Friday, April 13, 2007

Shopping (Helen & Ken)

Ken and I still laugh-cry every day about our shopping experiences. It is just so different.
I wanted something to read and so we found our way to the english book store. And, of course we chose exactly the wrong day to shop there. It was the Saturday before classes begin, and all the students who attend english institutes buy their books there. The word crowded qualifies as a classic understatement. Ken even refused to go in, but I dragged him. The store is not very big, and much longer than it is wide. The back half of the store was roped off (no idea why). The front half of the store was literally shoulder to shoulder and back to front. I know this sounds like exaggeration, but I promise you it is not. I squeeze and wiggle and push my way to the paperback books looking for Maeve Binchy. I find her!! I claim my square foot of space and look thru her section until I find "The Copper Beach". Meanwhile, thank God, Ken has found the number-ticket machine and taken a number. They are on number 79 and we have number 1,240 (Ok, that is an exaggeration). We wait our turn and when she calls my number I worm my way to the front and hand her my book. I also ask how much another small paperback book that is located behind the counter costs. Many minutes pass. She looks it up. God forbid the price should be actually ON or Under the book. 110 pesos!! Nevermind, I'll just take this. More minutes pass and she produces a computerized 8" x 6" sheet of paper with the name of the book on it. I try to hand her my money, but she directs me to another line. I have no idea why she cannot take the payment - that is just the system. I stand in the payment line. I wait again. At this point we notice the store is thinning out. My turn!! 32 freaking pesos for a paperback book!! This is a lot of money if you live on pesos.
Meanwhile, the reason the store is thinning out, is because it closes early on Saturday. The security man has not only locked the door, but lowered the security gate. The security gate has this little Hobbit door in it that is about 3 feet tall by 18 inches wide. Each customer must bend down and squeeze thru this little door to exit the store. This is common.
One last thing about the book. As I am reading page 24, it ends with the sentence, "Perhaps she thought her daugher Madeleine was intended for something more elevated than workin in .... page 25..."Jesus, you're a stubborn woman". HUH? I look again. OK, now I am on page 153. I assume the pages are out of order. I look for page 153 expecting it to be missing. Nope. Its there. I have pages 153-184 of another book called "Out of the Shadows" by Kay Hooper, and am missing pages 25-56 of "The Copper Beach". Confundas? Try shopping here.
Now for Ken - -

Here is a picture of Helen and Monica in Córdoba at the neighborhood almacen getting some groceries. Notice that the store is a fortress. Unless you know what they have, you can't buy it. Often we do not know the names for items here, but we can bring them to the counter and buy them anyway--in this case, if you can't ask for it, you can't have it.

I bought some shoes the other day. I was very proud of myself that I could use my Castellano to tell the girl what I wanted and what size and then ask for a different style and size. Then, once i had the right size and style, I began to walk around a bit to see how they felt. "Señor, no puedes." she says. (You can'tdo that). ¿Por qué? I ask. "Porque es sucio. (Because it is dirty), she replies. She tells me I cannot walk in the shoes I want to buy because I will get them dirty! Ana--the woman from whom we rent and whom we like very much--says that many shoe stores have a small length of carpet that customers are welcome to use to tryout the shoe. This store had no such accommodation.

To paraphrase Waylon Jennings: "It 'aint wrong--it's just different."


Chas said...

To paraphrase Chas, "No, dude, it's wrong!" Imagine buying a car there -- perhaps you can't test-drive it because you'll wear down the tires. If you want to buy a house, do you have to make your decision standing out on the street, so as not to soil the carpet inside?

Pablo said...

I've always tried shoes on like that (not really walking around the shop, but neither forced to walk on a special carpet). You must have gotten the pickiest shoe store in BA, or else this is a new custom. Do complain!

Dana Bedini Kehoe said...

It's shameful that the foreign publishing firms send their defective merchandise to developing countries. I would go give the book back !!!!

Chas said...

Hey, I never thought of that! Y'mean, our unscrupulous American printers take their defective crap and send it to third world countries, just to squeeze the last dime out of people who can't hold us accountable?

(Actually, sending it back is more likely to punish the store than the publishing firm.)

Mad_Maxx said...

I've always been allowed to try on shoes before I bought them in Argentina. Never bought shoes in BA though, maybe it's different there?

99 said...

Helen: if you like books as much as I do (and it seems like that to me) you should try going to "La Feria del Libro". This month is open! You may also try at those old stores on avenida Corrientes where you can find all sort of bizarre books in any language. Unfortunately imported books are expensive under argentine budgets because they´re dollar-pegged. You can return the book you bought and they are probably going to apologize and give you another one, don´t worry.

Dana, Chas: This kind of things happen with lots of imported items including drugs. I wouldn´t only blame the unscrupulous exporters, locals have their one part of responsibility.

Ken: I´m glad you finally got your shoes. I´m also glad that you passed the different size systems bind. There´s a fellow blogger that knows everything about shoes in BA ("Miss Tango in her eyes"). She can make way easier ;)