Re Tales – Part Three – ” I Saw It On A Website. “

In the good old days ( Elvis, dinosaurs) the potential customer would have come in and said ” I saw it in the newspaper. ” or ” I saw it in a magazine. “. Occasionally the special ones fronted the counter and said ” I saw it written in letters of fire in the sky. “. It paid to not doubt them.

Now it is  ” I saw it on the internet. ” What they saw may have been an announcement of a new product or the discontinuation of an old one. Or a recall of exploding bed socks. Whatever, they’ve come into the shop with knowledge of something. The knowledge is valuable to them and it might be so for the shop assistant as well.

If the thing they saw was on the website of the shop where they are, the shop assistant can pray silently that the website had the correct price, image, and stock level for the goods. And that the thing that was shown is still somewhere on the premises.  Even if it is holding the loo door open, at least it exists. Unfortunately there is a gap between what the best IT department can show and what can be plonked on the counter.

If the thing they saw was on another shop’s site all hell could break loose – particularly if the ” shop ” is some vague web address in Kowloon. The customer has taken the internet information as the word of God and any attempt on the part of the shop assistant to explain that it is unrealistic here in Australia will fall on deaf ears.

Unfortunately deaf ears are sometimes attached to loud mouths and angry tempers. These are fine, as long as they can be confined within the head of the customer. Like road rage, let someone else experience it.

No shop assistant is required by any law – of God, the land, economics, or thermodynamics – to match any price that is waved at them from a mobile phone screen. That may or may not be a real offer from a real seller, but it is not a seller who is paying rent on the premises, wages to the staff, or buying paper for the shop loo. The shop price should be fair and calculated to give adequate return to the proprietor for the effort of business – it is most often just that, and any attempt to oyster-knife discounts based on a badly-spelled website can best be referred back to Kowloon.

Or Wuhan.

Re Tales – Part One – Subiaco Man

Before I start and before the Subiaco City Council organises a lynching party, let me say that he may have been City Beach Man or Peppermint Grove Man. I am not sure of the exact markings that differentiate the species – I just know they can look and behave alike.

The occasion I saw him was at a product launch in the shop where I was once employed. I was there gathering information for the shop’s daily column. The product was a very nice camera from a major maker – and in these Covid days new products to be launched are rare.

The shop did a good show – with professional photographers to give their analyses of the camera after testing and a rare example of it to pass around. The shop put on wine, beer, cider, and plates of hors d’oeuvres to cheer the visitors – and got a capacity crowd. All good.

But Subiaco Man had to have more. He baled up a junior staff member and loudly demanded to know why the price advertised by the shop was higher than a price he had seen on-line. And then over-spoke the sales assistant every time an answer was offered. He sat in the front row and interrupted the professional photographers with fatuous and finicky questions – for much the same purpose.

He probably had a good evening while he was there. Everyone else had a good one after he left. It was a prime example of using a domineering attitude to self-aggrandize at the expense of those who are prohibited by their employment from fighting back.

I do hope he comes to the next product launch and tries again. I’m not employed, as such, and my time and my voice are my own. I fancy a good evening too…

The Users Guide To Self-Entitlement

Or ” What to do until Dr. Guillotine comes.”

Finding an aristocrat these days is easier than it used to be. We no longer have to consult De Bretts or the Almanach de Gotha to see whether the person we are looking at is expected to enter the reception hall of the Bishop of Salzburg before or after a Viscount prior to Maundy Thursday. The amount of research, memorization, and snap judgement required has been dramatically reduced. In fact, all we need to know is one number:

How much the subject of our enquiry is worth.

This can be a simple bank balance – a series of numbers with a Euro, Dollar, or Pound sign in front and a string of zeros behind. The longer the zero trail, the higher the position in society.

It is rarely that simple, however, as many of those who wish to be modern fiscal princes and princesses are at pains to conceal that number – to make it so diffuse throughout the Caribbean, Swiss Alps, and Pacific islands as to defy actual definition…let alone discovery. They do, however, wish to let you know that they are entitled to the social position, even if you cannot touch the cash.

They’ll let you see clues – hints of worthiness, if you will. There will be large and splendid motor cars, expensive watches, designer clothing that changes as often as the wind blows through the streets of Paris and Milano, and wonderful feasts held in palatial mansions. You’ll not be invited to these, mind, but you can read about them in supermarket magazines.

These possessions and processions are really not necessary to let us know how grand the new aristocrats are. We could judge and be awed by them as they go about their daily business of extraordinary life. Just watching and listening to them deal with lesser creatures would do it. They could probably get away with not actually owning a thing, as long as they were arrogant enough – and I suspect that a few of them are doing just that.

The wonderful thing about life is that it repeats itself over the centuries. Epicurus knew a thing or two about dealing with aristocracy and about the methods of leading a kindly and satisfying life. I suppose Diogenes did as well, though I doubt the tub was as comfortable as all that. We could all do well to investigate the way that the aristo-pluto-cratic society was dealt with in the past and consider whether it might be done again as well.

If you can find a tumbril, I can bring my knitting.

Testing Muddy Waters


No, not the blues singer, he doesn’t need testing. He passed his examination long ago and got top marks for his music. I’m talking about testing muddy social waters.

The practice of being offensive and of being offended is big business today – but a difficult one to manage properly. You never can tell when an innocent remark will be used as a conversational tyre lever on you, and not in a kindly way. You’d think it would make a difference which end of the offending statement you were on, but in many cases it does not – you get to feel bad either way.

I have started to suspect that this is a form of manipulation – whether someone is using it as personal therapy or not is uncertain, but the twisting is still unpleasant. I don’t think there is anything a single writer can do to stop it over an entire planet, but it can at least be used for science. I am going to perform an experiment.

I hasten to add that I am not going to go out to try to offend people – quite the opposite. I am going to wait in the shadows of a conversational circle until someone makes a particularly unexceptionable remark. Perhaps the weather, or an enquiry about the changes in bus timetables…or a hobby discussion. I am going to zero into one particular thought and then pointedly tell the person in front of others that I find it offensive.

I’m not a particularly good actor, but I will try to compress fury, scorn, and humiliation into my voice and make my eyes flash defiance. All the best Victorian heroes and heroines do the eye flashing. I may need a few weeks practise in front of a mirror to get it right. I won’t go so far as to demand an apology, for fear that I get one, but I will try to judge just the right moment to stalk off; right before I am forced to admit that it is all a put-up job.

I’m curious to see just how far the pretence of offended dignity can be taken. And just how many conversations I can control using it. Stephen Potter would have been interested in the results…