Sunday, 25 January 2015

Just The Ticket

Sometimes things go so well you have to pinch yourself. From experience you kind of expect the worst. If you've read chapter 2 of "Moussaka to My Ears", you may recall the story about the UPS that went wrong. It's not entirely unusual, when you buy an appliance or a gadget here, for there to be all kinds of complications if the damn thing goes wrong. In the case of the UPS I took it back to the shop and they gave me the old "Well, it'll have to go back to our service depot in Athens. Once they've had a look at it they'll say if we can replace it with a new one or not" routine, which is not uncommon here.

So, it was with some dread that we took our brand new kettle back because it was leaking. Only a few days ago we finally laid to rest a really good and not particularly cheap electric kettle by accidentally placing it back on its cradle wtihout any water in it. Oops. It had lasted us 7 years, which we reckon is pretty good going nowadays. So, not at all happy with trying to rustle up a cuppa using a saucepan to heat the water, not to mention getting piping hot water all over the place while trying to fill a hot water bottle, we remembered that our local branch of Carrefour Express, literally five minutes away by car, sells electrical appliances.

Of course, we weren't going to buy something by some unknown manufacturer, you know, usually the ones with serif typefaces for their logos. We've all seen them, names like Royale and Tra Shie, Crown Ningglory or suchlike. Nope, if they didn't have a known brand it would be the saucepan for a few more days before we got the chance to go to town. As it happens, in we walked and saw that the store carries kettles by none other than Black and Decker, a tried and tested brand familiar to all of us Brits, right? Right. Thirty six Euros lighter we headed home eager to make our first cuppa with our brand new kettle. Which we did. No problems there then. We congratulated ourselves on having thought to look in the store just along the road. A result. Great. Super.

Now, those of you that read these mumblings with any degree of regularity will know that I'm a bit of a nightbird, often not sleeping too well, If I were a better sleeper, this blog would be only half as big and informative as it actually is, truth be told. So, during the first night after we'd bought the new kettle I was in the kitchen at 2.30am and I thought to myself, I'm gonna make myself a nice hot cup of green tea with lemon and eat a slice of my dearly-beloved's really nice moist cake. Anticipation at unheard-of heights, I lifted the kettle to facilitate refilling it, only to find a lake of water beneath it and all over its circular cradle, which was still plugged into the wall socket. Yipes and all that, yea? Yea.

Sure enough, rocking the kettle this way and that I saw a steady drip, drip, coming out from the bottom, and this from a kettle less that 24 hours from the shop. Out came the trusty saucepan - again.

Next day,after having dried the kettle out and re-packed it in its box we trotted into the store, fully expecting a hassle about it having to be sent back to Athens and envisioning weeks of boiling hot water for our Earl Grey tea in a pesky saucepan, and approached Georgia, the girl who'd sold us the appliance. Well, she'd taken the payment at the till, let's put it that way. To be fair, she's a cut above yer average supermarket checkout girl in the IQ stakes I'd wager. She's very erudite and evidently doing this job purely from the lack of any other to which she may be much better qualified. No sooner had I explained the situation she'd taken the kettle back, rustled up some exchange paperwork and told me to nip over to the relevant shelf and help myself to another one, same make and model. Minutes later we were driving back home after having received the assurance from the very helpful Georgia that if this one leaked we were to bring it back right away and we could do yet another swapsies. We congratulated ourselves on having bought it locally. Imagine the hassle if we'd had to take it all the way back to town, an hour's drive away, to see about a replacement. It would have made it a very expensive kettle by the time we'd done two trips.

Like I said, sometimes things go so well you have to pinch yourself. Life's full of surprises.

So, there we were relating our positive experience to a couple of friends and they told us their recent experience in one of the banks over here. I'm sure you've come across these ticket systems. You know, you walk in and there's a little machine, you have to press a button and it spits out a numbered ticket. You then sit for about three years waiting for the digital display to flash your number and then you bolt for the teller, arms flailing in all directions to fend of competitors. By this time your bladder's full to bursting and your car is parked somewhere where it's now due a parking fine. Either that or it'll have perished tyres when you get back to it, it'll have been parked for so long. 

