Looking at Greece

Monday, November 14, 2005

Service with a snarl - part two

About ten days back, the dishwasher in the rented flat where we live decided to wash its last.  We put it on to wash and it just clicked through the programme, so we reset it.  About ten minutes later, the breaker switch in the fuse-box flipped and the power went off in the flat, indicating a short-circuit somewhere.  Yes indeedy, it was the dishwasher, which, when opened, emitted billows of smoke.  Evidently, the element had heated itself to red-hot, causing all the accumulated fur to blacken and then shatter off.  I called in an electrician friend who pronounced it dead on arrival and said that to fix it would cost at least €300 (£201) and that it would be wiser to replace it with a new machine.  Given that the blasted thing belonged to the landlady, we gave her a call and she said she wasn’t interested in replacing it and that we should just throw it away.  “Great,” I thought, “we will have to buy one for ourselves, you mean…”

Which is what we did.  I have a friend who runs a shop selling white goods, televisions, small electronic goods and suchlike in this town, and he has in the past given me good deals, especially when I split up from my wife and moved out, and consequently had to replace €7500 (circa £5000) worth of household equipment, at which point he threw in a free gift of a set of kitchenware.  So my girlfriend and I trundled along to his shop to see about getting a new dishwasher, of the built-in type.  The last time I visited this friend’s shop was to buy a digital videocamera, back in December 2003.  At that time I was making my second visit to his shop regarding a videocamera, as the first time I had enquired I had spoken directly to a new assistant there who had proceeded to talk to me in an extremely condescending way, as if I was some sort of dimwit who had no idea about anything that was anything, and who intimated that he knew more about what my needs in a camcorder were than I did, despite the fact that I had bought my first videocamera 11 years before, when he was still a snotty-nosed schoolboy.  I listened for under a minute, said a gruff goodbye and left.  I should have gone straight to the owner-friend and told him what I thought of his new assistant – simply out of friendship and a desire to inform him that the assistant would certainly be driving customers away from his shop.

And it is a pity I didn’t, because on Friday when we turned up at the shop to get a dishwasher, I was dismayed when we got passed on to the same smug-faced assistant again – and not a little amazed to find the man still working at the shop.  I told my girlfriend (in French, not Greek) as we were heading up to the dishwasher section with him that I didn’t like this assistant and she would soon see why.

So, the assistant asked us what size dishwasher we needed, there being two standard sizes – 40cm and 60cm width – and then showed us two models and said “There they are.”  And that was it!  His sales spiel consisted of “There they are.”  I stood there for a second in disbelief that this guy hadn’t actually changed in almost two years of working in white goods and electronics sales, and then snorted, “Well, aren’t you going to tell us something about them?”  Incredibly (and this is the really good bit), he proceeded to open one and say “You put the plates in here.”  At that point I almost turned to my girlfriend to say “We are out of here…”, but I realised there was quite good blog material to be found in the situation, so I decided to go on with the charade.

The old, now defunct dishwasher had a wooden panel on the front and my girlfriend asked whether the new machine would take a wooden panel.  I explained that, as my plans are to buy a place of my own within a year or so and we would be taking the new dishwasher with us, it didn’t really matter if the old wooden covering fitted the front of the new machine or not, as it would be left off for now and put in position only when we moved out of the present flat.  We would simply arrange for a new wooden covering cut to the size of the new machine when we moved into the new place.  Well, if I tell you that it took about five minutes of saying this in different ways to get this oaf of an assistant to understand the whole concept because he kept trying to tell us we couldn’t buy the Siemens machine as it didn’t take a full height door, it will give you a clear idea of why once again I came close to giving up and leaving.  Once we had got this into his thick head, he then proceeded to spout some irrelevant twaddle about his opinion on the differences between various makes of dishwasher (AEG, Siemens, Miele etc) while leaning on an oven and speaking in a supercilious manner and gazing into the distance out the window, away from us.  Throughout the conversation he had been using the second-person singular form of the verb, which is the informal form in Greek and generally considered too informal for salesman-customer conversations, a fact which certainly seems to have gone miles over the head of the twerp we were talking to.

In the end we bought the Siemens dishwasher for €780 (£525), but only because I wanted to buy from my friend’s shop and not from someone else I didn’t know and trust, and it was delivered next day.  I installed it on Sunday morning and it washes the dishes a dream…  But every time I use it I will remember the wannabe-salesman whose sales spiel was “You put the dishes in there…”

There is a place waiting for him at a High Street branch Dixons in the UK, I suspect, if only he can pump out his twaddle in basic English.    


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