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Shopping in Europe and America
December 9, 2002 2:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm Afraid Happy To Say We're Out Of Stock: Heh. Shopping in Southern Europe is indeed very much unlike shopping anywhere else in the world... [ More inside.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (104 comments total)

 
It's something to be ashamed of ("Don't you have enough stuff at home?");

It's an imposition on sales staff ("Do you think I don't have better things to do than attend to customers?");

It's insufferably rude ("Why are you handling that sweater if you're not going to buy it"?);

It's pretentious ("If you have to ask, you can't afford it.") and it's unbearably pushy ("You think you can just walk in here and buy something?"). [Via Arts and Letters Daily.]
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:02 AM on December 9, 2002


Not to sound like some triumphal free-marketist bore, but shops like the ones depicted will get what's coming to them when they actually have to compete against merchants who give a flying fuck about earning my custom.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:24 AM on December 9, 2002


I'd almost rather have a shopping experience like that than to have to endure the forced smiles of countless WalMartians.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:57 AM on December 9, 2002


Yeah, but that's assuming that WalMart has figured out how to deliver a good customer experience. They have not.

What they deliver is a lowest-common-denominator, endlessly reproducible inoffensiveness: the Quarter Pounder of customer service. They're not the competition I'm thinking of.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:59 AM on December 9, 2002


Don't even get me started. I had the cheek on Saturday to step foot into a changing room when it was full. I was actually shouted at by the sales girl, who said 'you can't go in there, there are NO SPACES'. So I handed her my items and told her I would shop elsewhere.

Shops, stop employing sulky teenagers and TRAIN YOUR STAFF.
posted by Summer at 3:06 AM on December 9, 2002


To be honest, I sometimes think it's an ancient European stratagem to make the customer feel like he's lucky and privileged to enter that wonderful, bargain-filled shop and that "buying" something there is akin to stealing or, by being humble and patient, negotiating a purchase which would otherwise be impossible - a very sophisticated version of "I'm doing you a favour"; "Go ahead and rob me" or a mentally sane version of the "Crazy Eddie" pitch.

Otherwise we Southern Europeans act like craven Canadian sales clerks when we go shopping, all terribly polite and grateful (lest we be denied the privilege of handing over our money). And, if we're sales clerks, then we're like the crudest American shoppers: uppity, disdainful and demanding, like we had better things to do.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:14 AM on December 9, 2002


Aaaaargh!!! This article exactly describes shopping in Greek cities, though some exceptions are popping up.

Shopping for clothes is so painful here that I hardly every do it... my shoes and clothes have to be literally falling apart before I am willing to suffer the pain and indignity of trying to purchase new ones. As for the pharmacies, since I cannot just simply refuse to buy (though I do limit purchase to absolute essentials) I go to great lengths to find a friendly pharmacy without too much attitude, and without those horrible white-lab-coated, over-painted, snippy 22-year-old sales girls (make-up 'consultants', I expect) who look you critically up and down as your straggly ass enters the threshold, trying not to keel over from your 102 degree fever ...

Also, in Greece, it seems the pharmacies are hardly ever open; there are about two or three pharmacies on every block, but whenever I need something I can never find one open; they close after 1 or 2 on certain afternoons, they close on Sundays and holidays, they either close, or close early on Saturday - I'm not sure, I just know that I can never seem to find one open on Saturday. In fact, I'm rarely successful at finding one open anytime. I buy a lot of aspirin from the kiosks...

On a more positive note, we have these glorious outdoor markets, with everything from straight-from-the-farm produce to meat and poultry, fresh fish, plants and flowers, herbs and spices, teas and fresh-ground coffees, fresh bread and pastries, wine, cheese, and even textiles, dishware, candles.... and much, much more. Heavenly. If I ever feel the urge to shop, I get dressed up in my ancient, ancient clothes and go to the outdoor markets.
posted by taz at 3:18 AM on December 9, 2002


Just to give you a flavour of what it's like here in Portugal, for example, this is the customer's standard opening line:

"Desculpe, se não se importasse, era capaz de me dizer, se faz favor, se [....]. Muito obrigado e desculpe a maçada."

Translation: "I'm sorry, but if you don't mind, would you be good enough to tell me, if you'll do me the favour, if [you have this sweater in a size 10]. Thank you very much and I apologize for the inconvenience."

Fact.

It's no wonder our first reaction, when visiting America or Asia is to think something must be seriously wrong or over-priced with the merchandise because the staff is so blatantly eager to get rid of the stuff.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:25 AM on December 9, 2002


In London, if you're spending about £30 ($45, 45 euros) or less on an item of clothing you can expect to be treated with total contempt by staff who have no idea what the shop sells and don't care. You'll have to queue for a changing room (or even suffer *scream* communal changing rooms) to try on ill-fitting, third-world-made pieces of tat which will fall apart after three months.

If you have more than £30 to spend however, you'll be greeted cheerfully by sales people who take your choices from you as you shop and place them in the changing rooms for you. They'll hang around while you're trying the stuff on in case you need assistance and compliment you on your selection. The clothes will fit and they'll last for years. It's like a whole different world. Strange, but true.
posted by Summer at 3:25 AM on December 9, 2002


I think it also has a lot to do with the work culture. In Europe, your employer cannot compel you to smile.

American shops have to train and police the behavior of their employees very tightly in order to enforce the "customer is always right" shopping experience. American society trains people from childhood in a particular type of "have a nice day" docility and behavior discipline that makes them good workers. Just as Americans find it hard to put up with Italian shops, the Italians could never put up with the Gap employee training.

To caricature a bit more, Americans are docile employees and spoiled, surly consumers. Southern Europeans are the reverse.
posted by fuzz at 3:29 AM on December 9, 2002


Sounds pretty much like typical service to me.

What kind of depraved shop has communal fitting rooms?
posted by dg at 3:33 AM on December 9, 2002


The level of service afforded to shoppers here in Korea never ceases to amaze me. This is truly a consumer paradise (flipside is the inevitable nightmare, of course, which is impossible to ignore) for those who have some lucre. My wife recently returned a shirt to Lotte Department store (partially owned by the Japanese, probably the biggest of the upscale department chains) that she bought there 5 years ago and has been wearing since, regularly - because the collar had begun to fray, and they replaced it! All smiles, bows, apologies, and so on.

