Click, buy, return, the new norm

I sometimes wonder what my return rate is on the merchandise I buy online.

I’ve been thinking of asking the Amazon truck to wait while I open the box. It could save us both time and mileage.

It’s not my fault they have incentivized returns. In many cases, you don’t even have to package an item for return. You just stand in line at a UPS behind other people returning things. When it is your turn, you toss the item across the counter to the customer service rep. The rep scans a code and you’re on your way home.

To make another online purchase.

I blame online shopping for my bouts of delusion. Look at clothes on models long enough and you gradually grow oblivious to the hard truth that you are not a model, never have been, never will be, but buy the clothes anyway thinking they will magically look the same on you as they did on the model.

Sometimes I can override my delusion with reality, but the success rate is marginal. For example, I can’t wear white. I look sick in white. If I wear white, people say, “How long were you in the hospital?” or, “You should have your iron tested.”

But now and again, a white shirt online calls my name. I try name-calling back but, occasionally, I buy a white shirt.

Then I return it.

The husband is incapable of making a return. He frowns upon returning things. He is of the “if you bought it, you should be stuck with it.”

On the upside, that could also be a contributing factor to why we will celebrate 45 years of marriage this year.

There was a time when making returns was rare and somewhat unpleasant. You didn’t simply take something back and receive a refund; you had to tell the clerk why you were returning the item. If the clerk didn’t like your story, that clerk would get another clerk and you would repeat the story. The two clerks would confer, you would sweat, they would announce their decision.

Five years in prison.

Not really, but shoppers did not casually return merchandise the way we do today. It was frowned upon, not unlike so many things today that we now consider acceptable, but once frowned upon.

We recently did a small home repair and didn’t need all the supplies we had purchased. I mentioned we could take them back.

The better half protested that we didn’t have a receipt. I said we didn’t need a receipt because they can look it up on our credit card. My life-long non-shopper was stunned.

We went to the big box building supply store and I stepped him through the process. “Give her the merchandise and the credit card and she will process a return.”

Steps 1 and 2 went well, but then he started explaining why we were returning the parts. “We have this upstairs toilet that
runs sometimes . . . .”

The clerk did not care.

“I thought it might be the flush valve, or that little . . . “

The clerk scowled.

He was still telling the repair story—the part about the float rod—when I took him by the arm and said, “She is not interested, but you can tell me the story again on the way home.”

Some returns are still challenging.

Share This:

Caution, object in mirror may be exactly as it appears

I made a terrible decision and want you to know about it so you can save yourself.

I bought a lighted magnification mirror.

Our bathroom is dark. The paint is dark, the lighting is dark.  Every morning I do my hair and face in the near dark. The results range from so-so to comical.

I was thinking maybe it was time to redo the bathroom, paint the walls a lighter color, switch out the light fixture for a brighter one. I even taped a few paint swatches to the wall. The longer I looked at them, the more it came back to me that painting involves ladders, brushes, paint, cleanup, removing hardware, crawling on a tile floor and taping around door frames.

Bam! Just like that the paint chips were in the trash.

Then we stayed at a lovely hotel with a lighted magnifying mirror in the bathroom. I would choose a hotel that has lighted mirrors in the bathrooms over a free breakfast any day of the week. The lighted magnifying mirror was great. I could see what I was doing.

This was it! The answer to the dark bathroom.

So I bought one.

Some mirrors come with 7X magnification, others with 10X magnification and even 15X. I went with a 7X.

Do you know what happens when you’ve been looking at your face in low light, then suddenly illuminate it with intense LED bulbs and a magnified view? You nearly scare yourself to death. At the very least, it adds another five years to your face.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, don’t you have a single soft-focus filter at all?

It’s like the story about two friends having lunch. One points to two old women across the room and says, “That’s us in 10 years.” The friend says, “That’s a mirror, sweetheart!”

There should be warnings that come with magnified mirrors. “For personal safety and wellbeing, start with a 2X magnification, then ease your way up to 3X. If you’re over 50, you may want to stop at 4X.”

I am a woman who has long championed the 30-foot close-up.  Why in the world did I get a 7X magnification mirror?

If you don’t get close enough to the 7X mirror, the magnification distorts your face so that you only have one eye.

It’s worse than I thought. I’m a cyclops.

It’s a tough call. Either you get so close you see every line, wrinkle, stray hair and broken blood vessel in what was once the white of your eyes, or you back up and do hair and makeup on a cyclops.

One of the hard parts of getting older is when you look your age, but don’t feel your age. Then again, sometimes waking up and looking in the mirror can be so startling it is just the shot of adrenaline you need to get going.

Some of the reviews warn that the bright lights fade fast on the battery-operated magnifying mirrors.

