Monday, May 18, 2009

In Which I Learn Another Way to Be Ripped Off

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Today I determined to find a flash drive so I could update my blog. I had seen a store near the sea yesterday that looked promising. When I mentioned this to Demetrios, he said he planned to spend the morning in the park by the sea where we were yesterday. So we walked there together.

Passing the Synagogue and its school, we saw children in the playground, for I think the first time. A tall man in a blue uniform was guarding them. I won’t go so far as to say he was armed, because I only glanced at him, but I have the impression he was. Oh, my! To the best of my knowledge, Jews in Thessaloniki have lived in peace since the end of World War II, so this strikes me as a bit overdone, if indeed that man is armed.

“Shall we stop on the way and see the kitties?” asked Demetrios, with sparkling eyes.

Of course!

The man in the shop told us the mother was out for a walk, so it was a good time, but we should come any time. Sure; he’s hoping we’ll adopt one of them. I must say, that little calico is adorable, and so is one of her sisters, a white cat with tabby saddle and crown. And we definitely would adopt at least one of them, if we didn’t already have two cats in the States.

Demetrios then went his way and I went mine, heading off to the supermarket in search of makeup.

Almost nobody here over about 40 wears makeup. I thought of giving it up myself, but I have acne rosacea, which means a too-ruddy complexion, and it needs toning down. So I need some. Today I discovered one reason people don’t wear it: a little tube of ordinary Maybelline foundation costs almost 17 Euros! “Maybelline of New York,” it’s called here. What a rip-off.

I didn’t have 17 Euros on me, so I went to the check-out without that item. And that’s where I encountered yet another rip-off technique.

I had just gotten in line when a man and young boy gave me a look I thought meant, “May we go ahead of you?”

“I only have two items,” said the man. That’s how many I had, too, but I nodded and gestured for him to step in front of me.

“I’m sorry,” he said, repeatedly.

“It’s alright,” I kept replying. “No problem.”

“I’m Roumanian.” (I think that’s what he said; either that or “I’m Romi,” Gypsy.)

I smiled, without replying.

He began “helping” me by unloading my items, which he placed on the counter next to his. That’s when alarm bells began ringing in my head. Their volume increased when the man stepped three paces forward, as though he had already gone through the check-out.

I instantly made two decisions. I don’t know whether they were good ones (and you are welcome to supply your opinion), but the time I had to think was short. I decided (1) I would give the man the money he needed, and (2) his getting it this way was not on the program. I picked up my two items and moved to the next check-out.

“Five Euros,” I heard the cashier tell the man.

He emptied his pockets and gave her change amounting to about one. She said she couldn’t accept less than the set price. So a rather noisy debate followed. At one point he looked around, spotted me, and said to the cashier, “Oh, there she is, there’s the lady…” but I kept my head down and my eyes averted and the cashier understood.

Meanwhile I was paying my money and was getting ready to hand him five Euros, when the lady in front of me, still bagging her groceries, beat me to it.

I suppose the man knew somebody would do that. Maybe he does this regularly.

On my way home, I passed a low balcony upon which was lying a mini poodle, or at least I thought that shaggy thing must be a poodle under all that mass of not-so-white hair. Her head and paws were sticking out through the balcony railing, so I reached up and petted her. “What a good doggie you are!” I said, in Greek of course, so she could understand me. She seemed to like that.

An elderly gentleman stopped and made some rather lengthy but obviously friendly comment about the dog that I couldn’t understand; perhaps he was her owner.

Later, in the evening, Demetrios and I passed that balcony again on our way home from having spent the afternoon in the park by the sea, and the dog was in the same spot, but hardly recognizable: she was clean and most of her hair was short. Her poodle nose was revealed to be long and slender and elegant, as a poodle’s should be; her newly-brushed ears were long and silky. There were ribbons above the ears and there was polish on the toenails, er, that is, claws. There was a pom-pom at the end of her long tail. (Poodles’ tails here are left their natural length.) I hardly dared touch her, she was so gorgeous. She even smelled sweet.

We took a pair of Demetrios’ shoes to the cobbler this afternoon, whose shop is around a corner from where we live. He said he couldn’t replace the soles, which have holes in them, but he could cover them up with a new layer.

“How much?” asked Demetrios.

“Five Euros.”

Involuntarily, Demetrios laughed, and the man immediately began justifying this cost. He never realized Demetrios had laughed at how LOW the price was.

The shoes will be ready on Monday.


Dixie said...

I don't have a problem giving money if someone just asks but I balk at being set-up and conned. I suspect it is a pride deal for in "How dare you think I am stupid enough to fall for your con!"

I think your approach was perfect...thwart the con but offer the money anyway. I fear I may not have been so wise. I probably would have fell for the con or realized what was going on, moved to the other check out and not thought to offer the money.

elizabeth said...

I am not sure what I would do, but it was not nice of the person to either

a) try to rip you off
b) not being honest about what he needed

This is not an easy one...