no. I’ve seen a friend use his GPS, so I already knew how to use it.”

“If you knew how to use it, you wouldn’t have to return it a second time, would you?” Her hand disappears under the counter and reappears. A burst of light momentarily blinds me. She turns the camera around and shows me the picture of myself with my double chins and squinty eyes and the remnants of splotchy red color.

“I’m going to post this in every department. And then I’m going to enter it on “People of Walmart” website.

I’ve seen that site with people wearing pants that don’t cover their butts and shirts that end just before the bulging belly fat. Horrified I beg her not to post my picture on that site. Her head tilts and that drippy smile widens. With a breathy whisper she asks, “How are you going to stop me?”

Panicked and desperate I stammer out, “Okay, okay I won’t return this, okay?”

Foam forms in the corners of her mouth. “Not enough, Melanie Sherman.”

I reel back in horror. She knows my name. How does she know my name?

“Yeah, I remember your name from the first time you had the audacity to return the GPS."

“Okay, I won’t return it and I’ll pay you ten dollars.” I dig into my wallet.

“Not good enough,” she says. And then she recites my address. “Yeah, I got that off the one you returned. That was careless. Now we know where you live. And we know where your parents live."

It was true. I had picked up my parents for an outing to Walmart and entered in their address in the Walmart parking lot. The threat isn’t even veiled. She is telling me I’m going to “pay” for trying to return the devise.

“Okay.” My voice shakes. "How about if I just give it back and we’ll call it even. You don’t even have to give me my money back. You can just keep it.”

She fingers the box, spins it around, taps it with a fiery red nail. “Give me all your credit cards and cash. Oh, and that watch. I like that watch.”

“Okay, the GPS, the cash, my credit cards and the watch.”

She stares at me for a moment and her eyes drift down to my sunglasses dangling from my shirt. Her gaze raises slowly until it pierces mine. “And the sunglasses.”

I gulp. “They’re prescription. I can’t drive without--”

She picks up the phone and dials a number. I can hear the ringing in the earpiece. A husky voice answers. “She came back. I told you she would. You still have your gun?” she says into the phone.

“Okay, you can have the sunglasses,” I spit out, shoving them across the counter with my wallet and watch.

She grunts. “Okay, you can go. Just remember we know where you live.”


When I had finished describing this scene to my friend, he drained his coffee and nodded. “Yeah, maybe you just want to keep it. How often do you have to enter a number in the thing, anyway?”

Don’t ever ask me what’s the worst that can happen.

Editor's note: The above scene at Walmart is a random work of fiction.


  1. Imagine how bad it will get in subsequent drafts. :)

  2. Bill,

    Yeah, and if I'm not limiting myself a blog post number of words. I could see this for NaNoWriMo.

    (Bill's first novel comes out next month, by the way.)

  3. It's actually my third, but, yah, it does come out next month! :)

  4. Squeaky,

    You comment wasn't here when I responded to Bill. Yes, I've seen snippets of your writing on your blog. I can see your mind would do this too.


    Your third? Man, would you like to be a guest blogger here? At least keep me posted as to your first book signing.

  5. HAHA, this is brilliant! Also, I told you to get an iphone instead! ;)

  6. Jenku

    Hummph, that wasn't an "I told you so" was it? Does the iPad have GPS?

  7. Map? Paper often folded. You never have to push done though you do have to fold them.

  8. Jars,

    Oh my gosh. You are SO living in the 20th century. C'mon over to aggravating technology so you can be miserable with the rest of us. And c'mon back to The Dead Bunny Club.

  9. ah hahahaha! That was the best fake scene ever. I can totally see some customer service people doing that o_O

  10. Rebecca,

    I've really scared myself. Next time I go to any store, I'm giving the customer service area a wide berth.

  11. I once returned a pair of pink *work* boots that I had worn for a week. They were filthy....but they killed my feet. With sweat dripping down my brow and a million moths dancing around in my stomach I went to the customer service counter, and prepared myself for the worst....
    "100% satisfaction guaranteed" was all the clerk said. "See, it's written right there on the receipt"
    "But I wore them," I said.
    oh...wait...this isn't *my* blog...
    Sometimes the worst happens, and sometimes we're pleasantly surprised...
    I say return it...walk in there like you own the place...what's the worst that could happen....

  12. HA! Didn't I see those pink boots in your hilarious blog? You returned them?

    Regarding the GPS...I'm thinking that woman at Walmart might do a drive-by shooting and I'd end up in a wheelchair and it would cost me more than the GPS to have a ramp built so I'd be able to wheel into my house.

  13. Dunno about the ipad, but I don't think so. It isn't a phone either is it?

  14. Jenku,

    I'll have to ask the French guy.

  15. Ahahahaaaa! Oh, my. That's AWESOME!

    Yes, never ask a writer what the worst that can happen is. :)

    Nicely done, good lady!

  16. Simon,

    Maybe I should host a blogfest. I'll bet there'd be a lot of fun "What's the worst that could happen?" scenes.

    And thanks for commenting.

  17. Melanie, that would be the best blogfest ever! You totally should!

  18. Hmmmm.....I could do that. I mean, what is the worst that could happen?

  19. OMG, this is freakin' hysterical! Thanks for the laugh!


  20. Tawna,

    Thanks. Glad you stopped by.

  21. you have captured the evil customer service person well...altho i find most either don't give a shite (borrowed from our canadian/british friends)...and the others are power-hungry-fiends....i say return the gps (use google maps) and buy an ipod. that's my next purchase. (jenku, ipod=music and ipad=reading & least...i think so!!!)

  22. Karen,

    Whatever happened to "the customer is always right?" And Nina and Laurent have the ipod and love it. Laurent also has the ipad. How many gadgets are enough? Just one more.

  23. HAhahahaa. That was insane.
    I think it's the iphone upon which one gets directions. But it doesn't speak (yet, anyway). So it's marginally better than a map. You'd still have to pull over.
    But my vote is to return it. The worst won't happen because the customer service people are underpaid and couldn't care less about profits.

  24. Dale,

    Something tells me the CSR in the above scene wasn't going to give my credit cards and cash to Walmart's profit center.

    And thank you for pointing out I'd still have to pull over and make continuing U-turns if I used the iphone. HA.


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