Sunday, June 15, 2014


One of the many strange things that foreigners notice about shopping in the USA is just how willing shops are to exchange goods.  One can buy something and take it back a few days, or sometimes even weeks, later and get a full refund.  There is no need to give any reason, and the clerk will never even raise an eyebrow.  I find this even more surprising when I am shopping after New Year or an High Scholl prom. and see the number of dresses being returned often with imaginatively created excuses just to try and add some credibility to a patent scam.

As a Brit I still find it rather hard to exchange things even with a legitimate excuse, like missing part or failure to work, after all shouldn’t I have checked it first?

Anyway, there is no such difficulty here in Atyrau.  I remain intriguingly perplexed by the process of buying hardware.  I only really bought food (and the eggs are checked) and the occasional glass or bowl, which are also carefully checked.  Until a few weeks ago I had not made an electrical purchase, and when I did I was surprised to find that there was a special “check product” desk to go to before the “check out” desk.  Here the goods are carefully unpacked and plugged in and put through the paces.  I have only bought a blender and a coffee grinder so this was quite straight forward, except putting the items back in the box so the fit seemed to be as impossible as doing Rubric’s Cube and took just as long.  

I have seen the attendants struggling with large screen TVs and other large appliances, and am still wondering if it is worth buying a lawn mower to see how that works!

Anyway, today would be simple.  I was going to buy a loaf tin and I needed one small enough to fit my egg and pork pie filling in. More of that maybe later.  I had no luck at the first store which sold household goods, including pots and pans but not loaf tins.  So I headed to the electronics store as I seemed to recall seeing non-electric household wares there.  Bingo! A choice of three loaf tins. 

I chose one and headed to the checkout, except it wasn’t the checkout.  There was a counter and a girl and a till, but she looked at me as if I was offering her a wet fish.  Then I realized that I was at the quality checking counter not the pay desk, and the was not much electrical inspection to do for a loaf tin.  I made a quick recovery, spotted and headed to the cashier and place the tin on her counter.  But before I could even blink it was whisked away by another attendant who took it away to another place and another desk.  But he was clearly a critical part of the process because he had a small printed slip of paper and was recording serial numbers and the like on it in a neat hand written script.  I was then presented with the slip and directed back to the cashier.  No loaf tin yet.  After paying the cashier he arrived with the tin and it was placed in a bag and handed to me with the receipt.  I put the receipt in the bag and took the two steps to the exit door.  There I was stopped by another assistant, who was sitting on a chair by the door and who had been watching this whole saga.  He needed my receipt, so I gave it to him and he proceeded to give it a very official looking stamp, before sending me off…the proud owner of a new $16 loaf tin.
Oh! And just for the record it was a perfect size for my pie.