'Cranky' lady tangled with 'Mr. Nasty’

  • Article by: NICK COLEMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2008 - 11:02 AM

Christina Brown

Photo: TOM SWEENEY, Star Tribune

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Christina Brown said she wanted her $30 back. The cops said she must be crazy.

That's how a 79-year-old New Hope woman ended up having her head examined when she asked the SuperTarget in Plymouth to refund the $30 she had paid for shirts that did not fit. When store workers offered her a gift certificate in return for the shirts, but would not give her cash, Christina Brown stood for her rights.

And standing, for her, isn't easy.

Born in Dublin, raised in England and a Minnesotan for more than 40 years, Brown is a feisty, funny woman who doesn't let herself be pushed around, except in a wheel chair. She will be 80 on Saturday, has her left leg in a brace and wears a patch over her left eye (she lost her sight in the eye in a car accident last year). Normally, she uses a wheel chair. But on July 31, she left her chair in her daughter Linda's car and hobbled in to the Plymouth Target's service counter, where she hoped to return the shirts she bought on July 28 while Linda waited by the curb.

Then the "ludicrous spectacle," as Christina calls it, began.

She blames "Mr. Nasty."

That's the name she gave to the Target manager who, she says, barked at her to "take a gift certificate and get out." Christina, who had her sales receipt with her, did not want a gift certificate. She wanted her money back. As she leaned against the service counter, her leg aching, a crowd gathered.

She became upset with the store where she liked to shop ("The rest of the staff has been like angels to me," she says).

Target spokesman Dave Fransen says Target's return policy doesn't allow cash refunds for items purchased by personal check until seven days go by, allowing checks to clear the bank. But Target is introducing new technology that allows electronic transfer of check funds, which appears to be what happened to Christina: Her money was withdrawn from her bank account the day after her purchase.

Target had the proceeds from her check, Christina had her receipt and bank records showing her money had been withdrawn. She wanted her $30 back.

"If they thought I was a cranky old biddy, they should just have given me my money and let me go," she says, showing me the shirts she still wants to return. "I paid in good faith, and I wanted my money back. That's all. It's the principle."

Christina was stubborn but says she was not unruly. She let fly one mild oath, but if she had wanted to curse like an Irish-English-American, she says, she could have blistered the walls in the paint department. She's not like that, though.

After her auto accident, she received therapy for her injuries and for traumatic stress, too. When she mentioned these things at Target, she was interpreted to be saying she could blow at any moment. What she was trying to say, she explains, is that she knows how to handle herself in a stressful situation.

"I've learned you should focus your anger on the person who's causing it, and not to lash out," she says. "I was very calm. Mr. Nasty was baiting me, but I kept thinking: 'You can lower your mentality to their level, or be the lady you think you are.'"

Christina said she would stay in the store until she got her money -- all day, if she had to. At that point, she says, the store manager told her she was trespassing.

"I'm not trespassing; I'm a customer," she said. "Give me my money and I'll go."

When the manager said he was going to call the cops, Christina beat him to the punch: Taking a cellphone from her purse, she dialed 9-1-1 and called police, asking them to come and help her. Officers responded and later filled out a report, but no charges were filed.

The police report also says she asked to be arrested, but she denies that, saying, "I'd have to be crazy to ask for that."

"They can put you in jail for this," she says a cop told her. "Well, I've got nothing else to do today," she replied. "Besides, I may meet a better class of people in jail."

The store wouldn't budge. Christina wouldn't bend. A stretcher was brought in.

Christina was strapped to it, and taken by ambulance to North Memorial Medical Center. Her physical and mental health was supposed to be evaluated.

Attention shoppers: You won't take a gift certificate? You must be nuts.

"They thought I was loony or something," Christina says, her voice still incredulous. "That's the real crazy thing. I just wanted my money."

In the emergency room, they looked her over and sent her home that day. She seemed to be an elderly lady who was upset. From Christina's account, she also seemed to have a good reason.

Target's Fransen says store employees were concerned for her health.

"It's not anything she did," he said. "Team members were concerned about her well-being and her safety, and wanted to make sure she wasn't endangering herself."

Perhaps, so. But this could be one case where three $10 bills would have done a lot more -- and done it more cheaply -- than an ambulance ride to a hospital.

Christina Brown wants an apology, she wants her money (including getting her medical bills from the unexpected hospital trip paid), and she wants this: "I want the staff trained in how to treat customers."

Christina won't get to help train them. Target signed a trespassing order against her, meaning she will be arrested if she returns to the Plymouth SuperTarget.

That, friends, won't be a problem.

"I wouldn't go back to that store if everything in it was free," she says. "If they're waiting to see me again, they're waiting for a cold day in hell."

ncoleman@startribune.com 612-673-4400

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