Not Buying in the Grand Bazaar

IMG_3138Shopping is not something that I would ever regard as a leisure activity, but on trips to new places it is always fascinating to see what is on offer, for the insights it affords to the life of the country I’m visiting.  It’s therefore usually more interesting to look at the stock in a supermarket or a local food shop, than to check out all the souvenir stalls in the world.

But sometimes it just feels like a duty to try to play the dedicated tourist and look at the cornucopia of brightly coloured knick-knackery and assorted stuff, the cheap reproductions of the country’s cultural and historic highlights that are laid out to tempt us into making a direct and generous contribution to the local economy.

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is on every self respecting tourist guidebook’s list of the ‘must see’, and, as it was within walking distance of our hotel, there was no real excuse not comply and go and look.  And there-in lies the rub.  It’s impossible just to look in the Bazaar.  As soon as your pace slows when a particularly bright geegaw catches your eye, up jumps the stall holder to ‘just ask you a question’, or point out each of the twenty five colours in which the bibelot can be bought, as if you couldn’t already see each and every one for yourself.

It’s a cultural difference, I acknowledge that.  I’m a standoffish Brit, who wants to look at the merchandise quietly, know how much it will cost, and only engage in the the briefest of conversations.  The surest way to guarantee that I won’t buy anything is for the stall holder to bombard me with a deluge of words, a litany of goods on display,  to demand that I come into his shop, or to fire questions at me.  You’ll understand then that my purchases were very modest, and only from a man who stood beside me in silence while I looked.  And his silence paid off, because after the first round of negotiation on price, I gave in, because haggling over money doesn’t appear anywhere on my list of pleasant things to do.

The Grand Bazaar was, however, well worth the visit, as the guidebooks might say, for its sheer size and the abundance of merchandise on  display; for the arches and domes in its construction and for the brilliance of the blue tiling, and the bright colours and intricate arrangements in many of the stalls.

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A Touch of Humbug

There are news reports this week that retail receipts in the High Street, especially in London’s West End, are poor for the Christmas season, and that once again we may not have to wait until the new year for the sales and price reductions to entice us into further spending.

I’m not a big shopper; I regard it as a chore rather than a leisure activity, and the sight of rows and rows of merchandise usually sends me straight back out of the door heading for a coffee.  You’ll not be surprised to learn that I, along with many others I suspect, have been an enthusiastic user of the internet for unavoidable shopping.  I left a few Christmas things a bit too late for delivery, so yesterday I hazarded a trip into the West End for a precision strike on a couple of shops.

After years of working in the area, I know most of the routes around, and from point to point, avoiding any need to walk along the hideousness of Oxford Street.  First stop was Marks and Spencer.

There are some things which are guaranteed to annoy me, but which I seem generally to forget about in between times.  This might sound like quite a good thing; but it also means that when I inadvertently put myself in the way of them, they aggravate me even more, because I forgot about the need to avoid them.  The Marks and Spencer shoe department is one of those things.  I wandered in there because I need some new slippers, as my old ones were soaked and beyond recovery after my recent domestic plumbing drama.

But as soon as I found the slippers, there it was, that thing that drives me mad.  The shoes are arranged on shelving stands, the small shoes on the top shelf, where the short people with little feet have to stand on tippy toes to be able to see them, while the large shoes, generally worn by taller people, are on the bottom shelf, meaning that in order to see them I would have to get down on my hands and knees.

No sale there then, and I’ll continue to use my British Airways issue slip-ons until they completely disintegrate.

And so I went to have a few moments respite and a cup of tea, only to be confronted by another pet hate.  The man sitting behind me slurped his way through a box of food, his face barely six inches from the table, his elbows splayed wide on the table.

Bah.

Sometimes, All I Want Is For It To Be Easy

I don’t really like shopping.  I listen with incredulity to people who talk about shopping as a leisure activity; for me it’s a real chore, and something I will generally put off as long as I can.

I particularly dislike shop changing rooms: they’re usually too hot, too brightly lit, and there’s always a lot of faffing about getting shoes and coats off, and then, if the assistants aren’t helpful, and they so rarely are, I have to get dressed again to fetch a different size when neither of the two options I selected the first time fit.

Try shopping online, I hear you cry.  Well that’s problematic too; taller, with longer arms and legs than average, it’s a lottery which rarely goes my way.  But, last year I had three pairs of jeans from the same shop for tall women, different styles, but all the same size, so I thought it was a safe bet to order some from them online.  I knew my size. right?

Wrong.

First of all I missed the post when the package was delivered, so had to take the ‘you were out’ card to the sorting officer to collect it….. It’s only a 15 minute walk, but it started pouring with rain when I was half way there, so by the time I got home, I was soaked through.

Then, they didn’t fit.

So, after all that, I ended up going to the shop to return them.

I put the packet on the counter.  ‘I ordered this pair of jeans online….’

‘And they don’t fit,’ the girl didn’t wait for me to finish.

‘I had three pairs in this size last year that fit fine.’

‘Oh they never keep them the same from one year to the next.’

‘Well that’s not very helpful, is it?’

‘What do you want?’

‘I’d like some jeans that fit, please.’

‘What style?’

‘Don’t care.’

‘What colour?’

‘Don’t care.’

She handed me two pairs.  And I had to go to the overheated, brightly lit and airless changing room, and go through the tiresome trying on ritual.  Both pairs fitted.

‘I’ll take them both, thanks.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes, please.’

‘I thought you were going to be difficult.’

‘No.  I just wanted it to be easy, and it wasn’t.’

It’s safe to say, it’s put me off trying online clothes shopping again any time soon.

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