The sort of treatment you receive in the shopping palaces here is what I imagine the richest of the rich must have received in the opulent stores of New York in the earlier part of the century.

In Europe, your employer cannot compel you to smile.

Here in Korea, they hire people whose entire job consists of bowing and respectfully welcoming people as they walk through the doors. It's disconcerting for egalitarian types like me, but unfortunately, and a little sadly, soon becomes something you expect. Same old story...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:34 AM on December 9, 2002


There are about a hundred nice shops in Lisbon - not only antique shops and bookshops, but clothes shops, groceries and chemists - with a window display full of enticing items, all of which are proudly declared to be "NOT FOR SALE". The less that's actually available for buying, the classier the shop.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:35 AM on December 9, 2002


Miguel, maybe things are different in Portugal, but I find (at least in Spain and France) that over-polite groveling doesn't work as well as being genuine. Smile, say hello, make some eye contact, flirt a little (as if I have to tell you that), don't be in a hurry, act as though actually buying something was less important than the human interaction.

If you treat people here as employees who are there to serve you, you'll get the worst they have to offer. The key mistake Americans make is to believe that their money gives them power over people in their daily interactions.
posted by fuzz at 3:38 AM on December 9, 2002


stavros, just back from a trip to Lotte myself and am happy to report that at least two of the clerks on the Duty Free floor there are pleasantly surly.

I quite enjoyed it, after the par-for-the-course fawn-o-rama of the other floors. Of course, they could just be adapting to their treatment at the hands of the boorish Japanese tourists who seem to be the predominant customers up there...
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:40 AM on December 9, 2002


Stav, how is that any less disconcerting than Wal-Mart "greeters"? I experienced them for the first time last year, and it freaked me out. It's like having an over-friendly dog jump on you and try to lick your face. How can people do that job? Why do customers put up with it?
posted by fuzz at 3:41 AM on December 9, 2002


A favourite utterance of sales clerks here, when the customer is seen to be unreasonable, is to say: "Well, I have to work here all day, Madam, whereas you are quite obviously just shopping, aren't you?"
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:43 AM on December 9, 2002


I have still not fully adjusted to the European shopping experience -- those first months were rough, especially as my language skills were much weaker than the still weak ones I employ today. What I have come to welcome and expect though, is that the person who eventually comes to my aid knows a great deal about the goods they sell. For the most part, this seems to be the strength of smaller shops and I can at times find the same help in the US. But, in the US, while this customer might be right, he does not often know what he is supposed to be right about and the store clerks rarely seem to know either. When I find shops that are helpful, in Paris, Berlin, Boston or elsewhere -- I stick with them and I hope everyone is all the happier for it.

Thanks for the post, Big Mig (of MeFi, that is) -- always entertaining.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:47 AM on December 9, 2002


The key mistake Americans make is to believe that their money gives them power over people in their daily interactions.

Oh, fuzz. You've made some great points in this thread, but for me, at least, this summation is completely off-base. I'm unfailingly friendly and direct in any sort of transaction, but I really, very sincerely, simply want to be left alone, wherever in the world I am shopping, so I can concentrate on what I want and need, how much I can spend, etc. I want neither a lapdog nor a guard dog trailing me as I try to figure out my European bra size...
posted by taz at 3:51 AM on December 9, 2002


What kind of depraved shop has communal fitting rooms?

Miss Selfridge, Wimbledon. You can't go into them without being very confident your item is going to fit you. The humiliation would be unbearable.
posted by Summer at 3:52 AM on December 9, 2002


Here in Korea, they hire people whose entire job consists of bowing and respectfully welcoming people as they walk through the doors.

In many hotels in Indonesia, they have people whose job is to open the door for you and smile. That's all. A very uncomfortable experience for someone from an egalitarian society, I find. As for service in the shops there, I think they peg me for a tightwad the moment I walk in, because they usually ignore me completely.
posted by dg at 3:53 AM on December 9, 2002


The key mistake Americans make is to believe that their money gives them power over people in their daily interactions.

That must be why it took me a long time to figure out that the often-used phrase in American films - "Your money's no good here" - was actually a nice thing to say. Shopping in Europe is precisely that, but without the freebie.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:53 AM on December 9, 2002


Summer, after my first run-in with communal fitting rooms, I now go (on those extremely rare occasions - once or twice a year - when I do shop for clothes) directly to the fitting rooms and check them out before I spend any time in the shop. Communal = I walk.
posted by taz at 4:03 AM on December 9, 2002


It's not only Southern Europe where shopping can be frustrating - I've had more experiences with brusque and unhelpful sales-assistants living in smalltown Sweden than I did living in Rome. Here one meets with a kind of subliminal delight with unavailability & delay that can seem quasi-Soviet. For example, trying to buy an air-conditioning unit in the middle of one of the most stifling August heatwaves ever to hit this part of Scandinavia one assistant said, almost with relish, that none would be available until Christmas.
posted by misteraitch at 4:11 AM on December 9, 2002


I don't blame you a bit.
posted by dg at 4:12 AM on December 9, 2002


how is that any less disconcerting than Wal-mart "greeters"?

It's probably not. I've never been to a Wal-mart - I think the cancer started growing after I left N America...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:16 AM on December 9, 2002


"Your money's no good here"

I can just see that phrase being used by a shop assistant in a small english village where you've obviously broken a local unwritten shopping law but are not aware of it.
posted by sebas at 4:17 AM on December 9, 2002


taz, what if you replace my overgeneralization about "Americans" with a more nuanced statement about a "highly visible minority of Americans"?

Can someone explain communal fitting rooms to me? Do you change in a private room and then have to share a mirror? Or do you change in front of everyone?
posted by fuzz at 4:19 AM on December 9, 2002


(You're in Korea, adamgreenfield? Just a visit, or...?)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:19 AM on December 9, 2002


Yes, fuzz, thanks. That works for me. Communal fitting rooms mean you change in front of everybody else who is in there trying on their own items - no dividers.
posted by taz at 4:23 AM on December 9, 2002


broken a local unwritten shopping law...

