Nothing in life is free. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    Nothing in life is free. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.   

    What you have there are two life lessons that are repeatedly hammered home to us, from childhood all the way to old age.   

    That shampoo you bought that announces on the label that you're getting 4 ounces for free? You're not. The per-ounce price of the 24-ounce bottle is certainly discounted if you're paying a 20-ounce bottle price, but without a doubt you are ponying up some cash for every single ounce of hair cleaner in that bottle.   

    We’re typically slower to grasp the second lesson. We so want to believe in a little fairy tale magic now and then, that we're going to come out ahead - maybe way ahead - while having to sacrifice little or even nothing in order to gain such an advantage.   

    But far more often than not, reality slaps us across the face. It slapped me this Christmas.   

    I went to Macy’s in Columbia Mall in Grand Forks on Dec. 19, in search of my wife’s favorite perfume, Flower Bomb. I had to order it online a couple years ago because the Grand Forks Macy’s didn’t carry it, but I figured I’d see if they had it now. They still didn’t, the polite, blonde sales clerk told me from behind the perfume/cologne counter.    

    With Christmas less than a week a away, I figured I had to go a different route, so I asked her what other perfumes compared to Flower Bomb. She said something about a new fragrance from Julia Roberts, but I knew I didn’t want that, so I thanked her and prepared to go on my merry way.   

    “You can order it and we’ll deliver it by Dec. 23,” the clerk announced.   

    “By Dec. 23? No way,” I said. I then told her I didn’t feel like paying extra for overnight shipping or any other expedited delivery options.   

    I didn’t have to pay extra, she said, adding that the Dec. 23 delivery date was “guaranteed.”   

    “Guaranteed?” I said.   

    “Guaranteed,” the petite Decepticon reiterated.   

    Her confidence must have been intoxicating, or maybe it was all of the competing perfume and cologne vapors floating about in the air that put my mind in an altered, possibly compromised state.   

    “What the hell? Let’s do it,” I said.   

    A couple days later, I received the email notification I had been eagerly anticipating since paying an ungodly amount of money for 3.4 ounces of florally fragrant liquid in a stunningly attractive little glass bottle.   

    At the top of the email was an announcement that was downright encouraging. Some “Macy’s Magic” was coming my way, the email read, because my order of Flower Bomb had been shipped. I scrolled down in search of the hyperlinked tracking number that I could click on to find out where exactly my order was at that particular moment. Fargo or Grand Forks were the most likely locales, I figured.   

    One click later and on my screen appeared the up to the minute status report. My little package of “Macy’s Magic” – more like “Macy’s Hardcore Reality” – had just received its “initial scan” in Nashville, Tennessee. An ominous wave of dread swept over me as I scrolled down a bit further and found the words, “Estimated delivery date: Thursday, Dec. 26.”   

    I wondered to myself if that Macy’s clerk earned a commission from her sale to me. I wondered if that meager commission would be worth the eternal damnation that I was cursing her to at that very moment. I wondered if she routinely made promises she couldn’t keep, to her family, friends, to her co-workers, her boyfriend. I wondered if her innocent little kitty at home day after day waited in vain for the promised catnip-stuffed mouse that would never be tossed in his direction.   

    My wife and I don’t buy each other a great deal at Christmas any longer. It’s about the kids, you know. Oh, and the immaculate conception. We usually decide on something significant to buy that we can both enjoy, and in the coming weeks that may or may not be new living room furniture.   

    But other than the killer earbuds I bought her this Christmas, my wife had nothing to open. So I stealthily grabbed her nearly empty bottle of Flower Bomb and stuffed it in her stocking. When she pulled it out, I told her about “Macy’s Magic” and Nashville.   

    She laughed. Turns out, she’d ordered me a pair of jeans from the American Eagle website on Dec. 2 – DEC. 2! – and they hadn’t arrived yet, either. As I write this sentence on Jan. 2, they still hadn’t arrived at our doorstep. Oh, well. There’s probably too much fancy stitching on the back pockets for my Levi’s taste, anyway.