I Hope You Kept The Receipt

By: Tim-Knox

I was still standing in the mall entranceway when I discovered that I had no idea what to do next. That's when I realized that it doesn't matter how early in the season you shop if you have no idea what you're shopping for. In other words: tis better to shop on December 24th with a gift in mind than to go two weeks early and walk around like a last minute man without a clue.

Shopping shouldn't be this much of a chore, I told myself, especially since I only had one person to shop for and that was my wife. Fortunately for me (and the people on our gift list), my wife does all the Christmas shopping at our house because I've been known to choose gifts that have words like "processed beef product" on the label. Frankly, I see nothing wrong with giving someone a nice beefstick for Christmas. They can hammer nails with it, play baseball, kill bugs, prop open a door. Why, my uncle Buddy even eats the stuff! He says it's the gift that keeps on giving, whatever that means.

I stopped in front of the large directory that listed every store in the mall. I'm a fairly intelligent man, I thought as my eyes went up and down the listing of shops. Surely I can think of the perfect gift for the most important woman in my life. How hard can it be? Look at all these stores... clothes... sporting goods.... shoes... toys... jewelry... Buffalo Bob's Outdoor Emporium. Hmm, wonder if she needs a new tackle box?

Why do men have such a difficult time shopping for women? I think it's because we know that no matter what we buy, no matter how much thought we put into it, no matter how cool we think it is, and no matter how much she pretends to like it at first, nine times out of ten it's going back to the store.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard, "This is really nice, honey. You did keep the receipt, didn't you?"

The cavemen had it right. Back then a man would just kill the first thing that came along (that didn't kill him), then drag it home and present it to his woman. And the woman was glad to get it, by golly, even if she did have to skin and clean it herself! There was no return policy in one billion, BC, my friends. Who said these people were primitive? I think they were brilliant!

Men are easy to buy for. Just get us the two things we never buy for ourselves: socks and underwear. Even though they are the basic building blocks of every man's wardrobe, we men never buy socks and underwear because we believe the socks and underwear we currently have will never wear out. We'll wear a pair of drawers until there's nothing left but an elastic waistband and one leg hole. And we'll wear a pair of socks until all that remains is the ring that fits around our ankles. Ask any man and he'll tell you, if it wasn't for Christmas and birthdays, most of us guys would be running around au natural.

I get socks and underwear every Christmas, always from my eighty year old aunt who long ago staked the claim to purchasing such items for the men in the family. "Don't anybody get the boys socks and underwear for Christmas," she says every year around Thanksgiving. "That's my department."

This "dibs on drawers" arrangement worked fine until last Christmas, when, instead of getting my usual white Fruit-of-the-Looms, I opened the box to find a plastic, foot-long tube stuffed with multicolored pieces of cloth so small that wearing them would probably send the average male into fits of testicular shock. I smiled and thanked her graciously, even made a comment about how good I looked in tiger print stripes. To myself, however, I was thinking that there were two words that should never occupy the same label: "men's" and "bikini."

As fate would have it, I found myself standing outside of Victoria's Secret, the ultimate women's underwear store (that's what a sign in the window said). Underwear, now there's a thought. Everybody needs underwear. Even my wife! Maybe things were going to turn out okay after all!

I took a minute to muster my courage before going in. I lack the confidence to just walk right into such a store as Victoria's Secret. I was going to have to build up to this, take a few practice steps, a few deep breaths. This wasn't like chasing the kids through the women's underwear department at Wal-Mart. This was the big time. Finally, with my hands in my pockets and a determined look on my face, I stepped across the threshold and entered Sexy Underwear Land.

I had barely made it past the display of miracle bras before realizing that I was making a terrible mistake. Surrounded by black teddies and skimpy nightgowns and these lace-up boostie things with a French name I won't even attempt to spell, I knew I wasn't going to give my wife any of this stuff for Christmas! I just didn't have the guts.

"This is real funny, last minute man," she'd say with a scowl. "Now, where's my real gift?"

What was I doing? I suddenly knew that I had to get out of there! Get to Wal-Mart! Surely there was some great new appliance there that she'd like. A Dust Buster would be good, maybe a four slot toaster, a nice bunion remover..."

I headed for the door, but before I could make good my escape, a perky, young woman whose nametag identified her as "Bambi" stepped into the aisle and stopped me with a smile. I was probably old enough to be Bambi's dad, but that didn't stop her from wanting to discuss women's underwear with me.

"Shopping for your wife?" Bambi asked with a gleam in her eye. She held up one of those boostie French things and waved it in front of my face. "Maybe she'd like one of these."

"I don't think so," I muttered nervously. For some reason I couldn't look Bambi in the eyes. Instead, I stared at the floor like a kid caught looking at dirty magazines and dug my toe in the carpet. "I was thinking about getting her a tackle box, actually."

"We have more traditional items over there," Bambi said. "Maybe she'd like a nice robe and a nightgown." She smiled knowingly, then moved in a little closer and lowered her voice. "And you know, we have a very liberal return policy."

I left Victoria's Secret with my arms full of boxes and one heck of a dent in my credit card, but it was worth it because my Christmas shopping was done and I had Bambi's personal guarantee that my wife was going to love everything I bought. No, I did not buy frilly underwear or a bra guaranteed to perform miracles. I was more practical than that, though I did get her one of those boostie French things I was talking about. You know, as a joke.

I made one more stop on my way out of the mall. I went into this store without hesitation, without embarrassment. I marched right up to the counter like I owned the place and ordered the biggest beefstick they had.

Just in case Bambi was wrong.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

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From "Small Business Q&A" With Tim Knox Tim Knox is a nationally-known entrepreneur, author, speaker, and radio show host. Tim has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs realize their business dreams. To learn more please visit www.timknox.com

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