...like "being from *that* London" (Heard this once in a village pub in Bucks)
posted by keno at 4:30 AM on December 9, 2002


Canada: Land of passivity and inane politness! Marvel as we thank ATMs and apologise to people who step on our feet! Gaze in awe as we stand without complaint in lines for hours on end to obtain third-rate products! Be amazed as we constantly defer to others' opinions!

On an amusing side note, I was in China and Hong Kong for two months in July-August 1999. I used to hold open the door for the door-man to go through until I realised that was his job. I thought he was just some guy in a suit who was always hanging around in the lobby.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:41 AM on December 9, 2002


Pseudoephedrine, that sounds like something I might do...

speaking of unwritten shopping laws, has anyone else experienced the "insufficient coin change" phenomenon? Your purchase is 40.15 (in X currency); the person at checkout is highly annoyed if you don't come up with either exactly 40.15, or at the very least 40.20. I'm not talking about small shops, which can obviously run into problems; I'm talking about the "supermarkets", for example.

I was once reduced to tears over an "insufficient coin change exchange", but don't worry, I've become hardened. Now when the cashier glares at me and asks if I don't have the exact amount, I just stare back, raise my eyebrows and make a sort of "tsk" sound. This is Greek for "no way; fugeddah aboud id".
posted by taz at 4:57 AM on December 9, 2002


Pseudoephedrine: Take heart from the fact that Brazilian sales clerks are just as obsequious and offputtingly cheerful and obsessed with your health as their Canadian counterparts - perhaps because they rely very heavily on commissions.

I've been reading this thread closely and two conclusions seem obvious:

1) How difficult it is (say for those training shop assistants) to strike a balance between amiable honesty and outright grovelling. We don't like being pandered to and we don't like being snubbed. What's in between? Surely we can't expect absolute sincerity and good manners?

2) There's a power thing going on in any potential transaction. (Don't even get me started on the potlatch stuff!). Both surliness and over-politeness are attitudes which staff use to signify "Don't think you're better than me because I'm doing the selling and you're doing the buying." In the European style it means "You can buy the whole shop, but I'm still not your servant". In America and Asia it means "Hey, I was trained to pretend to be your servant, in order to convince you to help pay my salary. If I wasn't being paid, I'd treat you as the piece of shit you are.

On the other hand, anyone who's worked in a shop knows how annoying customers can be and how tempting it is to tell them to get stuffed.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:58 AM on December 9, 2002


how is that any less disconcerting than Wal-mart "greeters"?
In Japan (like Korea, I think), they can welcome you politely without even acknowledging your existence. like the Queen of England waving to a crowd without making eye contact or singling out anyone in any way.

Stav, take a pass on Wal-Mart clothes. I come from California, where I finally saw a Wal-Mart under construction the week I left in 1994. This May, with only 90 minutes to stock up on gaijin-size clothes and such before catching a flight back to Japan, I made my first entry into a Wal-Mart. About $375 was as much as I could spend and carry in that limited amount of time. Some of the things I bought, like name brand underwear and a butcher block knife set were good, but the shirts and pants mostly fell apart like a cheap halloween costumes meant to be worn once.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:05 AM on December 9, 2002


stav - just for the weekend, alas, to attend my fiancee's brother's wedding (slightly more here).

For thread-relevancy's sake, I hasten to note that the staff at the hotel club where he had his reception were very polite.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:05 AM on December 9, 2002


Oh, and Miguel: "sincerity and good manners" is a great place to start. I'm always willing to make room for a clerk who confesses to not having such a great day, and I think most of us recognize what thankless tasks a lot of these jobs are.

Sincerity, self-respect and a modicum of care on a shopclerk's part go a long way to cushion the awkwardly, inherently unequal relationship piggybacked onto the terms of reference of an ostensibly egalitarian culture.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:09 AM on December 9, 2002


"The key mistake Americans make is to believe that their money gives them power over people in their daily interactions"

i think this isn't so far from the truth. it's all a matter of respect for other people's cultures, and frankly these pre date any free market saccharine capitalist approach to shopping.

and yes, i am not american.
posted by triv at 5:14 AM on December 9, 2002


Surely we can't expect absolute sincerity and good manners

Maybe just good manners? I've personally spent time on most rungs of the business hierarchy, and quite a few of the financial hierarchy, and whatever my level, I've always endeavored to treat people decently - whether I was serving them, or they were serving me.

This may sound bad, but if there is someone in a sales position who cannot usually sense after the first one or two exchanges whether the customer is the sort who wants attention or the kind who would rather be left mostly alone, then this person really shouldn't be in a sales position. Just put me in an accounting job, and you'll quickly see how wrong it is to hire someone unsuited for the job...
posted by taz at 5:20 AM on December 9, 2002


"The key mistake Americans make is to believe that their money gives them power over people in their daily interactions"

i think this isn't so far from the truth. it's all a matter of respect for other people's cultures, and frankly these pre date any free market saccharine capitalist approach to shopping.


What about the stories above about the politeness of Korean and Brazilian shop employees? Is it because they dont respect other's cultures or because they have a "free market saccharine capitalist approach to shopping". Is the rude behavior of Japanese customers that adamgreefield refers to above because they have absorbed too much american culture?

It amazes me how a post about rude behavior in some italian shops can veer off into ranting about the shortcomings of americans.

When I shop, I dont want someone to kiss my ass, and I certainly dont want to be treated rudely. I just want to get what I need and get out.
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 5:26 AM on December 9, 2002


Nice summary of a really good thread, Miguel, but maybe a bit premature. Let's wait and see what happens when the Americans get out of bed and add their 2 cents.

You're right, "absolute sincerity and good manners" is the whole problem. That phrase means something different not just across cultures, but even between different people in the same culture.
posted by fuzz at 5:27 AM on December 9, 2002


Another European trend is shops, banks, taxis and (worst of all) hotels full of cute printed notices saying "Hello!", "Thank you for choosing...!", "Welcome", "Enjoy your visit", "Please come again", fronted by real people with that silent, shruggy "Eat shit, interloper!" expression. When despairing at being ignored, I often pick up the smarmy pamphlets and ask the staff whether it's true that they're overjoyed to see me or was it a typographer's mistake. It's like shopping online, but with a human counterpoint to put you right, lest you delude yourself, poor fool that you are, your custom is wanted.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:33 AM on December 9, 2002


My mother, who's English, says that Europeans are like cats and Americans are like dogs. For the record, she likes both.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:39 AM on December 9, 2002


That must be why it took me a long time to figure out that the often-used phrase in American films - "Your money's no good here" - was actually a nice thing to say.

