June 22nd, 2018

The not so short shirt story. (Part 1)

Posted on April 19, 2007

I had a few shirts to return. One of them, I had bought from this well-known store that is on a “75% sale” all year round. The store thrives on volume-business deriving its margins from economies of scale, and has outlets dotting the entire map of the UAE. One could connect these dots in one’s freetime and get an intricate pattern that would qualify for some abstract, futuristic master-peice drawn from joining seemingly random dots. I had bought the shirt a day earlier, and needed to return it, but since there is a no-return policy pretty much everywhere in the UAE, my second best option was to exchange the shirt for something else that cost no less than AED 130.

So, accompanied by another milder mannered fellow blogger, I sauntered into the store – lets call it ‘pick and carry’ or PnC for convenience sake, and engaged one of the twenty odd salespeople in what I had intended to be a lively conversation. I began by appraising him of the predicament we were in, he and I: I had a shirt I had bought the day before, but did not see it finding a long-term abode in the intended wardrobe, and he needed to find me an article of clothing that the wardrobe and I would be more accomodating towards. To say that he did not seem entirely pleased with the said predicament would amount to grossly understating the unfriendliness of the gentleman’s demeanour, and also to an unfair undermining of the effort that he seemed to be putting in not concealing his utter disapproval of my lack of prior good judgement.

The knicq smile is not known to vanish in a haste, and nor did it do so on this particular occasion. That a smile was most unwelcome under the circumstances was a fact not entirely lost on me, but I was in good company – and one alludes here to the presence of a certain blogger on the scene, a blogger who whatever else it is he does to make a living does not work as an unsmiling salesperson at a well-known store that is on a “75% sale” all year round – and I refused to part with the smile however unwelcome it was in that store. We must all do our duty in thwarting the evil designs of these ridculously large stores, and resist the unsmiling cultures they are trying to force upon us through their over-worked and under-paid minions otherwise known as floor sales-reps. But, to call a spade a spade, the knicq smile was having a most difficult time resisting the charge of the frown lines as the conversation progressed.

One is not confident of one’s ability to maintain the integrity of a dialogue when reproducing it from sheer memory, and will hence refrain from quoting the dialogue, but one does recall that the conversation started with a clear stating of the afore-mentioned predicament. To this the salesperson, after inspecting in great detail the contents of the PnC bag which I had brought with me, responded with a query pertaining to the whereabouts of the original packing, which was sadly missing from the bag – the bag in which the subject of the whole exchange, verbal as well as non-verbal, lay awaiting its fate. Aware of the NLP pitfalls of introducing red words early in such a discussion, one steered away from plainly admitting that such packing had by now been recycled into more meaningful commodities by the city municipal corporation, and diverted the salesperson’s attention instead to the presence of the original purchase receipt, often billed by the competent legal authorities who look into such matters as the critical, crucial and generally the most important document in these buyer/seller disputes.

If one had hoped, however, that the salesperson were a rookie and gullible enough to fall for such diversion tactics, one was sadly mistaken. The salesperson had not only the temper of a matador bull, but the focus of a charging bull too. Perhaps some prudent readers might disagree here, and attribute the apparent focus of the bull to its inability to make sudden and unplanned diversions in its chosen course of charge, and to such readers I must admit that I am most taken and impressed with their ability to decipher the hidden truth in cliched similis and metaphors. So, the salesperson brushed aside my feeble attempts at diverging his focus, and I had little option but to come clean and admit that the packing material had been properly done away with and disposed of in the best and most environmental-friendly manner possible i.e. it had been consigned to the trashcan, from where it was sure to be picked up by the municipal authorities, who it must be said are the best and most resourceful people when it comes to disposing the original packing of shirts that cannot find space in one’s wardrobe and must be returned – albiet without the said packing.

Once again, if one had intended to strike an amicable note with the salesperson by exhibiting one’s concern for the environment and highlighting one’s recent contribution to conserving the earth’s environment, one had another thing coming. The salesperson upon being told of the possible whereabouts of the original packing of the shirt, and hence the absence of even the remotest chance of same being brought to the store at a future date – distant or not, went into a brooding mood. He completed with remarkable alacrity the formalities of scratching his head, shaking it sideways to express once again his disapproval of what he clearly seemed to find lacking in my prior good judgement faculties, and uttering the appropriate ‘hmms’ and ‘ahems’; and then proceeded to narrate our predicament to his superior.

He returned finally bearing the cheery news that the shirt could indeed be accepted back, provided I had the original receipt, which is where one began to develop a deep awe and respect for the competent legal authoriies who handle these matters. I fished the receipt out and handed it to him, and after throwing a cursory glance at it, he returned it to me, and invited me to choose another shirt.

This is where the matters really began becoming interesting, because up untl that moment I had purposefully refrained from disclosing to him that I had had an overnight change of heart about what article of my attire I was in more dire need of. If I had to return that shirt, which I had originally purchased as a gift for someone else, I did not think I was going to get myself a shirt, because… well… I have enough shirts as it is.

I prepared to drop this bombshell on the poor unsuspecting salesperson. It broke my heart to look into his eyes, and find them scanning the racks stacked with shirts, while I had my unbroken heart set upon buying a pair of trousers.

I took a deep breath…


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