The moment I saw the Amazon box I knew the fedora inside was crushed. It was just too shallow for that hat to fit. Sure enough, when I cracked open the package, the lid inside was dimpled and damaged.
Quickly clicking the "View or manage order" button on my e-mail, I discovered there were no orders in my account! A phone call to Amazon returns revealed I had inadvertently created two accounts. Ten more minutes on hold and I had a political apology and the return label sliding onto my printer tray. Since my afternoon phone conference was postponed until Monday, it was off to the post office with the smashed felt hat in the carton and then to the mall. We couldn't take the chance so close to Christmas that the massive online retailer would get it right the second time.
Traffic in Chicago was thick on Friday afternoon as we wound our way up I-94 to Skokie for Macy's at the Old Orchard Mall. It took 30 minutes to navigate the bottlenecks and find a parking spot but it was worth it. There were deep discounts on top of markdowns making the opportunity for great buys and brisk shopping. And the service was wonderfully old fashioned.
Gift boxes and tissue paper flowed and even offers to package our purchases for us. When I found a sweater with a snag, the clerk sent her manager to the back room too search for the right size. She returned with an armful of pristine garments to consider.
There were no coupon codes to Google, the cashier identified the maximum savings and printed gift receipts. We felt the texture of materials and judged the sizes for accuracy. The store staff engaged us in conversations about pets, Sunday afternoon dinners, the quality of the products, and color coordinating accessories.
But by far, the best came during our last transaction when the cashier asked my wife, Ellen, "Can I give you a hug?" They had swapped stories about their churches.
Make no mistake, Christmas clicking on Amazon and cyber Monday is very convenient and has lit a fire under the Yule log of American retailers. Fierce online competition is helping to re-energize the concept of customer service in stores. And I'm truly grateful! Because there's something about rubbing shoulders with the crowds, listening to Christmas carols playing in the background and exchanging good cheer with friendly sales clerks that help to make the season bright.