A couple of months ago I was ripped off by a furniture store. They sold me damaged goods, and when I asked for a refund, they agreed, but held back a £50 “handling fee” for the return of the goods. I sent the company a letter, stating that if they did not refund me in full (as I was entitled by law), I would show up outside the store with a placard. They ignored me; they thought I was bluffing. I wasn’t. Yesterday I showed up and stood outside the gates of their car park, holding up a big sign that said “Buyer beware – no full refund on damaged goods.” Several cars came and went, all of them noticing my sign.
About half and hour later, when the store was empty, the shopkeeper came out to talk to me. I recognised him as the guy who had delivered my furniture, and he had seemed like a friendly, mild-mannered man at the time. Boy, was I wrong. First, he used the predictable line with me: “You can’t expect us to invest our time in coming out to your house to retreive the goods without payment?” I replied, “Quality control is the responsibility of the shop, not the customer. It’s not my fault the goods were damaged, so I shouldn’t have to pay.” When he couldn’t win the argument, he turned into a bully, threatening to remove me. I said, “Are you theatening to assault me?” and he refused to reply. He got even more aggressive, threatening to bring some people in to “remove me” (conveniently vague phrase). It was likely he was full of hot air, but I thought it was also possible things could escalate to violence. I have to tell you, I was gobsmacked that things went the way they did; I could hardly believe a shopkeeper in this day and age capable of this kind of behaviour to a customer. I was dealing with the grown-up version of the school-yard bully, the guy who threatens the smaller kids to get their dinner money. Except I’m bigger! Still, I wasn’t looking forward to being manhandled by a few of his mates, so I calmly got back in the car and left, cursing myself for not bringing a witness or a recording device.
I went straight to the police station and reported the matter. I wasn’t happy that the store knew my address, but I wasn’t about to be bullied, either. Unfortunately the police felt that it was unclear that I had been threatened. They said that words like “I’ll remove you” could be interpreted as “I’ll phone the police and have you removed.” What the words don’t convey is how the guy advanced on me with an angry expression, but that’s not enough for a police report. Disappointing, but I understand the position the police were in; all they were doing was cutting to the chase and indicating how this was going to play out, if I pursued it.
I could still pursue the matter with Trading Standards, and maybe I will. I almost couldn’t be bothered. To be honest, the loss of the money isn’t the only reason made the demonstation. I did it to see if I had the courage to do it. And even though I was defeated, I’m still glad I pushed myself to do it. I think society these days conditions us to lead a lazy life without convictions, where we don’t stand up for anything or anybody. And I don’t want to be like that.
It’s also good to go to sleep at night, knowing I’m not a thief and bully, trapped by greed and ready to dish out violence. I may have been defeated yesterday, but when you consider what’s really important – character – I know who the real loser is.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42). I find this passage inspirational because of the way it offers a course of action which throws our personal possessions into a place of non-importance, which is where they belong.