Chick Wit: Online buying delivers a holiday lesson

Posted: January 04, 2012

Whoever coined the phrase "and many happy returns" never tried online shopping.

Is there such a thing as a happy return? If I were happy with the item, I'd keep it.

Nobody has intimacy issues with a great gift.

But this is a story about giving gifts, not giving them back.

I love choosing gifts for people, but this year I was under deadline and on a budget, so online shopping seemed like the way to go.

My mom asked for dog sweaters.

You could've guessed that, right?

So I fell into the Internet wormhole of online pet boutiques that sell things like a four-poster cat bed and pearls for dogs. Things only a crazy person would buy.

I wanted all of it.

But I restrained myself. I had a specific objective: three matching dog sweaters in a natural fiber.

Not crazy at all.

I selected my mom's gift in about a half hour. I obsessed over the dogs' gifts for days.

Finally I found a red sweater with a reindeer face on the back. It was adorable, alpaca wool, and had all three sizes in stock. I chose two new harnesses for the big dogs and catnip toys for the cats, including Spunky.

Click click click. Done!

Then, undone.

A week later, I got a call from the company saying the sweaters I ordered were no longer available. Apparently I had chosen the "it" item in canine couture, and it was out of stock.

This boded well for the economy.

But ill for my Christmas plans.

I'd have to find replacements elsewhere, but my concern was that the rest of the order go through as scheduled. The customer service woman assured me nothing had been delayed and I'd get it all by Christmas.

So I waited.

And worried.

By Dec. 20, only one catnip toy had arrived. That was it. One of eight items.

Rudolph had better odds.

I called customer service again and got voice mail. I left a message. I called every day from Dec. 21 to 23, and never got a person to pick up. Finally, on the night of Dec. 23, I got a chirpy e-mail from the company saying they were closed for the holiday.

This sparked an explosion of holiday stress. I was incensed. Oh, just so you're enjoying YOUR holiday while your customers have NOTHING!

I was going to leave the mother of all voice mails. I'd explain how their website misrepresented their stock, their delivery dates, their quality, and STOLE CHRISTMAS.

I'd have to wait for an opportunity to slip away from my family to unleash on these scam artists.

But then my mom and I went to a packed showing of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol in IMAX.

Tom Cruise brings people together.

Later that night, I went to a lovely dinner with my dad's family. We had the best time.

I was brushing my teeth when it hit me - I forgot to leave my voice-mail bomb.

I told myself it was all right, there was still time for hate. I'd write an e-mail - forceful, articulate, sure to win a compensatory discount. I lay awake in bed, drafting it in my head.

Not quite visions of sugarplums.

But then it was Christmas morning. After the presents were opened, my mom and I got down to the merry business of cooking together. And soon her best friend Franca arrived, and we all ate dinner with the dogs at our feet.

By the 26th my wrath had cooled. Christmas was over. Some of the missing gifts I'd replaced in time, some I hadn't.

I was too busy enjoying my family, my friends, and my holiday to be disgruntled.

A week later, I still haven't received anything else from the company, but my lesson for the New Year is this:

Anger, even the righteous kind, isn't worth missing out on joy. Make time for the things that give and need love, and let the rest slide.

But when these purchases arrive, I intend to send them right back.

Now that's a happy return.

Happy New Year!

Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's new book, "Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter." Visit Francesca at