A long time ago I developed a left ankle problem. Some sort of tendon issue, but we can fix it, the surgeon said. “No thanks,” I said, and went looking for something simpler and non-invasive.
I found it, an “Aircast” brace with that word printed on the strap in turquoise green letters. Easy on and easy off, thanks to Velcro. Painless walking.
Sometime later, for symbiotic reasons maybe, the right ankle started imitating the left. This time I skipped the doctor and started wearing the “R” (for right) brace with the same lettering.
They do the job, but they wear out every six months or so, and I order a new pair. It’s easy. Just go online and find the ankle brace with the right color on the strap.
Usually I order from “Better Braces,” but this time I went on Amazon.com which, say what you will about the company and Jeff Bezos, does seem to deliver what you ordered, free delivery if you sign up for Amazon Prime. Like other online vendors, they include a picture of the product, so you know you’re ordering the right thing. I put in my order and got an immediate confirmation.
The blue and white bubble-wrap package arrived with two braces, one “R” and one “L.” The “R” one was fine, but “L” was a different brace with no turquoise lettering. Not what I ordered.
A shipping clerk’s mistake I figured. These things happen. I figured I could just go online, find the “Returns” section, get the bar-coded return coupon, and drop it off at Kohl’s.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, Amazon’s message was that they were crediting my account, but I should keep the wrong brace. Why, I wondered, don’t they want it back?
Well, I suppose that’s Amazon’s business, so I went back to the Amazon.com webpage, spotted the “L” brace with the turquoise green lettering, went to checkout, and made the purchase for the second time. Two days later the familiar package arrived.
They sent the same wrong “L” as before! I went back to “Returns,” this time a bit irritated. But this time the voiceless online message said, “No returns on this product.” Apparently you can get a credit for the wrong brace once, but you can’t do anything if they send it again. And now you’re stuck with two of them.
I decided it was time to call Amazon on the phone. You can actually do that, and the service person was friendly and helpful. “They must be having a supply chain problem,” he said, “so they made a substitution.”
Welcome to the backup, thousands of unloaded containers on ships resting offshore in various harbors. Maybe my left brace is in one of them.
The Amazon representative then said he would be glad to help. It took a few minutes before he came back on the line and told me he had issued a credit. I thanked him and asked him to send me the bar-coded return so I could send it back.
“I can’t do that,” he replied.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because the system says all I can do is issue a credit,” he answered. “Perhaps you can give them to someone.”
This story reminds me of when I went to the Stevens High School junior prom and my girlfriend told me I had two left feet.