Here’s hoping.

Share This:

Dinner almost chased down the drain

Every well-seasoned cook knows there are many ways dinner can go wrong. You’re missing a key ingredient. The meat didn’t thaw. Everything is taking a lot longer than you planned.

Or, you are at the kitchen sink, suddenly hear a thundering behind you, spin around and see a large black lab covered in soap suds, shaking water as he gallops through the house.

Our oldest grand was prepping dinner and minding her little sister as the rest of the family was heading home. Big sister had told little sister to take a bath.

Little sister said, OK, but only if the dog, Ranger, took a bath, too.

Little sister has a voice soft as a summer breeze.

Big sister, prepping chicken marsala, did not hear little sister. Why would she? She was browning chicken, tending mushrooms, chopping parsley, focused on a meal that would be a fine accomplishment for a 13-year-old.

Her concentration on the chicken marsala was broken by the wet dog racing from one end of the house to the other, chased by little sister in a swimsuit yelling, “Get back in the tub!”

Ranger weighs 80 pounds. You brace yourself against a wall, an SUV, or the side of the house when Ranger says hello.

Sometimes when the whole family is at their place, our son will shout, “Everyone up on the deck; we’re going to let the dog loose!”

Let’s just say the 80-pound black lab is high-spirited.

The wisp of a little sister weighs 39.

Asked how a girl coaxes a dog twice her size to get in a bathtub, her eyes dance and she whispers, “A jar of dog treats.”

The truth is, the dog will do anything for this little girl. He shadows her, guards her while she sleeps and licks tears from her face when she cries.

Getting him in the tub and soaping him down had gone well, but when she started to rinse with the showerhead, he bolted.

Once he bounded through the kitchen, there were then two girls—big sister and little sister—chasing the wet dog shaking water. They looped around the table, into the family room, around the sofa, over the sofa, back to the kitchen, down the hall and finally funneled him into the bathroom.

The little one noted that he seemed to calm down once they pulled the shower curtain.

Maybe all he wanted was a little privacy.

Then they did what any responsible kids would do. They closed the bathroom door and waited for Mom to arrive home. They thought Mom might want to hose down the dog, clean the dirty tub and dig the dog hair out of the clogged drain.

Rule no. 1: Always leave the good stuff for mom.

The chicken marsala made it to the table, but the bread in the oven burned during the chase. In any case, dinner smelled wonderful and Ranger, who had been lathered with a lavender-scented soap, smelled pretty good, too.

Share This:

Creating AI art between chicken parm and pasta

Only in these days of AI (artificial intelligence) can you create a Vincent van Gogh masterpiece while seated at an Italian restaurant between the time the wait staff clears the chicken parm and returns with the pasta and marinara.

My personal masterpiece was created on the phone of a friend who is the King of Tech. We had been talking about AI when King Tech pulled out his phone and opened the Wonder app, an AI art generator. I gave King Tech a prompt to enter, “kitchen sink,” and selected the Van Gogh painting style. A little circle spun ‘round and ‘round and then a sink tinged in blue, nestled in a bright yellow countertop against a bright blue background, all painted with thick bold strokes, filled the screen.


I was shocked that I could “create” art like Van Gogh.

No doubt Van Gogh would be shocked, too.

Watching the wheel spin, waiting for the art to appear, was similar to the excitement of spinning the giant wheel at a Shoe Carnival store anticipating your discount.

Unlike Shoe Carnival, if you don’t like your first results, you can try, try again, entering the same parameters but getting different results each time.


I preferred the second masterpiece to the first. It had more detail, including two orange circular forms on the countertop, which were clearly Krispy Kreme donuts.

That said, my initial reaction to both images was embarrassment. I felt as though I had stolen. From a dead man, no less.

Van Gogh created art from deep within, with an eye for beauty, color, wonder and from a heart often filled with anguish. I had created a knockoff with one eye on a spinach salad being passed around the table.

The power of AI can also create novels, research papers, emails, press releases, sales pitches and love notes, all with varying degrees of sophistication. It can mine data online and harvest the work of others without their knowledge.

AI has elevated the art of cheating. Software that detects plagiarism is scrambling to keep up. Some professors are going old school, requiring exams be written in longhand in blue books.

ChatGPT, an AI language bot, recently passed business, law and medical exams.

A few years from now you may be wondering exactly how a doctor, lawyer, or accountant got that certificate hanging on the wall.

On the bright side, AI can help power surgical robots, enhance cancer screening, perfect navigation systems, organize workflow and perform data analysis at incredible speeds.

It was fascinating tapping into a vein of AI, creating a kitchen sink with a nod to Van Gogh.

But I still feel like a thief.

Share This: