I stopped drinking alcohol many years ago. More recently I stopped smoking too. But I do like coffee.
Naturally I still have other obsessions as well as coffee: motorcycles, and shopping for example.
Of the latter I am keen on quality and service; yet my wife quails and will not take me shopping in supermarkets.
It’s true that Security were called whilst I was complaining about the quality of shoe repairs in a Heel Bar in our local shopping arcade (that’s a mall for non-English readers) My wife was there on that occasion to save me from the headlines. “Staines pensioner runs amok in heel bar – says shoe menders should get more training”
However, I am explaining how to buy coffee filters in Kiev. We ran out of them in the office today; this evening I went to buy some more.
At first sight this may seem a simple task; however, I have been previously observed roaming Ukrainian supermarkets late at night growling as I look for filters. I growl because there is a huge range of very expensive types of coffee, but nary a filter to be seen. Now I can use kitchen towel or even toilet paper in a pinch … but .. well the staff don’t like it.
Meantime my Ukrainian business partner has been trying to buy a new kitchen for her apartment for a year or so and knows a thing or two; she said she had seen coffee filters for sale in a construction supermarket.
Don’t ask – but it was it was true. On the first floor of this huge construction DIY hypermarket - at least the size of the Arsenal’s football pitch - we found a single, previously opened pack of Melitta bleached white coffee filters. I took ownership of the entire stock of one. I had cornered the coffee filter market in Ukraine. And my business partner had only had to ask 3 assistants, separately, on where to find them. Not that the assistants knew – with impressive logic my business partner’s daughter actually found them behind a large heavily chromed restaurant sized espresso machine.
Cash only sales of concrete mixers and 2 metre high diesel generators abound on the ground floor, but here, plastic flowers, nylon tents and coffee makers.
But then things took a turn for the worse.
One of the aforementioned sales assistants had mentioned that they might have seen a filter box on the ground floor – but as it wasn’t her department she could not be sure. Somewhere, she thought, between cement and rubbish collection equipment.
Fortunately for all concerned, I know everything. So I thought if we asked someone to check the stock on their computer we could buy more filters, should they have them, and save the time, trouble, petrol and hassle of having to do this again next month.
At the inquiry desk, surrounded by half a dozen workshy (or perhaps simply tired like me) shelf stackers they confirmed they did indeed have another 13 boxes in store.
The number should have alerted me.
I searched. My business partner and her daughter searched. We found nothing.
Which is why, at 10.30 at night, in this surreal construction hypermarket I was both seen and heard speaking perfect, clearly enunciated and very loud English to flustered Ukrainian construction materiel sales assistants explaining how in my country, if a customer cannot find something the staff lead them to it.
Picture the mind of the assistant – an aged foreigner is grabbing her by the arm, thrusting a box of Melitta filters in her face and sobbing in strange language. (I was clearly saying lead to me the filters, please)
Not getting the required action or co-operation, and having assaulted one member of staff I started on another who, until that moment had been a mere bystander observing the finer points of gracious English behaviour.
He had the good sense to grab the filter box and leg it away down the aisles glancing fearfully over his shoulder as the aged foreigner, his business partner and her daughter galloping after him shouting filters, filters.
He went to ground behind a stack of cleaning equipment but as we stalked him, closing from two directions simultaneously - HOORAH – the remaining filter boxes were sighted.
My business partner’s daughter (neither of whom wish to be named as being party to this incident) quickly sorted two unopened boxes, whilst I straightened my tie, said thank you to anyone in earshot and strolled calmly to the checkout.
Fortunately I wasn’t arrested for assault; but this is only because customer service is so generally non-existent that staff weren’t aware that this behaviour was in anyway aberrant.
Hmmm. I’m thinking about the tumble dryer installers and wondering if there’s a pattern here.
But fear not, on the morrow the coffee will be freshly brewed and the customer remains, in his own mind at least, king.