THE IDLE AMERICAN: We wish you a Merry Christmas

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, January 23, 2020


Don Newbury

 ‘Tis not the first time an error of my own doing has diverted me from the tedious freeways of everyday life to side roads with uncharted curves adorned by snagging brambles that seemed to warn, “Go back.”

   I stumble forward, discovering yet another column topic, one that likely should remain at barrel’s bottom and marked “obscure.”

   Anyway, there I was, standing way back in the customer service line at Sam’s Club, wondering why some customers were yelling at sympathetic “associates” who didn’t hire out for such. I soon learned that they were patiently listening to “poor me” accounts, from mid-December until well into the New Year.

   “Where are my Christmas cards?” I had the same question, remembering difficulty at Thanksgiving to round up three generations of kin, some who have grown weary of these annual “photo shoots.” Young’uns care not a whit about how much others think they’ve grown, if they “favor” certain uncles or aunts or care for mentions of their attire–or whatever. And old-timers don’t need reminders about how much they’ve aged, or hear trite comments about “failure to winter well,” or being “ridden hard and put up wet.”

   If only I’d listened more carefully to my wife. She asked me to place an order for 150 Christmas cards. I learned that Sam’s no longer has an in house photo department, so, as suggested, I ordered online. 

   They arrived, as promised, “within 5-7 business days.” However, I mistakenly had ordered 125 cards.

   Turns out, 25 more cards were needed. It was still early December, and I received the same assurance of delivery within “5-7 business days.”

   A bullet had been dodged, thought I.

   I was wrong.

   The most jolting of numerous emails came on Dec. 20. In boldface, I was advised “that your photo card order will not arrive by Sunday, Dec. 22.”

   I am sure “corporate Sams” meant well, explaining how Fuji Film Printing Services, “had higher than anticipated volumes this year, and thus is unable to process orders on time.” I was told that when my cards arrived–no later than Christmas Eve–there would be no charge, and–for my trouble and inconvenience–I’d receive a $50 gift card via email that same afternoon.

   Sadly, my cards didn’t arrive until after New Years’, and the gift card still hasn’t arrived.

   I made numerous attempts to speak to media relations people at Sam’s headquarters, but so far, I’ve heard from no one.

   Local Sam’s personnel are in no way blamed, since it was not their decision to “hand-off” Christmas card printing to Fuji.

   We shop Sam’s often. The personnel are friendly, well trained and eager to help. They’ve sometimes descended ladders to help me find items at eye level on main aisles.

   I picked up cards on January 3, standing in a much shorter line and hearing no raised voices.

   Probably my experience can reasonably be multiplied by thousands of others, particularly if they, too, were promised gift cards.

   I scribbled notes on cards tardy to recipients that I was trying to get ahead on Christmas, 2020.

   My guess is that Sam’s decision-makers may re-think farming out Christmas card printing, and start taking queries seriously that aren’t satisfied in routine surveys.

   One size DOES NOT fit all as seems to be suggested on all those “evaluation” emails we’ve received from Sam’s over the years. Everything doesn’t work on the “one to ten” scale. They might even consider making phone numbers available for media questions. 

   Me? I’ll continue to value visits to our local Sam’s. I’m glad customer service is generally “back to normal.” Soon, I may quit wishing “associates” a “Merry Christmas,” even if corporate fails to come through with the promised gift card. I made at least a half-dozen trips, languishing in long customer service lines. I felt like I was standing in line for my driver’s license renewal.  


   Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments/inquiries to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.