February 11, 2009

Real life shopping conversations

La Ceiba, Honduras
To expand on the previous article about frustrating shopping experiences, I thought I would provide some real life shopping conversations that seem to have been burned into my brain.

Here is an experience in a sewing supply store which illustrates the "20 questions" style of finding what you need. I need a zipper for a cushion cover, so I ask "Do you have a 36" black zipper?"

No. (The no is spoken with a definite period at the end. As if, "end of conversation − period!" and the clerk is looking around for the next customer.)

Do you have a 36" zipper in any color?

Do you have a 32" black zipper?
No. (Again with the period.)

Do you have a 28"?
No. (And starting to act impatient.)

Do you have a 24"? (thinking that was as small as I could possibly go and still be able to shove the cushion inside the cover.)

Me, heartbroken, but thinking maybe I could sew in two zippers, to open at the middle. "Well, what is the longest black zipper that you have?"


"........Uh, okay, I'll take it."

La Ceiba, Honduras
The "no hay" (there aren't any) style of customer service

Can you help me find crema dulce (sweet cream)?
No. We don't sell it.
Oh, wait. There it is, 60 cartons of it, right behind you.


Do you have white bathroom caulk?
Oh, look! I see it now, just right there to your left.

Do you sell xxxxxx?
Oh, how wonderful. Here is the exact one I need on the counter.


Do you have these blue flip-flops in size 7?
No, but look at these pink high heels in size 5.


At the non-drug "drug store" Fedco:
When are you going to get some more Tums?
What are Tums?
Explanation that they are antacid pills.
No, we don't sell any medicines here.
But I've bought them here before.
No, you are wrong.
But I know that I've bought them here. Are you not going to sell them anymore?
No. We've never sold sell medicine.
Manager, who overheard the conversation: We should get more Tums next week.

La Ceiba, Honduras
Please, please take my money

I'm finished shopping, here are all my purchases. I'm ready to pay.
"You can't. You have to wait until the cashier comes back.... Uhhh, maybe an hour."

I'm finished shopping, here are all my purchases. I'm ready to pay.
"You can't. The system is down."

I'm finished shopping, here are all my purchases. I'm ready to pay.
"You can't pay until the manager comes back. ....Uhhh, I don't know. You could come back tomorrow."


Thank you for your purchase, but guess what?

Oh, you know those items that you just ordered and paid thousands for? Well, fíjese que*, it turns out that we don't have them after all. You'll have to buy something else because we don't give refunds.


(Funny story: The first time I went shopping for zippers, I couldn't remember the word in Spanish. I found one on the counter, picked it up and carried it to the clerk. I said in Spanish, "Excuse me. I can't remember. What is this called in Spanish?" He leaned over the counter, and very slowly and carefully enunciated, "Zeee-per." )

* Fíjese que is an expression that means something like "note that ....", or "pay attention that ...." In English, we might say, "Look, ...." or "The truth is that ....". Some people start virtually every sentence with it for some unknown reason, kind of like the English speakers who pepper everything they say with "you know."

I've noticed it is especially used when the thing the person is about to tell you is the exact opposite of what he or she told you earlier. The best translation by a gringa that I ever read was "Look, everything that comes out of my mouth after the words 'fíjese que' is a lie but I really, really want you to believe it." I pay extra attention whenever the words 'fijise que' are thrown into a conversation. ;-)
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