14 June 2010

How Difficult Can It Be to Spend $1000?

I use $1000 (rather than euros or pounds) because it seems more impressive but it didn’t impress the French!

Those of you who have been religiously following my blog will know that these last few weeks, I have been hemorrhaging cash. Bills galore, new washing machine, multiple lunches and dinners out, electrician’s bills and finally having to buy a new debroussailleuse – let’s call it a Stihl from now on cause I never get the debrous….. spelling correct. The Stihl is a bushcutter or industrial strimmer and a new one costs - yup - $1000 or €750.

You’ll also know that I stupidly left my previous debrous, sorry Stihl out in the rain and had to take it down to the repair shop. That was the start of the story.

Franck, as I came to know him later, looked at what on the face of it was a fairly new machine (it was actually about 6 years old but well maintained), took my telephone number and said he’d call when he’d had had a look at it. One week later with no call, I went back down to Gamm Vert (a garden centre which also does hay and stuff for horses etc and it also has a repair workshop) and asked Franck about my Stihl. He shook his head, said the engine was ‘kaput’ and it would cost about €300-€400 to fix it. He somewhat justified this fee by showing me a new engine block with a €195 price tag on it and said by the time he’d spent several hours on the machine, it would not be worth it – I should buy a new one. He invited me to follow him upstairs into the shop and showed me the new Stihl bushcutters.

‘What size is your land’, he asked. I got a bit confused and instead of saying ‘5,000 square metres’, I said, ‘500,000 square metres’. He was just about to take me to the tractor section when I realized my mistake and corrected myself. ‘You’ll need the FS 400 then’, he said and added that, ‘if you trade your old machine in we’ll give you €200 off the price of a new one.’

Always suspicious of French tradesmen, retailers, doctors, dentists and anybody really who speaks with a French accent, I said I’d think about it, took my old machine back, stuck it in the garage and pondered for a week, in which time the grass was starting to get so thick that it was difficult to see Shadow when he was in it looking for his mouldy, old buried bones.

In that week, I considered trying to fix my Stihl myself but realized that I’d still have to pay out over €200 in parts and would probably be left with bits left over and eventually came to the conclusion that I was a tight git and should just go and buy a new one. But what if my Stihl was really ok and they just wanted to sell me a new one? Anyway, after much soul-searching, I adopted the Julie Hellon-Evans-Cupples approach to replacing things. If the washing machine filter is clogged up with hairs, don’t bother cleaning it, just order a new machine !!!

So on Friday morning, plastic card in hand and old Stihl in the car, I went back to Gamm Vert. Despite a large queue at one of the cash desks, a lady was sitting staring at the roof at a closed ‘caisse’. ‘I’d like to buy a Debroussailleuse please’, I said.

You’ll need Franck for that.

And where’s Franck?

He’s up the back somewhere.

I go looking for Franck and come across a guy I had talked to during the week when I’d popped in to check prices etc. I’d asked him the following question: ‘If the Stihl FS400 without discount is €859, why is the larger more powerful Stihl FS450 only €799?’

Fifteen minutes later there were about 6 guys gathered around the Stihl stand all arguing furiously about my question. When they’d finished, I asked, ‘Well then?’ They shook their heads and dispersed.

Before the last ‘assistant’ vanished, I asked him where Franck was. ‘Downstairs in the workshop’, was the reply.

I got to the workshop and assumed the greasy, mechanic looking guy who had declared my old Stihl ‘kaput’, was Franck.

‘Are you Franck?’. He was bending over another customer’s Stihl trying to get it started.

‘Oui’ - without looking up.

I waited and waited. I talked to the guy whose machine was being ‘serviced’ by Franck and not once did Franck look up. Eventually I wandered off into the office and spotted a guy who had Patrick on his namebadge – ‘I want to buy a Stihl’.

What size is your land?

Never mind that, I know exactly what type of machine I need.

Oh – you’ll need to speak to Joe then.

Where’s Joe?

‘He’s in the storeroom’, and as we walk towards it, Joe comes out.

This person wishes to buy a Stihl FS400.

Joe – what size is your land?

Never mind that. I want an FS400. Here’s my old FS450 now can I please buy an FS400. Please.

OK. OK. I’ll go and get one. You do realize that the €659 price is after discount?

Yes – now can I have an FS400 please.

He gets the box and spends 20 minutes building the machine for me. Eventually he gets to the point where he has to test it, but stops.

‘What’s the matter’, I ask.

Joe - I’m not allowed to start the machines. Health and Safety you know.

So who does start the machines?

Ah - that’ll be Franck.

Ah Franck. Can you go and get him then.

Can’t – he’s on his coffee break now. He’ll be back in 20 minutes.


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