In February, HBC announced that by fall of 2012 there will be no stores operating under the Fields banner in Canada. Perhaps this was the reason behind the disgruntled worker's attitude when I tried to return a couple of picture frames.
"No returns," she said, pointing the sign written in thick Sharpie above her head.
I needed the kind of frame that stood up on a table and I failed to check the back of the ones I'd just bought to see if they had that flap of cardboard on the back. Mistakenly, I'd bought the kind with just the metal loops that can only be hung on a wall.
"I was here five minutes ago."
I was holding the two, 8 1/2 x 11" black frames that were still wrapped in plastic, a $4.95 price tag stuck to the top right corner of each. I also had the two frames I needed, with flaps on the back, each with a $4.50 tag on them.
"It's not even a return," I said. "I need the cheaper frames, and already paid for the higher priced ones."
"Store policy," she said.
Her face was now flushed, serious. She was visibly upset. She pointed up at the sign.
"But I need them to stand up. I can't use the other ones."
She wouldn't budge.
"You can use them for other pictures," she said.
I didn't tell her that I was aware of how a picture frame could be used.
Instead I said, "I need to put photos of my dad in the frames so they can stand on a table at his funeral tomorrow. I can't use the other ones. Throw them in the garbage. Take them home if you want. Put them back on the shelf. They are not what I need. I made a mistake."
It just came out. I didn't even want her sympathy. I didn't want to be there at all. I wanted to scream. I wanted to shake her. I wanted to ask what the hell was wrong with her.
Moreover, I wanted some pictures frames that stood up.
I get that there are rules, policies. There are also times to bend those rules and ignore those policies.
Or, as the case was, not.
I paid for the frames, thanked her for being unreasonable, and wished her a nice day.
Maybe the imminent store closure was the reason behind her temperament.
Maybe the death of my father was the reason behind mine.
I guess it all comes down to how you want to frame it.