"Aw, Homer, you know your money's no good here. Hey, wait a minute! This is real money!" —Moe
posted by staggernation at 5:41 AM on December 9, 2002


My wife asks me to convey what happened to her this May. She bought a bikini in a recently opened, very fashionable shop and was told "If it doesn't suit you you can bring it back." This because you aren't allowed to try on any bathing suits, according to the argument "Would you buy a bikini someone else had worn?".

The next day she took it back - it didn't fit - and the same saleswoman, while reluctantly taking back the repugnant item, with laboratory mode digits, had the cheek to say, verbatim: "But you've put on weight, haven't you?" Before my wife could answer ("Since yesterday?"), she smiled and added: "Either that or you think you're thinner than you are."

My wife is tall and weighs 120 pounds. The shortish saleswoman at least 200.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:25 AM on December 9, 2002


Well, for all my bitching and complaining, I nevertheless just returned from an ordinary, almost daily, delightful shopping strike. I picked up vegetables, eggs, bread and wine, each from a different tiny shop within three blocks of my apartment... It was great; they all know me and I see every one of these merchants several times a week, on a friendly, neighborly basis.

So. I'm really only complaining about the more high-profile retail places (and the wannabee high-profile retail places) and the "boutique" stores. And... well, okay; most of the pharmacies.

But, the small merchant-owned-and-operated spots are quite likely to turn out to be friendly and helpful. (The guy who owns the shop where I buy my bread, for example, always takes the time to specially select loaves that are nice and crispy on the outside, just the way we like them, and always has a couple of words to say about the weather or life in general; the guys at the butcher shop want to know how I'm planning to cook the meat so they can cut it especially for my purpose.) So, maybe it's all a big trade-off; I'd never switch my excellent neighborhood outlets for a delightful shopping experience in a high-priced boutique. I guess it's just the pure illogic of those places that rubs me so hard.

To be honest, I kind of like my (relatively) new ascetic consumer profile... I used to shop for fun during my lunch break when I was in the US; it's almost impossible for me to comprehend that now. No matter where I end up, I doubt I will ever view shopping as "fun" again, excepting, as I mentioned, the outdoor markets and local small shops, which is not so much "fun" as pleasant, integrated, and kind of sweet.
posted by taz at 6:37 AM on December 9, 2002


I am retail consultant; I travel all over the place and talk to people that run these stores, both in the US and Europe (and actually Asia these days). IMHO, there are two factors at work here:
  • American stores are almost always chains/franchises with pooled buying power and most importantly, a low-friction supply chain. This means two things: a) they can more easily compete for price, and b) they do not rely on personnel loyalty or skill. Actually most of them would prefer a "deskillled" staff that can be hired for little and fired at will.
  • Partly because of the above, the American job market is highly competitive. You are not going to hold smart, polite, educated sales-people on the sales floor. They just won't stay there. On the other hand, in high-unemployment Europe smart educated people don't want to be on the sales floor and resent it after a while.
The end result is that American stores tend to have cheaper merchandise (at least in a price/performance) sense, and to leave the customer alone, because they'd rather not have them interact with the salespeople. In Europe OTOH, the margins on the merchandise are higher (less competition from aggressive mass-supply-chain merchants) and quite simply the retailers can afford to sell fewer items.

No worries: the American model is like a hungry shark in a goldfish pond. European/Asian retailers will have to adapt or die (case in point: Zara, from Miguel's neighbor Spain which is giving the Gap a decent run for their money). Mass merchants will again compete on price and high-end on service.
posted by costas at 6:46 AM on December 9, 2002


stupidcomputernickname, the arrogance and rudeness of Japanese tourists in Korea stems primarily from the fact that they've absorbed too much Japanese culture.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:53 AM on December 9, 2002


You're not describing the Europe I live in costas. In the bit of Europe I live in (UK) unemployment is lower than in the US and every shop is a highly price-competitive chain. This has been the case for quite a while.
posted by Summer at 6:55 AM on December 9, 2002


True for me, Costas; of the two items of clothing I bought in the last year, one was from Zara, and one from Marks and Spencer.
posted by taz at 7:05 AM on December 9, 2002


You're not describing the Europe I live in costas.

Well, there clearly is a difference between Britain and "The Continent", as you used to call it. Britain is clearly much better. Costas describes Portugal's environment perfectly. Rents for shops in Lisbon have been frozen since 1926 so older shops (more than half) pay ridiculous amounts, i.e. average 200 euros a month. It's very rare for a shop to close.

Zara is very successful here (about a year ago, there was a superb New Yorker article about their innovative management and stock maintenance - can't find it though...) but, there you are (culture intruding again), the assistants are just as standoffish and dismissing as in the oldest shoppes.

it's all a matter of respect for other people's cultures, and frankly these pre date any free market saccharine capitalist approach to shopping.

I think triv has a point. Here in Europe capitalism is a very recent phenomenon. The deferential, feudal, anti-money and anti-ostentation culture lags behind and rules.

I'll shut up now. Sorry (sincerely) for monopolizing the thread.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:09 AM on December 9, 2002


Zara, Mango and H&M are little better than jumble sales. You can take your continental rubbish and shove it up your arse. Or something less rude and confrontational.
posted by Summer at 7:12 AM on December 9, 2002


By continental rubbish, I take it you include French and Italian designers.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:17 AM on December 9, 2002


My wife recently returned a shirt to Lotte Department store (partially owned by the Japanese, probably the biggest of the upscale department chains) that she bought there 5 years ago and has been wearing since, regularly - because the collar had begun to fray, and they replaced it!

This sounds like Nordstroms. The family that owns Nordstroms has had a long-standing policy of taking back returns (sans receipt) with no questions asked. So, for example, when my 4-year-old refused to wear a pair of red shoes because "they hurt" I took them back after a couple of months. They had obviously been worn, but the sales clerk cheerfully refunded the money. Rumor has it that they have been known to take back items that were purchased elsewhere.

