11 January 2013

I'm French - why do you think I have this Outrageous accent?

Calypso always waits at the door
when she knows it's shop time
in the hope that it's her turn.
I was planning on a Python-athon this week but it’s been too dang hot so we settled for just one movie and the Pythons can wait until next week when it’s cooler.  We watched the latest Bourne movie and I must say I prefer the earlier ones – that actually had Bourne in them – but while this one started slowly it did pick up and I ended up enjoying it. 

But I must have been channelling French insults even without watching Monty Python movies because it’s been a big week for selling all things French in the shop, so our Blog title, courtesy of Monty Python & The Holy Grail, seemed fitting.

Part of the castle walls at Vitre.  I think the
whitewashed part was the toilets. 
Too bad if you were on guard below!
When we visited the castle in Vitre (I think south-west of Paris) I entirely embarrassed Doug by shrieking various Python quotes from the battlements in homage to the movie but, do you know, not a single person passing below looked up. My quotes were in English (but with an outrageous French accent), so maybe people didn’t understand my entirely witty insults. But can Your Mother Was a Hamster & Your Father Smelt of Elderberries be properly translated into French anyway? Does it really mean anything in English? I grant you that I fart in your general direction or I blow my nose at you are good insults in any language, but I tried out a range of quotes and none of them elicited a response. Doug’s theory was that I wasn’t the first person to do this, and the locals were immune to idiot tourists. He’s probably right, but how rude to say so.

Calypso wants my chair but sees me coming. 
Time to launch into the Cute Cat routine to
distract me from evicting her.
In the shop almost everything we’ve sold this week has been French.  Why didn’t I think of selling the vintage French images and advertisements unframed before now?  Cause I’m not very good at this, that’s why.  Retail doesn’t come naturally to me.  But selling the images unframed has been a hugely successful move, one of my better shop decisions in a long time.
Being a Cute Cat involves a great deal of
wriggling about on the chair, waving your paws
at me and inviting me to rub your belly.
And what a good thing we bought so much French enamelware on our buying trip.  I was starting to hesitate towards the end of the trip because I had bought so much, but I continued buying on the basis that I don’t see all these excellent colours and shapes on every trip so I should make the most of it while I could.  That turned out to be a good decision, because it’s been walking out the door and now I’m wondering how long our supplies will last.  Despite our resolve that we would try to limit our buying trips to one in 2013, we have both already started to consider a quickie trip in March/April, because the stock is selling so quickly.  Mind you, there are heaps of things still in the garage from previous trips, so we’ll see what we can dig out first.
French enamelled lunch boxs.  I only got these
two on our last buying trip, despite my best
efforts to find more.
I met a lovely old French man this week who told me that he recognized the enamelled lunch boxes from his youth.  I remarked that he didn’t get much lunch in those days, but he said that in fact the boxes were brought to him by his mother and then his wife three times a day.  So he actually had three meal breaks, plus a baguette, plus often got a good way through a bottle of wine by himself.  So French lunches in the old days weren’t quite as Spartan as I had been imagining.
If you really wriggle about and chirp and
squawk at me while being a Cute Cat, it's a
good bet I will relent and let you have the
chair and rub your belly.
Despite this week’s hideously hot weather there have been good sales for us.  I thought on Market Day we’d barely see a soul because everyone would be at the beach, but a surprising number of people braved the Markets and spilled over to our shop.  And of all that number of course there had to be a few Strange Ones.  Wouldn’t be our shop without Strange Ones visiting, would it? 

This week’s culprits are both women, one just unobservant and the other downright outrageous (but without the French accent) who I ended up throwing out of the shop.

But look up occasionally to make sure that
the Cute Cat routine really is working.
The first woman was actually a nice lady, but she stood looking at my main shelves for some time before approaching me and telling me that I used to have lots of lovely French glass.  She had bought a nice glass jug from me last time she visited and was hoping to find a glass bowl this time, so it was unfortunate I didn’t have any.  Sitting at my desk I could see 11 glass bowls just in my line-of-sight, most of them French, so I wondered if I was misinterpreting her idea of what “glass bowl” meant. 

