Grieving Family, Victimized Shop Owner
"I spent (Saturday) answering phones -- people insulting me and calling me all sorts of names. We're a small business. We sell specialized shoes. We're not here to cause harm."
Caroline Delage, co-owner Regional Shoe Repair
Ms. Delage and her business partner have learned first-hand and painfully, all about the power of a public ombudsman misdirecting sympathy. Ms. Delage and her partner have learned first-hand and painfully all about what it is like to become the despised object of public opprobrium and rejection. Ms. Delage and her partner have imbibed the bitter draught of humbling themselves before the force of the marketplace.
This represents a sad and somewhat sordid tale of engaging the ire of people who feel they have been unsympathetically dealt with at a time when they imagine their personal tragedy must be recognized by strangers in a manner that transcends empathy and sympathy for those suffering a dreadful loss. The Vachon family found themselves out of pocket by $271, representing the amount Claude Vachon's wife paid for boots for their son Nicholas Vachon, as a loving Christmas gift.
Dread misfortune stepped in and took the life of Nicholas Vachon, 31, through an accident. He was walking along a road after attending a Christmas party, when a vehicle hit him and killed him. This was a well-liked young man who was an integral part of his community of Clarence-Rockland. He was a volunteer firefighter and well known in the community with a wide circle of friends. He died on December 15, the very day his mother bought those boots for him.
On Saturday, several weeks later, his father Claude Vachon took those boots meant for his son, to return them to the small shoe repair shop which also sells quality boots. This, despite the fact that the shop has an absolute no-return policy, clearly printed on all receipts and on signage in the shop. It was politely explained to Mr. Vachon that he had several options; he could choose an exchange pair of boots to fit himself, or he could accept a credit in the sum paid to be used in-store.
It is not only small, independent, break-even-with-a-little-profit shops that practise this kind of policy, some very large retailers do the same and are inflexible over altering their policies for any reason. Because of the story published in the paper, the shop was flooded with calls from angry newspaper readers to berate the shop owners for their lack of humanity, and no doubt threats that their business would be boycotted ensued.
The shop owners, explaining to Mr. Vachon the necessity for them to enforce the no-return policy to enable them to remain profitable for the simple purpose of remaining in business, had no idea that he would rage over this turn of events, and turn to contacting the newspaper to exact righteous, entitled revenge. Obviously the gambit worked to Mr. Vachon's clear advantage.
A humbled Ms. Delage called the Vachon home. "She was in tears. She said, 'I'm so sorry about this", said Mr. Vachon for a later news story on the unfolding event. And within a half-hour after the telephone call, there was Ms. Delage, on the Vachon family's doorstep in Clarence-Rockland, certified cheque for $300 in hand.
"I wished her luck", the now-mollified Claude Vachon recounted to the reporter.
"Before leaving we offered forgiveness and gave her a hug."