This in sharp contrast to the newly instituted, draconian return policies of Target. If you return an item there after it has gone on sale, you will only get the sale price refunded to you-- even though the required sales receipt shows that you paid full price. Something to think about, when you are shopping for Christmas gifts.

And by the way, we do have communal dressing rooms in the states. You will find them in the garment districts of LA and NYC.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:21 AM on December 9, 2002


Summer? Is that really you?
posted by taz at 7:23 AM on December 9, 2002


Summer: true, I forgot UK. Let me amend my original statement. The UK market, especially London, is more American than America itself (high wages, very competitve chains, very efficient supply-chains).

On preview: Zara and H&M (definitely for Zara, less sure about H&M) have taken the Gap model and applied it to Europe (private label clothes, one-off lines, upscale marketing/advertising with low-end prices). Trouble is they don't have the competition Gap has, so their quality is actually inferior (London and Paris are about the only cities I've seen all 3 chains). And BTW, I don't think French Connection UK (British chain trying to sound French, and well, vulgar) is that much better. Or Marks & Spencer for that matter.
posted by costas at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2002


Yes, I was surprised too. Though I of course realize British Home Stores, C&A, Marks and Spencer, Burtons, TopShop and Miss Selfridge are the epitome of cool. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2002


No, it's my evil twin.
posted by Summer at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2002


"You expect too much."

Well, have a nice day.
posted by four panels at 7:41 AM on December 9, 2002


And BTW, I don't think French Connection UK (British chain trying to sound French, and well, vulgar) is that much better. Or Marks & Spencer for that matter.

*gasp*

Though I of course realize British Home Stores, C&A, Marks and Spencer, Burtons, TopShop and Miss Selfridge are the epitome of cool. ;)

*gasp*

Actually C&A is no more Miguel. I don't think Burtons is around either. BHS has had a makeover at the hands of Terence Conran. And Top Shop and Miss Selfridge have become the high street homes of the fashionistas. You really should read more glossy women's mags.
posted by Summer at 7:42 AM on December 9, 2002


*sulk*
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:47 AM on December 9, 2002


It's a funny thing. Admittedly, I haven't spent a great deal of time outside of the USA.

I did spend three months in France, though, and got along just fine. I was downriver of Nantes which is not really a touristy area. Maybe that helped.

American stereotype says that French people are supposed to be rude, and I found everyone I met fairly normal - certainly no more brusque or condescending than your average New Yorker (I don't find New Yorkers rude either, though, so maybe I'm just thickskinned). I didn't find people in shops particularly difficult to deal with - I would walk in, generally knowing what I wanted, select it, and purchase with as close to correct change as I could manage - the same way I shop in the USA.

There's no question everyone I spoke to knew I am American - I have a very thick (though intelligible) accent.

The few times I needed extensive customer service (explaining the symptoms of a cold to a pharmacist and figuring out my european shoe size), I found my standard apologetic/befuddled "Could you help me out, I'm a bit adrift" posture worked fine.

I wonder how many cultural clashes come from the attitude of the person telling the story. If you're friendly and considerate, people are usually friendly and considerate back. (Oddly, my British friends in France thought that attitude was very American of me...)
posted by Karmakaze at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2002


Actually, just hold on one second.

On preview: Zara and H&M (definitely for Zara, less sure about H&M) have taken the Gap model and applied it to Europe (private label clothes, one-off lines, upscale marketing/advertising with low-end prices). Trouble is they don't have the competition Gap has, so their quality is actually inferior (London and Paris are about the only cities I've seen all 3 chains). And BTW, I don't think French Connection UK (British chain trying to sound French, and well, vulgar) is that much better. Or Marks & Spencer for that matter.

Right. Now this is a subject I know something about.

The quality of Zara and H&M is definitely inferior to Gap, but their market is completely different. I don't know about the US, but in the UK the Gap isn't particularly cheap. Certainly nothing near the basement prices of H&M, Top Shop, Mango etc.

H&M and Zara appeals to very fashion conscious but very poor young women. I would argue that the quality and price is lower not because of the lack of competition (there's absolutely loads of cheap fashionable clothes in London) but because they're trying to bring catwalk fashion to people with only pocket money to spend (18 yrs old and under). The clothes are designed to be worn for one season only then discarded.

The Gap appeals to - er, I'm not quite sure actually, but not the same people. Youngish professionals I would have thought. Gap clothes aren't as instant and fashionable as Zara etc. They're basics: jeans, fleeces, jumpers, jackets. You're not going to find this years' floaty, ribbony, mesh goth tops in Gap.

French Connection is NOT vulgar and it's not cheap. It's bloody pricey. Marks and Spencer is a historical anomaly from which we can learn nothing.
posted by Summer at 7:57 AM on December 9, 2002


Summer: "vulgar" was referring to the acronym (FCUK), not the stores themselves, sorry. And if anything, FCUK is probably the historical anomaly among the other UK clothing chains :-)

On Gap: you're right, Gap in Europe is not cheap; they're also a bit more up-market than their US Stores (Banana Republic is their up-market chain there and Old Navy their low end). As for the differences in style that's more a matter of US/Europe style differences than a chain thing. I am curious to see how FCUK and Zara do state-side...
posted by costas at 8:05 AM on December 9, 2002


Boston's fruit and vegetable market (Fridays and Saturdays in Haymarket Square) has a "no-touching" rule that's almost a sport to defy-- the stuff is super cheap, but the vendors bag it so you're not entirely sure that you'll get good produce.

Old women love to surreptitiously squeeze stuff to guage its freshness, invariably prompting the vendor to yell (in a thick New England accent) "Lady! Lady! You gotta touch it, you don't wannit! Get outta here!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:06 AM on December 9, 2002


dammit, miguel, you talk too much. now haul yourself into MeTa.
posted by quonsar at 8:17 AM on December 9, 2002


I guess I'm one of those Americans which expects a certain experience when I go shopping.

If I am buying clothes, it's ok if there aren't a lot of people around. I'm very careful about not messing up the stacks, because I used to work in retail and I know it can be hard. However, for anyone who has shopped in Old Navy, you know those high-stacked shirts can be hard to get to.

If I am buying anything worth anything, ie. electronics, then I would like someone to be on hand, but only because they usually lock those items up, and I hate having to wait around for 15 minutes while the clerk is doing something else to get my item.