I have lots of glass bowls here, I told her, so what exactly did you have in mind?  She looked back at the shelves, apparently saw nothing, and turned back to me.  What bowls? she asked.  Let me give you a tour, I told her.  After pointing out the first five bowls she realised that in fact they were everywhere, so I left her browsing - and this time actually looking - and sure enough she found a lovely French glass bowl to carry off home.  But that was just someone being a bit absent-minded.  Okay a whole lot absent-minded, but we had a laugh together and in the end she found something she liked. 
And when all else fails, feign utter exhaustion
and hope I will take pity on you and let you
keep the chair.  It won't work, but no harm trying.
The other woman I became very cranky with and for the second time ever I threw someone out of my shop and told her never to darken my door again.  How outrageous is this:  she bought a vintage brooch a few months ago, which left our shop in fine condition.  I don’t buy anything with damage because modern jewellers often have difficulty repairing the old pieces.  So anyway, a few months after purchase she brought it back to me having entirely ripped the clasp from the back, which in turn removed a good hunk of the filigreed body of the brooch along with the clasp. 

New on the website - French
Perfume Advertisement
She informed me that it was my responsibility that it had broken while in her care, and she wanted a refund.  I asked how it was possibly my fault that she had broken it.  I didn’t break it, she said, it was like this when I bought it.  I was incredulous.  You’re telling me that this brooch, which has been literally ripped apart from rough handling, was how it was when you selected and bought it?  What utter nonsense!  But apparently shop owners aren’t supposed to question customers and point out the bleedin’ obvious to liars who aren’t very good liars, so she became lost for words and just stood there looking at me. 
New on the website.  English jardiniere
featuring apple blossoms.
But guess what?  I do a fine line in eyebrow-raised-quizzical-looks, having had a great deal of practice when I had to bunge it on and be all Vice-Consul-ish when I was in the Australian Consulate in the UK in a previous life.  And before that I worked for two front bench Federal Government Ministers and in that role dealt with all manner of outrageous behaviour and demands.  So hey, lady, if you’re reading this (and she did take my card) I have years of experience seeing off fraudsters a whole lot better at it than you.

New on the website - French
cosmetics advertisement
So after a pause, where she clearly couldn’t think of what to say next and I waited for her brain to tick over, she came up with But this brooch wasn’t in new condition when I bought it.  I laughed outright – You’re in an antiques shop!  Nothing here is new!  You bought something over 70 years old, and you didn’t think you should be careful when handling it?  Well no, was the answer.  She told me that someone had told her that I should have offered a warranty with the brooch.  What, a warranty against you breaking it?  I asked.  Well yes, was the answer.

So I tried a few analogies on her:

If you bought a car for your son and he drove down the road recklessly and hit a tree and badly damaged the car, would you take it back to the car yard and tell them the damage was their responsibility and they should refund your money?  No, apparently it would not be the fault of the car yard that she had imparted idiot genes to her son.

If you bought a glass bowl (bowls being on my brain at that very moment) and you took it home but your dog knocked it off the bench and broke it, would you think it the responsibility of K-Mart?  Yes, I deliberately and snarkily mentioned K-Mart, having surmised that this was her usual retail outlet.  Anyway, no, apparently it would not be K-Mart’s fault for her having a boisterous mutt what breaks things.
So leading her gently here, if you bought a vintage brooch and handled it so roughly that it broke, and not any old broke – you actually tore a piece of the body of the brooch away with the clasp – would that be your own fault for being careless and rough, or the fault of the shop you bought it from.  Have you guessed?  It is, apparently, entirely the shop’s fault that she is a dolt who handles metal items roughly enough to rip them apart. 