Well our friends said they they entered the banking hall to an almost unheard-of scene. Probably owing to some wormhole having opened up in the space-time continuum, there was not one single customer in the hall. Plus, there was this teller chap, sitting there with no one to serve!! No one to keep hanging around while he stared pointlessly at his monitor for five minutes, or got up and walked away carrying a sheet or two of paper before returning to his seat with a frappé on the go. Nope, he was sitting there with no one to be miserable to.

"Well," thought our friends, "this is our chance!" heading straight for the staff member in question they reached his position and spoke through the glass screen. He just stared back and said, "Ticket?"

They looked this way and that, as if to remind him that there was no other customer in the place, before looking back at him and saying, "We didn't see much point, since there's no queue anyway. There's no one to worry about queue-jumping, which would be why we'd have needed a ticket, wouldn't it? You know, to prevent any disputes about who's turn it was."

He just stared back and, lifting one arm and pointing to the ticket machine with his finger, said, ...well, nothing actually. He just disdainfully made it clear by gesture that no ticket - no service. Take it or leave it. After a couple of exasperated sighs and lifting of both arms, palms out, our friends trotted back across the hall to the machine near the entrance door and dutifully punched the button and tore off the little ticket that spewed out. They marched back to the friendly (not) teller and thrust the ticket under the glass  at him, whereupon he lifted both hands in non-acceptance, assumed a frown and said, then pointing downwards, "In there."

Sure enough, at their feet was a metal waste bin, into which he wanted them to drop the ticket. "What's the point of that?" they cried? His answer was a shrug of the shoulders. He then sat there and waited while our friends, well one of them in this case, looked at the hand holding the ticket, back at the teller, then at the ticket again, before dropping it into the waste basket as directed.

No sooner had the numbered ticket floated down into the mouth of the bin than the man behind the counter assumed a smile and said, "Now, what can I do for you?"

Of course, they knew exactly what they'd LIKE to have told him he could do at that point, but thought better of it. After all, they wanted to get out of there on the same day as they'd gone in, didn't they.


  1. Hi John,
    Re: shopping in Rhodes. Black & Decker are an American firm who made their name with the electric drill. They have since acquired a number of companies manufacturing a vast array of electrical devices. Sad to say not all of these are based in America, or produce products of the standard that you might expect! For example, I bought a B&D electric strimmer from ACE, before checking on “the web”. Although it has lasted a few years in my hands I was never able to get the automatic feed (of the cord) to work, so I looked on “the web”. I did not find any mention of my fault, but it turns out that the drive mechanism involves a toothed belt driven by a metal sprocket and the power is taken by a plastic sprocket. With heavy use the belt melts the plastic sprocket and you throw the whole thing in the skip! I use it in short bursts for short periods and so get away with it! Conversely the B&D garden vacuum cleaner I bought from the same place is robust. (I used to have bougainvillea, but I’m all better now!)

    Just a tip; whenever I go into LIDL I check out the central isle and have bought a lot of reasonable stuff there very cheaply. You need to buy when you see, not when you need, of course. Examples have been diamond cutting disks for an angle grinder €5 and a set of five 60cm long SDS drill bits € 15, both excellent quality and at a good price. The drills were put to use very quickly when I had a friend on Halki needing to get a pipe through a wall. You never know what you will find, but you need to have an eye for quality.

    Have you noticed that you can easily buy Pozidriv screws, but only Phillips screwdrivers in Rhodes?


    1. Can you buy Night Nurse in Rhodes?, i suggest you and Simon both try some,zzzzz
      Porridge Oats

    2. Both our Garden rake and a very good stainless steel garden spade are from Lidl. Both now at least 7 or 8 years old and still in excellent working order. They both get constant use as well. We really rate Lidl, as long as you are selective of course.

      And Margaret - quite right, but easier said than done!