I do expect the cashiers to be nice, and if not cheerful, at least not indignant. I am not the one making them work on their day off, so don't take it out on me, please. I am usually very talkative with the cashiers during the transaction, but once it has been completed, I move on.

Fact is, in America, your money does buy you the ability to control stores to some effect. Mostly because of the options. If you want a television, there is more than one place, usually within 1 mile, to go to. Same goes for most anything else.

But the fact is, I rarely get bad service in stores, except for lines, which is to be expected sometimes. If I ask for help, I get it. And on the few times where the staff would rather have a conversation than help me, a quick chat with the manager has turned that right around.
posted by benjh at 8:18 AM on December 9, 2002


Security guards hanging round the entrances to shops. Yes, make me feel like a criminal just for looking at your produce.
posted by Summer at 8:30 AM on December 9, 2002


Having both shopped in Italy and worked retail at the Gap, I may be coming from a rather biased perspective in saying that the "surly customers, friendly workers" model just might be true for American mass retailers. I've never understood the almost misanthropic aversion some customers have to even the most politely distant of greetings, and the fawning attention other customers demand. Especially at stores like the Gap, so many people don't seem to realize that the sales staff really doesn't want to waste any effort encouraging you to buy anything against your will. I can understand this fear when you're shopping at a mall store where the sales staff works on commission and won't leave you alone. A good percentage of people actually physically recoil when a sales associate approaches them to ask, "Can I help you find anything?" And an equally healthy number presume that the sales associates become their personal shopping assistants when they ask that question. It's very easy to differentiate those who are frequent casual shoppers and former retail workers from that guy who buys one pair of standard fit jeans every 10 years and goes into fight-or-flight mode when a salesman walks his way. Customers with retail experience always manage to get better treatment because they reciprocate, treating workers and displays with a modicum of respect. Not flipping wantonly through a pile of immaculately folded cardigans translates to a sales worker making more than a token effort to find that sweater in your size in the stockroom.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:42 AM on December 9, 2002


how is that any less disconcerting than Wal-mart "greeters"?

It's probably not. I've never been to a Wal-mart - I think the cancer started growing after I left N America...


If I might insert a comment...

Having shopped at Walmart and in the stores in Korea, it is difficult to compare the two. At Walmart, you have someone saying hello and offering you a cart. Very polite. In Korea, you feel as if that person's entire existence and reason for being is to serve you. A different level and feeling altogether.

stavrosthewonderchicken: Your wife shops at the Lotte? Maybe drinks should be on you when I get back. :-)
posted by Baesen at 8:53 AM on December 9, 2002


"This is a local shop for local people, there's nothing for you here". Based (apparently) on a Brighton gift shop the League of Gentlemen does for small retailing what Fawlty Towers did for Bed & Breakfast.

Miguel, try the Lisbon 'Port Wine Institute' - wonderful menu, no stock. It is (or was) a straight lift from the Monty Python 'Cheese Shop'.
posted by grahamwell at 9:03 AM on December 9, 2002


In America we get store employees who think they have the power to detain you in the store until they've pawed through the possessions you just purchased (your possessions) to prove to their satisfaction that you're not a thief.
posted by NortonDC at 9:09 AM on December 9, 2002


We have cameras. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:23 AM on December 9, 2002


Back to the article...

Sooo, a Canadian lady goes shopping in a different country on a different continent & has a different 'experience' that she would back home. Crikey!
posted by i_cola at 9:28 AM on December 9, 2002


What kind of depraved shop has communal fitting rooms?

Wasn't all that long ago that Filene's Basement in Boston didn't even have women's fitting rooms, so you'd see all these women in their underwear trying on clothes right on the store floor.

My Mother's Dresses (The Atlantic, Jan. 2001):

"Basement veterans both (she had shopped there with her own mother), we were accustomed to simply parking ourselves next to a mirror amid the clothing racks and the other shoppers and trying things on in the open. ... When one of us was caught contorted in an ill-fitting garment, at risk of exposing more than mere shoulders, the other would stand with her coat spread wide as a shield. "

posted by agaffin at 9:30 AM on December 9, 2002


Hordes of incredibly rude/obnoxious tourists pass through Rome (Venice, Florence) during the year - 20x to 30x the native populations of the cities - regrettably (surprise surprise) many of these are North Americans. Many behave like they own the stores, although they are traveling on shoestring budgets and don't plan on spending a penny. They leave behind a huge mess in addition to wasting the storekeepers time while they are in the shop. I don't blame the storekeepers one bit . It's a rational economic decision. They make a judgement on whom will buy, and are polite those potential customers, increasing the "economic return on politeness". Being rude will make sure non-paying customers and their non-paying friends don't return to waste more of the storekeepers precious time
posted by Voyageman at 9:45 AM on December 9, 2002


Voyageman, you are in Rome? How do the locals feel about their own shopping experiences there?
posted by taz at 10:04 AM on December 9, 2002


From the article, it sounds like the arrogance of the Ugly American tourist shopper is actually having a beneficial effect for local Europeans who suffer this sort of shopping experience. Yay, us!
posted by rushmc at 10:21 AM on December 9, 2002


...earning my custom.--adamgreenfield

[OT] Reason to appreciate MetaFilter #14519: Learn FUN, new ways to say things.
posted by jaronson at 10:32 AM on December 9, 2002


I think the fundamental difference between shopping experiences in Europe (lived here 4 years) and the US (lived there 29 years) is that Americans shop as entertainment, Europeans shop because they need things. Couple this with the fact that the vast majority of Americans have jobs that they hate and where they are treated like crap in an awesome variety of ways (anybody ever have to do a humilating job review to bitterly argue for your promised bonus and then not get the bonus anyway?) causes them to expect to be fawned over when they shop in stores, eat in restaurants, drink in bars etc.
That huffy threat of "I´m going to spend my money elsewhere!" actually carries some weight there. However, in Europe, most workers could care less where you spend your money, and if you go into a store with an attitude that you are somehow more important than the sales clerk, they are more likely than not to tell you to f*ck off.

Civility is a good thing, I think.
posted by sic at 12:11 PM on December 9, 2002


Hordes of incredibly rude/obnoxious tourists pass through Rome (Venice, Florence) during the year - 20x to 30x the native populations of the cities - regrettably (surprise surprise) many of these are North Americans.

