I got to know this song way better than I probably needed to while preparing for my Candlelight Procession experience last week, and was struck by a verse I’d never really noticed before:
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold.
Silver and gold is nice and all, but I bet a blanket would be of more immediate value.
Still, that got me to thinking about how the most salient characteristic of Christmas, if you go by popular culture anyway, seems to be consumption. And heck, the pile of presents we give our kids is ridiculous compared to what I got growing up. Sometimes I think we put too much pressure on ourselves as parents, friends, and spouses to make this occasion or that one AMAZING!!1!, and one gift could always backfire and not be AMAZING!!1!, so the only way to be sure is to bury our recipient with more gifts than we can really afford to be giving. And of course, all these gifts have the effect of making one a bit blasé about gifts, and so the whole experience becomes . . . unamazing.
Can you tell I’ve stressed about this a bit?
From there, though, I got to thinking about buyer’s remorse in general, and things I’ve regretted buying for myself. That seems like a more fun train of thought than your typical post on the commercialization of the holidays, so here goes:
The most recent purchase that I regret is the new dishwasher we bought this year. Our old one stopped working after ten years of service; ten years is more than the expected lifetime of a dishwasher anyway, and Lowe’s had some cheap ones on their website, so it didn’t seem so frivolous to buy a new one instead of maybe bringing out a repair-person. But when we actually attempted to put our clever plan into action, the salesmen at the stores we visited saw us coming a mile away and smoothly upsold us to some crazy top-of-the-line death star of a dishwasher. (With stainless steel siding!) (But not smudgeless steel!) This dishwasher promised to do everything except physically put the dishes back in the cupboard for us. You know what, though? It doesn’t wash dishes any better than the bottom-of-the-line one we installed ten years ago did when it was new. What’s more annoying, ergonomics lost out to aesthetics when it came to designing this thing. I could get more dishes and such loaded into my old one with less wasted space. The new washer has a series of incomprehensible buttons hidden on the door, and I have no idea how to get the wash I’ve been accustomed to all my life, so I basically press them all and hope something good happens. I kid you not: washing the dishes now takes overnight. And on the topic of those hidden buttons, I have to painfully jam my finger under the lip of the counter to hit the START button.
A battery I bought (at my expense) for my school laptop this fall was the last straw when it comes to me buying any electronics from vendors that don’t have storefronts I can return crappy merchandise to. The battery looked right, but didn’t physically fit into the computer. I can’t help but wonder how many batteries this non-factory seller shipped out to people that never actually powered a computer at all. I’ve also, in the past, bought batteries that worked for a month or two and then died, or batteries that did not even remotely match the computer the website claimed they were for. And discount toner that came already exploded in the box. Returning things to those vendors is a hassle, and typically involves shipping at your own expense and a restocking fee. And woe to you if you fail to get proof of mailing: I had one internet vendor claim never to have received my return and thus not process my refund. I’m pretty sure my success rate with discount online electronics is less than .500 at this point, so with this battery I decided I’d had enough. Now I order stuff from Staples and have it shipped to the store, where I can immediately demand a refund if it’s not right.
Warning: Triggery stuff ahead. . . . Back during the first year or so of my career, alarmed by how quickly I was gaining weight, I talked myself into buying a membership at Bally.
And then I let myself get talked into buying a second membership for my wife. Perhaps you’ve heard of how sleazy sales practices at the gym are (or at least, were). We got sucked into a long-term committment. To add insult to injury, every time we walked into the place we were bombarded with high pressure sales attempts to get us to buy their amino acid products. And while one might argue they’re not to blame for this last bit, I also found going to this gym and dealing with the personal trainers to be one of the more humiliating experiences of my life, and so I quickly stopped going. It took like three years to pay off the debt, but I can count on my fingers how many times I actually crossed the gym’s doors. It would have been cheaper to simply buy an elliptical, a treadmill, a weight bench, or an exercise bike each visit. Yeah, I try not to think about the money I poured down the sink that time.
There are definitely other purchases I’ve regretted, but those are the most obvious ones that come to mind right now. What about you? What purchases have you made that you wish you could take back?