‘Oh, [maybe] you shouldn’t have”

The Orange County Tribune

THERE ARE SOME HOLIDAY presents that don’t bring feeling of comfort and joy (Shutterstock).

Consumers are cautioned to be wise by comparing the price, quality, size and more of one product to another and not rush to judgment.

It’s smart and I endorse it, but – frankly – did not profit much by the example.

When I was young, in college – I was working my way (on minimum wage) from one POS (you know what that stands for … the third letter represents “spit”) used automobile to another.

I sometime went against my own best judgment and asked my father’s advice. He seemed like a good choice, because he loved junk cars and his idea of a Saturday afternoon was to cruise used car lots and “parts depots,” formerly known as “junk yards,” complete with angry dogs and girlie magazine foldouts in what was laughingly called an “office.”

While his own opinion on automobiles was – according to him – impeccable – anyone else’s was worthless. I could show him a half-dozen affordable choices and he would shake his head at every one.

This one was too old. That one was too new. This one is a girls’ car. That one’s the wrong color. This one … you don’t want a car with bucket seats. The fender on this one … Well, you get the idea. The car I needed simply did not exist. Anywhere.

So it was either trust my own judgment or bicycle around. Easy decision.

As much as I have given up on that kind of comparison shopping, I indulge in a variation that involves evaluating the price/value of Christmas gifts given and received.

Although I am quite comfortable today, I grew up not in The Great Depression but as the child of those who did, and it rubbed off. I literally counted my pennies. For the high school formal dance, I rented an $11 tuxedo … two bucks back if you returned it in good condition.

I have received more than my share of gift cards with the approximate cash value of the Subway sandwich rewards cards they somewhat resemble. You burn more cash in gasoline driving to redeem them than their face value.

Over the years, my gifts have been met with half-baked home-baked cookie-like substances, licorice strings and copies of books I already had. Gifts that come out of left field, as in “I know you’ve always been interested in kayaking, so I got you this set of goggles.”

Like most civilized people, I fix a smile on my face and give as civilized a reply as I can. “Where did you get this!?” works well. How about “I can’t wait to use this!” (translation: I can’t want to find a place to hide this).

Of course the standard doubled-edged response is still the best: “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” And if you’re giving me a plastic staple-remover from Office Depot after I gave you a new iPhone, yes, “you really, really shouldn’t have.”

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Garden Grove, CA

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