There are certain expectations that you have to let go of when you move to Paris. Customer service is perhaps one of the biggest. Not only is the customer not always right- the customer is actually something to be avoided much like the woman squatting behind your apartment building or the guy with the infected sore sitting on the train.
Back in the States, Kelly has often bragged that she can return anything. It doesn’t matter when or where you bought it she will get your money back. Before we moved to Paris we had a garage sale to sell our possessions. Our neighbor, Don, brought over a juicer still in its box and asked if he could try to sell it. It was a gift he received a few years ago. He used it several times and then it gathered dust in his basement.
“Of course you can.” I said. “Price it and put it on the table.”
Kelly’s sixth sense kicked in and her head popped up like a prairie dog from behind several boxes of books.
"Where’d ya get it?” She asked her voice a little too loud with excitement. Her eyes narrowed, she licked her lips, somewhere, far off, a dog barked.
"I think they got it at Target” He replied, backing up and looking at me nervously.
“Sure you can sell it here and maybe get 25 bucks for it but it’s probably worth 5 times that new. I’ll return it for you."
Don, a nervous math professor, stammered “No that’s ok- $25 is ok. - I used it and it’s been a few years”
“Ha!” Kelly barked.
I stepped between the two as she lunged for the box.
“Let the man sell his juicer.” I interjected, never realizing that I would ever have to utter such a sentence.
We knew those days were gone when we moved to Paris. You simply don’t return things here. It isn’t done. Kelly bought a pair of boots at a vintage store in the Marais a while back. They are good looking boots, fashionable and since “vintage” really means “used” they were reasonably priced.
“Do they seem too big to you?” She asked the next day, pushing at the toe.
“Oh merde.” I muttered.
“Really- feel my toe, it’s all the way back here.”
“I don’t want to feel your toe. They look fine”
“Hmmmmph” she eyed me suspiciously.
Kelly went to the cobbler down the street.
“Do these seem too big to you?” She asked him.
“How should I know they’re your feet not mine” (Honestly that’s what the cobbler said)
3 days went by.
"Where’s the bag that the boots came in?” she queried.
“Mon Dieu.”- I’m learning French but not the kind I had hoped for.
“I’m going to return these boots. They are too big”
“Good luck with all that.” I smiled to myself, secretly delighting in her inevitable failure.
Two hours later she returned with the boots exchanged and a triumphant look in her eyes.
“The guy at the store told me that he has never taken back a sale and I told him ‘but that’s what’s going to make this so much fun.'”
By the way- Don did not sell his juicer at our garage sale. He walked home with the juicer under his arm and his head hung low. Kelly watched from the front porch, shaking her head in pity, her arms crossed as he took that long walk of shame back to his house.
* This may look familiar- I was editing some posts and thought I would republish this one with the changes.