First of all, stores should not return food items, if they do they must destroy it due to contamination. Yes, before you start gawking, I read you said it was sealed, however it is amazing what people will do with a syringe. I am curious why you would return a food product unopened. I have never returned a food item to a grocery store. Are you a compulsive shopper? However, I do realize I may be the exception in that I try to make wise decisions when purchasing so as not to have to return merchandise.
Second, there is no store or company who would tell you to ship food back to them at a corporate office and they would mail you a refund. If customer service truly believed you were in the right they would have called the store manager and if necessary, the district manager and instructed them to return the merchandise.
Last, there would be no reason to refuse the return of your reef slippers after only a few days (within 30 days), even if they are seasonal seasons do not change that quick, but they are not necessarily seasonal merchandise. The only seasonal merchandise retailers refuse to return within 30 days is holiday merchandise once the holiday has passed, but that still does not stop customers from trying to return it, after they have used it no doubt. The only reason I could fathom they would refuse your return is because the ticket was not attached, meaning the merchandise could have been used or come from another retailer. I'm curious who's spouse would even buy them a mere pair of flip flops for a gift, sounds cheesy. I think there is more to the story than you are telling, if so, you should get your facts straight before you start bad-mouthing a company on a public website. If you do have your facts straight then I would be talking to the district manager and taking care of this problem rather than complaing about it for sympathy on a website. If this store truly treats you this way it is a problem within that particular store, not the company as a whole.
In closing, a true TJ Maxx customer knows the policy and procedure, respects the store's policies, understands why they exist, and does his/her best to comply with those policies. On the rare chance he/she has a special exception he/she goes to the store manager in a professional/understanding manner and asks for that exception, if that does not work he/she goes to the next level, district manager, at this point he/she should feel the company has done what it can to resolve the issue and if he/she still feels this was unfair, then by all means file a complaint with consumer affairs.