Where I live, in South Florida, we welcome tourists, obnoxious or not. We get lots of polite Canadians this time of year. Also many Germans and Brits. Latin Americans by the planeful. And snowbirds from the northern states. Oh, we year-round residents grumble among ourselves about the clogged streets this time of year, and how you can't go to your favorite restaurant during tourist season without waiting for a table. But we don't complain to the tourists. Perhaps that's why so many people visit South Florida -- we're not ungrateful assholes who overgeneralize about entire continents of people.

Please visit Florida and stay away from Europe. We'll treat you nice.
posted by Holden at 12:28 PM on December 9, 2002


In America we get store employees who think they have the power to detain you in the store until they've pawed through the possessions you just purchased (your possessions) to prove to their satisfaction that you're not a thief.

I once read about a guy who carried around a stack of his lawyer's business cards, and handed them to the employees who guard the exits at Fry's when they asked to see his receipt. Apparently that was generally enough for them; on those rare occasions when it wasn't, he calmly explained that ownership changes hands the moment money changes hands, and if they wanted to search his bags they'd need to call security and formally detain him. He said they never went through with it.

I haven't yet had the guts to try this myself, but it's tempting, to say the least.
posted by Acetylene at 12:30 PM on December 9, 2002


Well, a little late to post but I was surprised to see no mention of bridal gown shopping from the ladies of MeFi.

Having somewhat recently been through the harrowing experience, this article finally explained all the strange shopping practices I came across. It's European, so it's better, which can describe 80% of the sales strategy of the bridal industry.

While some if not most bridal gown sellers are switching to the American idea of the buyer being able to see all the merchandise, there is certainly still the air of, "Look, I'm doing you a FAVOR by pretending to help you find a dress while you paw through them." And there are still plenty of stores that will not let you see the gowns, but you must describe what you want and they bring out the ones they think you'd like (and can afford, based on the size of your engagement ring (if you have one) and the clothes you wear.)

I certianly don't mean to hijack the thread, but though this an interesting aside to the phenomenon of "American" vs. "European" shopping experiences.
posted by absquatulate at 1:14 PM on December 9, 2002


Taz- I'm not in Rome but I have lived there. Locals (that spend) are treated well, as are tourists (that spend). However, its common practice to mark-up tourist prices - eg, at most restaurants in Venice, expect to pay 30%+ more if you are not Venetian- referred to as the "sconto Veneziano."
posted by Voyageman at 2:31 PM on December 9, 2002


In America we get store employees who think they have the power to detain you in the store until they've pawed through the possessions you just purchased (your possessions) to prove to their satisfaction that you're not a thief.

We have cameras. ;)


We have both :-( I find that, if you sail out of the store without making eye contact and firmly looking the other way, you can often avoid the staff pawing your belongings (not always though). I have now found a new weapon in this war - a very small baby in the stroller (bags at bottom of stroller). Used as such - " if you wake him up, you will have to breast-feed him" Has worked every time so far :-)
posted by dg at 3:16 PM on December 9, 2002


this was a fascinating read for me, a humble clerk in a bookstore in a busy mall in arizona during the holiday shopping season. so thanks.

i rather like the way the bookstore i work in is set up. the employees have posts (other than the registers), clearly marked as information desks, where we loiter until our assistance is requested. this time of year, we rarely loiter and usually are assisting.

if customers know what they want and can find it, they need not bother with an employee until they reach the register. if customers know what they want but can't find it, they come to me and i, in turn, armed with a computerized inventory and couple years' knowledge of the stock, can help them find it.

if customers don't know what they want and have come to the store to find it anyway, they come to us....and that's when times get crazy and folks find the essential leonard cohen, an ann landers book, and the guide to getting it on under the tree.
posted by carsonb at 3:16 PM on December 9, 2002


"...the guide to getting it on under the tree"

I'd buy that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:35 PM on December 9, 2002


*books plane to bookstore in Arizona where carsonb works*
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:36 PM on December 9, 2002


re: Filene's Basement in Boston

The main department store part, i.e., Filene's Department Store, has changing rooms. The "basement" (which perhaps shouldn't be in quotes because it IS the basement) has changing rooms for the expensive clothing section: a separate, glassed-in area with discount designer clothing, suits, gowns, leather coats, etc. It's rock-bottom prices on old clothes, frequented by people looking for bargains, so most people are willing to put aside the inconvenience of not being able to try on the clothing. Others have simply figured out the technique of wearing thin, tight shirts and pants so you can try the clothes on in the aisles themselves.

None of this can compare, however, to the anarchy that is the Garmant District over the river in Cambridge. A dollar a pound for clothing and madness ensues. If you want to see the depths of shopping depravity, check it out on a weekend. I'm not just talking about hiding good clothes under crappy ones. There are fights -- real fist-fights -- at least once a month.

And a more on-topic observation, particular to Boston: if you frequent the smaller stores, you tend to get better service. Not "better", "Hi-my-name-is-John-would-you-like-some-help-finding-something" Walmart service, either. Check out the North End when you're in town, and you'll see what I mean. There isn't a single department store or large chain grocery store in the entire area. Not one. There's a CVS Pharmacy, but that's probably a Good Thing (tm).

At my local corner store (we call 'em "packies" in Boston) the owner stocks my favorite flavor of ice cream just because I once asked him if he ever had it in. That was two years ago, and every week since I can always find it among the stacks of more common varieties. THAT'S service with a smile. Try that shit at Walmart and they'll just shrug and say, "Look, if you don't see it here, we don't have it." When you go into a smaller business, the guy behind the counter is usually the owner. I once read that real power isn't in being able to say "No" or "Can't", it instead lies within "Yes" or "I Will". You think GAP employees have any power over the store's stock in merchandise? Do yourself a favor and shop locally.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:46 PM on December 9, 2002


I'm surprised no-one's yet mentioned the discomfiting experience of being addressed by name by checkers at Safeway (large US grocery chain). it's their policy that if they can guess even part of your name (on a check, debit card, etc.) then they address you buy it.

as a woman, it can be an interesting Rorshach of how one appears to the clerk. I've been call Miss Nelson, Ms. Nelson, and Mrs. Nelson. (ack! that's my mother!)
posted by epersonae at 4:24 PM on December 9, 2002


