By Melinda Munson

(Editor’s note: Melinda is sick this week, so this is an oldie but goodie, written before the BIG MOVE to Skagway. Nowadays, she would buy Xtra Tuffs at Duffs, where the products persevere and customer service is guaranteed.)


I walked up to the customer service counter at my favorite big box store and plunked my return on the counter. The associate eyed the mud-covered rain boots, mended in true Alaska style with duct tape. 

“I’ll need to call my manager,” she hedged.

The manager, clad in red, literally came running over. He was young, hip and looked well rested. (If he had a baby, it wasn’t keeping him up at night.)

I explained that I had bought the boots at the beginning of the summer. My 8-year-old had worn them just a few times on the river before they broke. Since he’s not a commercial fisherman, I figured it was reasonable to get a refund.

The manager disagreed.

“If you had brought them in after the first couple of weeks, I could help you,” he said.

My eyes narrowed and my super-patient, super-slow mom voice emerged. 

“So, you only stand behind your products for a few weeks?” I asked. “Should I expect everything I buy here to last only a few weeks?”

I politely informed Mr. Hip that one pair of rain boots for each of our seven kids totals $200 yearly. Multiply that by the number of years until each child turns 18, and my family was a rubber gold mine.

He was not impressed.

I got huffy and said something passive aggressive, which I would quickly regret.

“That’s fine. We’ll never buy boots here again. I don’t trust your products.” I asked him to throw the offending boots away and headed for the baby aisle.

As we passed the boy’s boots, I noticed there were only a few left. One pair was my son’s size, a pattern I knew he would like. I cursed myself for throwing away the damaged footwear. They would have lasted until the first snowfall when we could pull out the winter paraphernalia.

That’s when Satan appeared. 

“Xtra Tuffs are expensive and he’ll grow out of them fast,” The Father of All Lies murmured in my ear.

In a weak moment, I reached for the forbidden boots. Trying to hide my lack of moral character, I hid the shoes at the bottom of the cart underneath underwear and tampons.

At the checkout, I put the wellies on the conveyor belt at the last possible second while I furtively looked around for Mr. Hip.

The checker rang up the boots and left them next to my bagged items, the bright blue and green shark pattern a testament to my lack of moral fiber.

I felt dirty and cheap.

“Pstt,” I whispered to the clerk. “Can you bag the boots, please?”

She looked at me funny and put the tainted purchase in a big bag, along with my pride. I hurried home.

Later, at the Munson Manor, Sam pulled on the boots with a big grin.

“I love them!” he said as he plodded around the house planning his next fishing trip with Dad.

Sometimes, selling your soul is worth it.