Many Happy Returns

by Big Daddy Graham | Jan 20, 2017
Many Happy Returns ...From the pages of South Jersey Magazine...

As the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Why? It’s January, which means it’s time to take stuff back. And I love taking stuff back! I actually consider it an art form, an elaborate game of sorts.

Many of you reading this now have already done the deed. Plenty of you return items on Dec. 26. Now that to me is some- one who can’t stay out of a mall. A shop-a- holic. The same knuckleheads who wait outside Best Buy at midnight on Thanks- giving night. (Pretty soon Macy’s will open at noon on Thanksgiving Day and offer a full Thanksgiving dinner while you shop. Mark my words.)

Here are a few of my favorite “returning stuff” stories.

Back when my boys and I used to rent apartments in Sea Isle City, we were always throwing huge keg parties. None of us had any money, so going out to a bar to meet chicks was out of the question. No one even had the dough for the cover charge. In fact, the only way we even managed to acquire the apartment to begin with was by renting a one-bedroom joint miles from the beach and then 37 of us would go in on it.We would spend the day on the beach enticing girls over with elaborate tales of how luxurious the apartment was.

“The bay views are extraordinary!” It had a view of the back wall of Sea Isle Ice Co.

“Bobby Clarke is coming!” (Now Clarke was known to have property in Ocean City, so this actually wasn’t that far-fetched. And we did have a Bobby Clarke in on our place, he just didn’t play for the Flyers. He was a Navy Yard apprentice.)

“We have the best DJ in town!” Fat Rat’s 8-track collection was second to none.

The problem was the apartment was so small the only place to put a keg was in what laughably was called the kitchen. And to keep it cold it had to be kept on ice which would cause huge puddles of slop. What to do?

I think it was Pimples who came up with this ingenious idea. Both Sears and Home Depot sold these huge industrial strength trashcans. Big enough to put a half a keg in and then pack it with ice. Leakage problem solved!

There was however, one little problem. These trashcans actually cost more than the beer did. And we barely had money for the beer. So here’s what we did. We would all chip in what remaining dollars we had, buy the trashcan, throw the party and then take the trashcan back for a full refund. We had more than a couple Sears and Home Depots in our home area and Route 9 had one apiece. Every week for an entire summer one of us would buy it on Thursday and then take it back on Monday. Rarely would anyone even ask why we were returning it or even inspect the trashcan for damages. As long as you had the receipt you were good as gold. If a clerk even asked why we were returning it, I would just say, “I don’t know other than my Dad saying I bought the wrong one.”

And that would be it. That’s the beautiful aspect of purchasing anything from a big chain. You can’t do this with a Mom and Pop store. So I guess “corporate” sometimes comes in handy.


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My daughter Ava bought a green dress for the holidays two years ago at the Cherry Hill Mall Macy’s. Not only did she never wear it, she completely forgot she even bought it. Two years ago, not two months. The receipt was long lost, but the tags were still hanging on it. And she got the money back on it. Not full price, mind you, because at some point that dress went on sale (probably during the Persian Gulf War), but still. It’s amazing how easy it can be.

But not always.

Years ago when my wife and I were dating, we took one of those buses down to Atlantic City that you would get from some diner or deli. You would pay like $10 and get round-trip bus fare and a roll of quarters to gamble with. The hope was they would get you in the door where you would proceed to gamble away your life savings—which between my wife and I was about $40. My wife and I didn’t gamble. We were barely 21, just starting out, and as usual, broke. But we loved seeing Sam Butera and many other terrific lounge acts that A.C. used to be known for. And they were free. We were at the Rendezvous Lounge one night watching Sam perform and Sinatra showed up. Fun times.

So we used this bus scam to get cheap transportation. However, one night we had one too many, and missed the last bus leaving town. We certainly couldn’t afford to stay at Resorts or any of the other beach- front hotels, so we wandered away from the strip and ended up at this “hotel” called The Kentuckian. The name itself should have warned me.

But I was a young kid who had never spent any time in Atlantic City, so I might as well have been in Bolivia. It was a scene right out of a John Hughes movie. Rooms at the Kentuckian were only $20. We had that much between us. We were in luck!

Well, there was no elevator in this dump and we walked up three flights of stairs and quickly found out why the “rooms” were so cheap. Many of them appeared to have no doors at all and let’s just say it appeared to be a joint where a woman of “the oldest profession in the world” union would thrive in.

We quickly went right back down the steps and I actually had the nerve to go ask for my money back. The front desk clerk who was wearing a name tag on it that said “Mr. Slimeball” yelled to this very intimidating dude sitting in the dark lobby, “Hey Earl, this guy here says he wants his money back.” Earl and Slimeball found this hysterical and Debbie and I could not get out of there quick enough. We ended up sleeping on the beach where I woke up with half of my face as red as a lobster.

So, no, you don’t always get that refund.

Whatever you do, when someone hands you a wrapped present, and they say “If you don’t like it, you can always take it back,” get the receipt!

Big Daddy Graham and Joe Conklin bring their Two Funny Philly Guys show (with special guest Tommy Conwell) to the Broadway Theatre in Pitman on Saturday, Feb. 11. Visit for tickets and more information.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 10 (January, 2017).
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Author: Big Daddy Graham


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