"I'm surprised no-one's yet mentioned the discomfiting experience of being addressed by name by checkers at Safeway "

It's not just Safeway. Sam's Club actually has signs on their checkstands with dollar bills taped to them, promising that you, the customer, can take the dollar if the checker fails to thank you by name. I hate, hate, hate that policy. If I wanted a checker to call me by my first name, I'd befriend one.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:33 PM on December 9, 2002


What kind of depraved shop has communal fitting rooms?

have none of you ever gone to a gym? Or been in a play? Are communal dressing rooms really that scary? If you ever go to public beaches, you've basically stood around in your underwear with strangers of both genders, so what's the big deal changing near others of your own gender? Not like they're really paying attention to you anyway.

posted by mdn at 5:03 PM on December 9, 2002


the discomfiting experience of being addressed by name by checkers at Safeway

I hate, hate, hate that policy.

Hear frickity hear, mr_crash_davis! This asinine practice actually makes the shopping experience LESS enjoyable, at least it does for me. I usually huff out a sigh as they stumble over my hard-to-pronounce last name, then I'm all "yes, fine, thank you" as I practically snatch my card back. Blech.
posted by boomchicka at 6:04 PM on December 9, 2002


I once read that real power isn't in being able to say "No" or "Can't", it instead lies within "Yes" or "I Will".

Too true. A restatement of the old saw, "It's easier to destroy than to create," which seems to me the defining expression of the modern era.
posted by rushmc at 7:20 PM on December 9, 2002


If I wanted a checker to call me by my first name, I'd befriend one.

Damn right! And it's not just checkers, it's everyone. When did people stop using last names? I try to get my own back with doctors by addressing them in return as "Joe" rather than "Dr. X," but it doesn't faze them -- Joe's happy as hell to be treated like my old college buddy.

carsonb: That takes me back to my days as a bookstore slave. I did my best to help people, but sometimes I just couldn't take the idiot questions. Once someone came up to me as I was standing by the stairs leading down to the sale basement (or "main floor" as we were supposed to call it for perverse p.r. reasons) and asked "Are these the stairs to the basement?" I couldn't stand it; I said "No sir, those are the stairs to the attic," and fled.
posted by languagehat at 8:58 PM on December 9, 2002


Kind of a meta-comment: the original topic of the link was a comparison of America Shopping vis-a-vis European shopping. Well, Miguel posted the article at European working hours and us Euro-MeFites got on and mostly complained about European shopping and how we would rather deal with American retailers. Then a bit later, we all went to bed and US MeFites got on and complained about too-friendly American retail. I wonder if there's a happy medium somewhere...
posted by costas at 2:45 AM on December 10, 2002


have none of you ever gone to a gym? Or been in a play? Are communal dressing rooms really that scary?

No no, you don't understand. What do you think it looks like if the jeans you've selected don't come up past your bulging thighs or if that little floaty top practically rips in two when you try and get it over your tits? Have you ever been stared at in judgement by ten 18-yr-old girls? (Since you left school I mean).
posted by Summer at 3:12 AM on December 10, 2002


the discomfiting experience of being addressed by name by checkers at Safeway

I hate, hate, hate that policy.


Full agreement here. I get it all the time at Sam's. The first time it happened, I looked at them funny, and said, "um, did we go to school together? or work together? I can't remember you for the life of me..." not thinking they were just reading my membership card. I mean, if a checker is calling me "Benjamin" (which, btw, hardly anybody calls me by my full name), then I must know them, right? At least that didn't try to call me by my often-mispronounced last name. Note to store executives: this does not make the shopping experience better. At best, it makes it more uncomfortable.
posted by benjh at 5:05 AM on December 10, 2002


Holden - about S Florida, maybe you guys are nice because you are living in Palm Beach. Go further south, where I grew up and am happy never to return, I think it may be different (well, I'd probably agree to not saying anything to the tourists themselves). Florida had to change the rental car license plates as you could easily tell who was a tourist and they'd be targeted for crimes. I'd say that's a great way to show how you like them ;-) As for the Canadians, we hated when they came as they drove like crap and they weren't very nice. Oh, and we joked that the Quebec plates read "Sell me souvenirs."

As for shopping, I personally can't stand it when all the people working there cheerfully say hi and such. I don't know why it bothers me so much, but I think a lot of it is my attitude that if you don't mean it don't say it. And I don't think they really mean the nice things they say. I'm not talking about the can I help you, but when you arrive and leave they talk to you like you're friends (how are you doing today; have a great day). And no, I don't get the how you doing as another way to say hello. Again, if you really don't want to hear how someone is doing, why are you asking? (It's taken me a very long time to not tell people how I was really doing!)

Here in N Virginia the Safeway checkers say Mr/Ms Last Name. I don't mind that. I'd agree with you though if they called me by my first name.
posted by evening at 5:47 AM on December 10, 2002


"Have you ever been stared at in judgement by ten 18-yr-old girls?"

Oh, if only!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:37 AM on December 10, 2002


What do you think it looks like if the jeans you've selected don't come up past your bulging thighs or if that little floaty top practically rips in two when you try and get it over your tits?

it looks like... you picked the wrong size! heaven forfend!

Have you ever been stared at in judgement by ten 18-yr-old girls? (Since you left school I mean).

Either you're paranoid or I'm oblivious re: judgmental throngs of teenagers who give a shit about anyone not within their own peer group - but if they're out there scoping out full grown women to cast disapproving glances toward them when they choose the wrong size to try on in the dressing room: WHO CARES?
posted by mdn at 11:40 AM on December 10, 2002


Summer said: And Top Shop and Miss Selfridge have become the high street homes of the fashionistas.

That's bizarre. I thought Gucci and Armani were where all the London fashionistas went. Oh! You mean Poxyford Street, not Bond Street? Oh well, there's a Gap on Oxford Circus y'know!
posted by wackybrit at 9:35 PM on December 10, 2002


Wackybrit, you really don't have a clue what you're talking about.
posted by Summer at 5:51 AM on December 12, 2002


mdn: I'm glad you're so oblivious to the opinions of your peers. Back in the real world....
posted by Summer at 5:52 AM on December 12, 2002


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