Be sure to save your receipts

Dennis DalmanColumnLeave a Comment

They say you get what you pay for.

Not these days you don’t.

Nowadays you can spend an arm and a leg and still end up with a piece of junk.

Recent examples: one telephone, three phone batteries, two coffee makers, a CD player, a baker’s dozen of kitchen utensils – to name just some.

Good thing I keep receipts. One of my weekly errands, lately, is to take back stuff that doesn’t work or stuff that broke. Most of the stuff – go figure – was made in China. When I was growing up, in the 1950s, whenever we bought anything that said “Made in Japan,” we’d always say “Cheap.” Now it’s China. I’ve got to learn to shop only for products made in the U.S.A., but it’s hard to tell what is, what isn’t.

Last month, I bought a Mr. Coffee-brand French-press coffee maker – 20 bucks, Walmart. Back home, I poured hot water into the glass container. It cracked and started leaking. Next day, I took it back, exchanged it for another one. It worked. For three days. On the third day, it cracked, leaked. Took it back.

The guy at the service counter said, “Again? Gee, you better quit buying these.”

We both chuckled.

“You better quit selling them,” I said.

That same day I went to Target and bought a Bodum-brand coffee maker. It cost more – 25 bucks. Works great. So far.

A few weeks ago, my kitchen phone battery wouldn’t charge. I searched throughout the St. Cloud area for the exact battery match. Finally, a clerk assured me a “similar” battery would work. I let it charge for 24 hours. No good. Dead. Might as well have plugged a rock into that phone. Took the battery back. Got another “approximate” one. Didn’t work. Took it back. I got smart and ordered an “exact-fit” battery online. Turns out I wasn’t so smart. That one didn’t work either. Must have been the phone itself, I guessed.

“No more battery phones!” I vowed, throwing the phone into my junk box.

I went and bought a plug-in-the-wall phone. To test if it worked, I called a neighbor.

“Hello?” Marty said. “Hello? Hello? Hello?”

“Can’t you HEAR me?” I yelled.

“Hello, hello, hello?”


Tried again. Richard answered: “Hello? Hello, hello?”

I heard him swear.

“Must be that (expletive deleted) stupid prankster calling again!” I heard him grumble to Marty.


I called the phone company, certain something was wrong with the phone lines. Had to be that. After all, the phone was brand-new. But I should’ve known better; I should’ve known the phone didn’t work BECAUSE it was brand new. And, sure enough, the repairman discovered the speaker amplifier gizmo in the part you talk into was dead.

Took the phone back. Have you ever try to find a plug-in-the-wall phone lately?

Back home, I searched online. Drove to Target. Wouldn’t you know? The one at Target was exactly like the dead one I had just returned to Kmart. Feeling stupid, I bought it anyway. Lo and behold, it works. So far.

I bought a CD player several months ago. It worked. For a month, then up and died. Took it back, got another one.

In the past year, I bought a spatula that broke in half, a measuring cup on which the measurement markings faded and disappeared within months, juice glasses that cracked or shattered if you just looked at them wrong, envelopes that don’t stick after they’re licked, a bread thermometer whose red insides just sat there refusing to move either up or down and a weight scale on which my tonnage fluctuated by 10 pounds up or down, day to day. I should’ve brought all that junk back, but I didn’t. Into the trash it went. I should’ve sent it all back to China – C.O.D. – where it was made.

I wish I had some sage consumer advice for my readers – what to buy, what not to buy.

All I can say is “Caveat emptor!” (Let the buyer beware!) Also remember that nowadays, a lot of junk comes with a hefty pricetag; you don’t always get what you pay for. And, oh, one more thing: Be sure to save your receipts.

Author: Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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