Consumers beware: Shopping, gift-giving, vacationing, even making money may be hazardous to your health. Indulging in what should be routine activities can – due to a seeming epidemic of “who cares?” – induce extreme frustration, stress and anxiety, causing your blood pressure readings to be more like those of a thermometer just pulled out of a feverish child. Way too high.
No doubt the incredible incompetence, ineptness and hefkerness I experienced in the last few weeks while involved in the aforementioned activities – ones that should be pleasant and satisfying – are not unique to me: I have no doubt that everyone has a plethora of woeful tales of misadventures, inconveniences and even harm that befell them through no fault of their own – but rather as victims of someone else’s callous irresponsibility.
Individually, the outcome of apathetic, inept consumer “service” may not be a big deal – and it’s a good idea not to “sweat the small stuff”, but collectively they can drain and strain one’s emotional and physical stamina.
Right now, for example, I am looking at a warm, very pretty hooded sweater I bought for my granddaughter to wear to pre-school. Why is it in my possession when she was supposed to have been wearing it since Chanukah? Because the clunky, impossible-to-remove alarm tag is still on it. The cashier forgot to remove it. Of course, as I walked out, the store alarm went off, which in itself is disconcerting and embarrassing. Store security glanced at my receipt, inspected the handful of items in my bag, said all the tags were off, told me it was OK to go and just shrugged when the alarm went off again. Of course she too somehow overlooked the tag. Yes, I can go back to the store, but I bought the item after being a Shabbat guest in a different part of the city. It’s a real inconvenience to go back there, or even to enter a neighborhood store and explain why I have this tagged item with me. From what my friends who I vented to tell me, this is not a rare occurrence. It’s happened to all of them.
And then there are the two little girls’ shopping carts made by a well-known toy manufacturer. They were also Chanukah gifts that were eagerly “put into service” by two excited cousins – except in both, one wheel keeps falling off since the peg, unlike the other three, is the wrong shape for the wheel’s well. Mistakes happen, but two carts with misshapen pegs? And did I mention the handle bar falls off when little hands push hard (because of the faulty wheel) to move the cart?
And of course there was my brilliant plan to make extra money (hopefully) by opening an online stock trading account, one whose profits are tax -free. I actually made a couple of profitable trades (the limit for the account is $5,000 a year, so earning aren’t huge but can still pay for Chanukah gifts). Last week while on the verge of buying shares of a stock that had plummeted but would likely go up again – I got an error report telling me the account was frozen.
Why? After calling and being on hold for 45 minutes, the brokerage service representative – who refreshingly was anxious to actually be of service- discovered that the bank did not forward the necessary paperwork that I had filled out and a 30 day grace period was over. The teller involved was on vacation and it seemed no one else had any clue as to where the paper work was filed. Needless to say that stock soared that day. As I write this – the account is still frozen. No buying or selling or even retrieving the money that is sitting there. I am out hundreds of dollars because someone was hefker.
In the meantime, I did some flying to visit some of the more geographically (but not emotionally) distant Kupfers. Because of a reasonable concern that there would be endless lines at each security station due to a couple of grave (pun intended) breaches in airport security – I went to the airport hours earlier than I normally would- and spent a few productive hours twiddling my thumbs. At least my experience was not as horrific as thousands of others whose travel plans were messed up because of cancelled flights – or who had to endure hours of boredom because in-flight TVs were shut off, or worse -had to deal with bursting bladders because of revoked bathroom privileges an hour prior to landing.
I guess I can take consolation in the fact that I was not in a car/train/plane with a driver/conductor/pilot who was chatting on a cell phone/texting/or tipsy. I am lucky that I never rented a defective car, unlike my (at the time) newly wed son who was saved in Israel by a taxi driver who frantically honked his horn as my son drove by. A wobbling wheel was on the verge of flying off. Of course the car rental owner swore up and down – after initially insisting there was nothing wrong – that the car had been fully inspected before being released to him.
I am also fortunate that I have not eaten “kosher” food that actually was treif because someone let their guard down.
Or have I????