The Fine Print

This tale is by Terry Morrison, author of “Mattress-ide and Other Grammatical Atrocities”

An extremely red-faced man stormed into the tiny shop on the corner of Lingot and Main. Pushing his way past the assorted browsers, he bore down on the sales counter like a Scud missile.

The lone clerk regarded him with some trepidation.

“I want to speak to the manager,” he demanded.

“I’m sorry Sir, Mr. Mowbray isn’t in today. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“You’re darn right there is,” he sputtered, his anger gushing out like urine in a pub. He reached into his pants pocket, extracted a tattered wallet and slammed it down on the counter.

“I bought this piece of trash here only two months ago and now look at it. It’s falling apart. Forty-nine ninety-five it cost me! Forty-nine ninety-five,” he added for more emphasis. “Can you believe that?” His face was getting redder.

The clerk wasn’t sure what to say to him. She only hoped the top of his head stayed put.

She picked up the wallet and examined it. “Yes, Sir, it certainly isn’t in very good shape. And you say you’ve only had it for two months?”

“That’s what I said. Two months and it falls apart. And you know what else?”

“No,” she answered cautiously. “What?”

“It isn’t even leather. You ripped me off. It looks like leather, feels like leather, even smells like it. But I’ll be damned if it is. And you charge me almost fifty dollars for it.” He was sputtering badly now. “That’s highway robbery and I don’t intend to let you get away with it.”

“Well … what exactly are you looking for?”

“I want my money back, every cent of it.”

“Do you have your receipt?”

He opened the wallet and produced the slip. She examined it.

“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do.”

The top of his head seemed to rise above his crimson ears. “What do you mean?” he bellowed. “I have my receipt, the goods were defective and I want restitution. Do you understand?”

“Yes, of course I understand but as I just told you, there’s nothing I can do” She was more confident now.

“What kind of store is this? I buy something in good faith and when it falls apart prematurely you refuse to give me satisfaction. Is that the kind of operation you’re running?”

“It’s not that simple Sir. We are indeed a reputable firm but in this case, well, … I’m sorry.”

His sputtering had shifted into high gear and he was showering the clerk with spit. “Sorry … sorry? That’s all? Perhaps you’d explain just why you insist on treating me like this.”

She pointed to the receipt. “Did you read the fine print?”

He was dumbfounded. “What fine print?”

“Here, just below the total.” She pointed to it like a teacher in a class of maddeningly slow learners.

“See,” she said, “All Sales Are Vinyl.”

Bob Levi added the following.

Do you remember when women wore those shiny vinyl coats. I think that it was around 1970 or so. The wallet sorry reminded me of another vinyl story, but this one is 100% true.

I was leaving work (probably on a Friday and was a bit punchier than usual after a tough week). I got on the elevator on the 10th floor with some associates. The elevator stopped on the 9th floor and a woman got on wearing a bright red vinyl coat. I stared at her, look horrified and said, “How could you buy that coat? Do you know how many vinyls it takes to make a coat like that one.” As we proceeded down, stopping at just about every floor, I continued. “Vinyls are on the endangered species list, you know. They’re related to gazelles and really move quickly.” And just as the elevator got to the first floor and was unloading, I asked, “Have you ever seen a vinyl?” She looked at me in bewilderment and shook her head probably figuring that I was completely deranged. So I gave her the punch line: “You haven’t. That just shows how fast they are!” (My associates and I let the lovely lady exit through the revolving door and we broke up in hysterics.) One of my finest moments.

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