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Thursday, 10 June 2010


By some uncharacteristic serendipity, I could lay my hands on the receipt stapled into its little Electrical Goods folder and clearly showing that the purchase was well within date. It promised a hassle-free experience should a fault develop. It’s not often that happens, I thought, too willing to believe jaunty print and anticipate an easy ride. The folly of one fundamentally unable to learn from experience.

F11’s Nintendo DSi had broken and it truly wasn’t down to him. (A DSi for the elderly or fortunately-oblivious is some small thing which folds in 2 and on which you can bugger about with pixels. He calls it playing games and gets most excited.) He cherishes it; moreover, it’s caged in some sort of OTT iron lung for its own good, armour enhancing the chances of long and happy life, say 6 months. But on the first occasion of him successfully tracking down the Emerald City of Wi-Fi, the touch screen went kaput. No, I don’t understand any of that sentence either.

So I took a book (for the queue), and the DSi, and the receipt in its folder, and went to Sainsbury’s to return the thing. There was a pleasing number of staff at the Service Desk but the gold of a hopeful quick turnaround turned to the dust of a long wait when it transpired that one’s on her mobile, one’s either ditzy or in training and the other 3 were working in an inverse version of multi-tasking, being multi-staffing, where many do the job of one. With commentary. Leaning with good natured interest at the return of mismatched bikinis and inadequate cutlery sets.
Oh, and one cross-looking one. Whom I got when the queue eventually shuffled forward.

Confident (fool) that even under a steely gaze, my transaction would be brisk, with right on my side and a valid receipt in a folder (imagine!) I presented the goods. I spieled my spiel only for some pursed lip action to kick in, domino’d with the apparent need for further consultation. Seems like the rules have changed. So predictable in retrospect.

“No, that’s between you and Nintendo, ‘fraid,” Mrs Cross said, with no discernible sorrow, her impatient glance suggesting “Next!” suggesting “Fuck Off Fool.”

Another, one of the chorus of commentators, muttered that the “hassle-free” promise on the guarantee should perhaps be honoured, that the wording was pretty unequivocal, that –

“Rules have changed,” said Mrs Cross, swivelling her disapprobation to the chorus member. “Besides, it’s not an electrical item.”

“It is!” I said, “And,” (because mere fact is never enough), “it’s in an electrical item folder,” I said, “look!”

“Well, it’s not,” she said, “Electrical. I can’t be held responsible for it being put in there. It shouldn’t be in there. It’s not electrical.”

No it’s a bloody pork pie. Silly me.

“Well, it wasn’t me, was it,” I said, fuelled by boldness. “I didn’t reach across the counter and staple it in.”

An unpleasant silence grew.

“You haven’t got the charger, anyway,” said Mrs Cross.

“I thought you’d just send it away to be fixed.” I worried that I might cry if I tried to work into the conversation that a charger, with its plug trailing out the end of a piece of wire, might be the tipping point for the item being upgraded to consideration of status: electrical.

So I went home, broken DSi in hand, drenched with foreboding at the prospect of an afternoon spent on the phone. Just me and Greensleeves, and menu options and press 2 for electrical items (would I dare to press 2?? A taxonomy of potential Kafka meets Alice nonsense Hydra-headed before my eyes, the quibbling over a term). The value of the DSi leaked away against the size of ensuing 0870 phone bill.

First, I thought, I’d break myself in by braving the Sainsbury’s helpline. I felt we had unfinished business, them and me; plus, it was free: a no-brainer therefore. And came upon one Jamie.

“You shouldn’t have had this experience at all,” he purred with real concern. “Let me see what I can do.”

He called back within half an hour and said that he had contacted the store and learnt that someone had given A Lady (presumably me?) a stroppy turn, and that if I could bear to go back (a pause for us both to feel my pain) then they would be more than happy to exchange it. He was so nice that it was actually quite hard to get him off the line. Toffee paper on shoes.

Back I went. Mrs Cross was prowling the concourse in front of the customer service desk. I flinched before saying bravely, “I can swap it!” I brandished not only charger but box, too (the joys of an OCD child). Get you, Mrs Cross.

“You should see my paperwork,” she said, “Rules’ve changed. You should see the paperwork. I’m off now or I’d show you.”

The new DS sits in its box in the kitchen. F11 is fearful of opening it, that its wonderful newness will be tarnished. “Consequences,” he said, “that’s what happens when you open things.”

Mrs Lovely on the dog walk was relishing a session at TKMaxx regarding a Patrick Cox handbag. “The strap looks like it’s cut,” she said, “It just went, boof, like that.”

“Have you got the receipt?” I said

“No,” she said in surprise, “I bought it a couple of months ago. But it’s broken.”
I trembled in awe: middle aged woman undaunted by lack of receipt, certain in her rectitude. I told them about the DSi.

“But you were in the right,” said she and Mrs DIY Helpful.

“That’s what retailers do,” said Mrs Helpful knowledgeably. “They put you in the wrong and you give up.”

“Well, I did get it eventually,” I said, “and Jamie was so nice.”

“You shouldn’t have had to,” she said firmly. “I’ve got a book. You must read it. Terrible title, something American about “How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty.””

I nodded weakly. I didn’t fancy it at all. I want to read Steinbeck and thrillers and the new David Mitchell, not a bossy book which will lead to some grim assertiveness prowess. But until I read the book I didn’t know how to say so. So I said, “Thanks,” with a meek smile. Mrs Helpful won't mind.