It is an old Christmas tradition in my family to give one's relatives gifts from Harry and David, a mail-order food company. In accordance with this tradition, in December of 1992, my parents placed an order to send my father's brother James's family a box of about 20 of Harry and David's gourmet high-quality Royal Riviera pears. A week later, we received a bill for $3,129.47.
Despite Harry and David's claims that their Royal Riviera pears were unlike any others in the world, this price seemed rather steep for a box of pears. My mother called the Harry and David headquarters on the telephone to ask why our box of pears had cost more than three thousand dollars. After checking her records, the company representative responded that Harry and David was currently shipping to my Uncle James's Atlanta home 113 boxes of their gourmet high-quality pears.
The company representative believed my mother that she had not in fact intended to have 2,000 pears sent to a suburban family of four. The pears were already being delivered, however, and if they were returned to the company they would go bad before they could be sent to someone else. "I'm sorry", she told my mother, "I'll credit your account for the 112 boxes of pears you didn't order, but I'm afraid your brother-in law will be receiving 2,000 Royal Riviera pears this Christmas".
About a week later, a U.P.S. truck made two trips to Uncle James's front porch with the 113 boxes of Royal Riviera pears.
After they recovered from the initial shock of having over 700 pounds of fresh fruit, James's family decided they might as well make the best of the situation. Everywhere that any of them drove, they brought a few boxes of pears with them. At school, their kids gave a pear to everyone in their class. At the doctor's office, they gave a pear to everyone in the waiting room. They even made a few trips to shelters for homeless people and battered women to treat everyone there to a few of their gourmet high-quality pears.
A few weeks later, my parents received a box of chocolate truffles from Harry and David. At first it seemed that Uncle James might be sending them as a return favor for his 2,000 pears, but there was no note from them anywhere on the box. Mystified, we opened the box and finally found a form letter from Harry and David: "Thank you for your business. We would like to give you this box of chocolate truffles in return for your generous order."
We continue to follow our family tradition, sending our relatives gifts from Harry and David every Christmas. It has become something of a joke that my parents and Uncle James's family frequently send one another a box of pears—so far, Harry and David has not repeated their mistake of sending either of us more boxes of pears than we ordered. When my mother calls Harry and David to place our orders, she always asks the person who takes it whether or not they have heard the story about the 2,000 pears of the Christmas of 1992. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes, no, but once my mother received an unusual answer: "I think I've heard it mentioned. But have you heard the story about the smoked turkeys?"