Today I had a morning of chores. Pick up a birthday card, a sympathy card and lots of tonic water. Physio. Dog biscuits, fill the car with petrol.
My eldest daughter plays the violin. She enjoys it but it’s not the most serious of her loves. It needed new strings, and I remembered seeing a little shop just off the main drag of our high street.
It won’t be a stretch to reason that I like to support the local, the small and independent. I’ve never played the violin or any stringed instrument, so I was looking forward to getting some advice.
The shop is in a stretch of beautiful houses, maybe even original Tudor. Stooping to enter, it’s cool and dark. Rows of violins, bows and bow hairs hang around the room and a grandfather clock with the same resonance of the one of my childhood ticks in the corner. I felt a little unsure, maybe I was ticked off when I entered. I sat on a low chair whilst he helped a girl with a damaged violin, the Ralph Lauren logo evident on her pristine polo.
My turn: I proferred the violin, daftly. I have zero experience with strings, so maybe I was on edge a little. He opened the case, took a look. Yup, new strings. That’ll be £50.
Seriously? £50? The second hand instrument was £75, he became defensive. These are excellent quality, he said, you can get cheap Chinese ones if you like. I said I didn’t doubt the quality, but didn’t know really if I could afford these.
Many people where I live have Money. I am middle class but I have to plan and budget, and a £50 curveball wasn’t in my plan.
“Have we made a decision yet?”, he asked within 10 seconds. I hadn’t, I was weighing up the options. Could they really be £50? Would the time spent going somewhere else end up costing me hours in lost earnings so worth the pain of this? Surely there’s something even a little less prohibitive, for a learner, effectively with training wheels still on. “Have you got anything cheaper?”
“No.” He couldn’t be bothered with me. I wasn’t his type of customer. So, being me, I told him: that £50 takes me time to earn, that I don’t want to give someone like him my money. That he needn’t be so rude.
If someone tells you they can’t afford something, they are probaby being truthful. They may apply a different logic to what they perceive as value, but he was so rude and reminded me of the days when my husband and I were poor, when buying a box of tea hurt. His derision of me was mean, unnecessary and rude. Stuck in the time warp of his old shop, keeping those he doesn’t like away.
My husband ordered some strings online.