Having bought a gift for The Dog, The Child seemed to think she had completed her Christmas shopping, until we got home and she decided that maybe she hadn’t. So, the following weekend, we head out to the Mall, but a “different mall” this time. Because the other mall has “other things.”
Are you looking for something in particular? I ask.
Yes, she says.
Can you give me a hint what kind of thing you are looking for? Maybe then I can help you find a good store.
I’m looking for a present, she says. I need to look at the other mall.
We head off to the other mall, cell phone charged. This mall is much larger than our usual one, and the crowd is – how shall I say it? – a bit more mixed, and since there’s a bit more crowd, I am reluctant to let The Child go too far from me. She wants to go looking on her own, and that’s okay, but I set boundaries how far she can roam from where I am.
I wander through a tea shop, find a nice pot for my father’s wife. The Child appears and ecstatically holds up a small stone she has found for my father. It’s some sort of zen thing, she says, and the man at the store gave her a good price on it. This all sounds great, and we head off to another part of the mall.
On the way, we pass the Splat Ball stand. We stop and check out the Splat Balls, which, The Child informs me, are awesome.
Splat Balls, in case you are wondering, are gelatinous balls that, when thrown against a hard surface, flatten completely, and then spring back into their original shape.
They are terribly exciting, and also, they are three for $10. This strikes me as a rather high price for what amounts to hi-tech jell-o wigglers, and I suggest to The Child that we should “think about them.”
I’m thinking, I’ll come back in a bit and get a couple for her Christmas stocking.
She’s attempting to do math in her head, and wondering if she has enough money to get a Splat Ball for each of her friends.
She agrees to come back later. We find another mall section, I mark off the boundaries (“no further than Ann Taylor in that direction … or the flying mini-copter stand in that direction”).
I start to look around in Macy’s, first in accessories, then head upstairs to look at housewares. My phone pings with a panicked text.
Where r u? The Child wants to know. The lady selling splat balls tried to rip me off!!
She adds, I got out of it quickly, though.
Did you keep your money? I ask.
Yes, every last penny, she says.
Over lunch, she tells me what happened: Apparently, on leaving me, The Child headed straight back to the Splat Ball stand, and tried to figure out if she could buy nine balls – one for each of her friends. By the time she was done with the balls and sales tax, this added up to more money than she expected – but not more than the price that was quoted.
But the woman kept trying to sell me more, The Child says.
Every time The Child announced she had the right amount of balls, she says, the Splat Ball lady would try to add on one more, for me. She kept making me try to buy one more. And I didn’t feel right about it so I told her I wanted my money back and I didn’t want any splat balls.
I have to decide if I want to give her the speech about how sometimes stores will give you little gifts with purchase, since it is clear to me that was what the sales lady was trying to do – give The Child one more ball, so she’d have one for herself.
But since it was clear to me that the stand was selling ridiculously overpriced crap to a young child, I opt instead for a different lesson.
I’m glad you listened to your gut, I tell her. Your gut is almost always right.