Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Two Layers of Shoppers

Times have changed, said the shop keeper. There are now only 2 layers of travellers.  Those who have so much money that they can come into a store and buy anything they want, and those who buy the usual cheap tourist souvenirs.  The class of people who had two or three hundred dollars to spend is gone.  They were the middle class and they don’t exist in Europe anymore.  Some Canadians, Americans and Brits, but rarely do the European cruisers have that kind of money any more.

Wyona and I always look at bags, scarves and jewellery.  When Margaret’s husband said good-bye to her as she left for this holiday, one of his last words to her was, “I hope you don’t pick up any bad habits while you are gone.”  She hasn’t.  She picked up 2 scarves in Santorini and one on the boat – and that hardly counts as shopping.

“Holy Doodle”, she said when she saw the ring Wyona had purchased but and then offered to let me buy from her. Picking up a piece of jewellery is a significant investment of time; I was glad to be on the receiving end of that deal.   I just say yes. Yesterday at the end of a long day in Santorini, we stopped by some merchants who had 35 % or 50 % off of their rings and necklaces – the end of the season sale. 

Easy to tell it was the end of the season.  Many of the villas and hotels are already closed – really closed.  Plywood is nailed over their windows, no deck chairs are out, and their pools are empty. We didn’t take a ship excursion into town.  Wyona had read that if you go into the village at the other end of Fia, take the cable car to the top of the cliffs and then ride a local bus That way you can go to Oia (EE-yah) for €1.6: 4 euros up in the cable car, 4 down and 1.6 each way into town and out – a grand total of 11.2 euros for the day instead of 89 on a boat excursion.  Another significant saving would have been to walk to the top of the cliffs on the same trail that a donkey ride can also transport you to the top, the donkey ride being 4 euros – the same price as the cable car.

I can’t remember the last bus I rode where the bus fare is taken on the ride – except for those trips I take home from Sicamous and haven’t purchased a pre-paid ticket. Then I am all the way to Golden before I have to pay. Here the local ticket taker walks down the crowded isle, bills stuffed in one hand, a set of tickets he tears off in another and clenched between his hands is a set of 5 metals columns out of which he dispenses the correct change, should people give him bills.  “What do I want 30 centimes back from 3.50” said Wyona, “so I just whispered to him, ‘Keep the change.’  That is how my hand got an extra squeeze and a large smile from him.”

She did the same thing with her money to a clerk in a jewellery store in Athens.  A young 19 year old shopkeeper said to her on the street, “Come in.  I give you no hassle.” 

“No hassle?” she confirmed. 

“None ,” he said and he was true to her word.  He let her look around for more than an hour, just left her alone, though she had gathered information along the way that it was his brother’s shop (aged 32) and his uncle was somehow in the family business. 

When the bill was finally totaled up, for her it was tip time – to the younger shop keeper, even though the older brother and uncle had tried to hover around making the sale.  When he saw the size of the tip he ran to get her another “free” gift.  The tip may have been too much for him to comprehend.


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