So much for analogies.
New on the website.  English Green Dragon
ceramic bowl by Hancock.
Anyway, long story short I suppose I should have been more gentle with her because she was standing in front of my desk shaking like a leaf, with her voice was all thin and quavery.  But it was as well that she should stand there being all nervous and ashamed of herself.  It didn’t stop her trying her luck to get money from me.  I told her I found her behaviour to be outrageous, and that she had to leave now and never return because I would rather go without customers before I put up with customers like her.  I again made a reference to K-Mart and suggested that might be more her speed in future.  And hey, no offence K-Mart but some people just need to buy plastic stuff and I was sending you a customer.

As a parting shot she mentioned that she would sue me.  I told her that I suspected I was somewhat more experienced in contributing to Briefs of Evidence than her (former life stuff), so bring it.  I neglected to mention that my experience was in the Federal Court and not the Small Claims Court, but evidence is evidence and lies are lies in either jurisdiction, I’m thinking. 
Death's Head Mickey t-shirt. 
Apparently I look very mean in it.
Fear me all Fraudsters!
But by then I was entirely over her and told her she had to leave now.  I rose partly out of my chair as I spoke – actually to dislodge Calypso who had been insisting on sitting on my lap and my lap was getting seriously hot.  But I seem to have cut a mean figure (I did have my Death’s Head Mickey t-shirt on, afterall) and she gave a squawk and fled the shop. Hopefully never to return.

I guess we’re lucky in that for almost five years in our shop we’ve experienced little truly outrageous behaviour from our customers.  When I was a student I worked for a short while in a book shop, and people were forever demanding refunds – really quite loudly and forcibly – for reasons normal people would have difficulty believing.  For example:

-  I didn’t like the ending.  Take it up with author we used to say.

-  I don’t think it was well written.  Again, this was one for the author.

-  I didn’t understand it.  After we got over the fact that these people displayed no embarrassment whatsoever in admitting they were too stupid to understand the book they bought, didn’t they think that a book using magic realism as its literary device might be a bit brain twisty?  Or that a text on quantum physics might be a step up from Dick & Dora Play with Spot? 

-  And our all-time favourite, used only once but we loved it:  I dropped the book in the toilet and now it’s all yucky so I want a refund. 
Vintage French cotton lace trim.  Probably won't
make it onto the website because I don't have a
Textiles Page yet (coming soon, though) but 
in the shop now.
Believe it or not, dipping a book in your own urine (or indeed anyone else’s) is not grounds for a refund.  Neither is being too stupid to understand it, neither is I didn’t like it. 

We actually had a woman strongly suggest that we tell people the ending of the book they were buying so they would know if it sounded suitable before they spent their money.  What???  Can you imagine the reaction of most people if you told them The Butler did it as you were handing them their book? 

Also not on the website but in the shop -
extremely wide French cotton lace trim.
I guess it’s just a fact of life in retail that some people will try it on with you and see if they get anywhere.  Regulars to our shop will attest to how remarkably patient I am with sometimes very rude people, adopting the water-off-a-duck’s-back approach.  I have to care about what you think before it will affect me.  But even I have my limits.  If you’re going to lie to me, people, don’t make them pathetic lies that don’t stand up to the most basic logic in return.  And yes, if you insist on getting in my face and presenting such stories it will be Game On, and you’d better be good because I do enjoy a good verbal joust.  Or here’s an idea, why not present your outrageous stories with an outrageous French accent?  You still won’t fraudulently extract money from me, but it would be a little more amusing for all of us, don’t you think?


  1. Hooray
    This cracked me up

    Btw You'll be glad to know you were right and I did indeed have a touch of sunstroke

    Back to your customer I think you should have used the urine dipped book analogy with that woman

    41c at 1am down here blah rather be up there ciao julie

  2. Hideously hot here too, Julie. And yes I laughed at the situation after our Fraudster left, and then remembered the outrageous try-ons people tried in the bookshop so I just had to blog about it.