Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Yes, We Offer Nem Garancia, Nem Garancia

The only guarantees in life are death and taxes, but consumers hold out for a less limited supply than that. In Hungary, hope does not run eternal. Making a purchase here can be like playing the Lotto, you could have an instant win or an instant loss. Most items have a three day return policy, but after that you may be the proud owner of a lemon. I am not certain there are any lemon laws here; the economic climate does not seem suitable for their planting and nurturing.

Here is an example of my trials and tribulations of ex-pat life. School is starting next week. I decided that the jar of instant coffee I had hanging around my office had to go, so I looked around for a French press coffee pot. We had one, but lent it to someone one day never to see it again. I know now we should have insisted on a DNA sample from the borrower, but hindsight is 20/20.

The obvious place to shop for a new one, (any excuse to go), was Starbucks. Ah, yes, just as in the US, they have French press pots for sale at a whopping 6,530 Huf, well over $30. Too much money for a two cup model, there has to be better deals elsewhere. The hunt was on, but not aggressively, if I found one, I found one.

On my way to school is a store, part of a housewares chain. It is at one of these stores that I found my citrus reamer. When I popped in, there they were, gleaming stainless steel and glass French press pots, two or four cup sizes. Two cups - 6,500 Huf. Do they have a pact with Starbucks or what is the deal here? No way am spending that kind of money for one of those. As I was headed out of the store, I spotted more, these were plastic and glass. A two cup size - 950 Huf. Now that is something I could live with and bought it. Stopping in at another store, I bought ground coffee and then headed to my office ready for my caffeine mojo to bring it on.

As I unpack the pot, I hear little clinking sounds as I feel something pass by me on the way to the floor. The entire top of the pot where the plunger is is broken to ragged bits. Overwhelmed with caffeine withdrawal disappointment, I have to decide whether 950 Huf ($4.25) are worth my returning it or just buying a new one. Here is the dilemma. If I were in the US, I would do it in a heartbeat. Here, there is the culture thing, the language thing, both combined create the inhibition thing. After rehearsing the question "Are you a man or a mouse?" repeatedly, I stopped when 'man' received more votes than 'mouse' and headed out the door before I morphed again.

Thankfully, there was no one in the store when I returned. The same cashier was still in her position speaking to another employee. Armed with my receipt in hand, I said "törött". Well, in truth I said "broken" because I had no idea what to say. Either way, I barely uttered a vowel when the woman said "Nem Garancia, Nem Garancia!" I was not asking for any guarantee that this was going to produce award winning cups of coffee, I just wanted a product that was not broken. Acting like I did not understand, I pressed forward in English of course, saying this was only purchased two hours ago. She repeated Nem Garancia, Nem Garancia! so many times, I thought the mantra would put her in a trance like state. Stubbornly, I stood there waving the receipt. It was a stand-off. Finally, the other clerk, took my receipt, shook her head positively and motioned for me to get another pot. After we all examined it, they called in the Good Housekeeping Seal to give it a once over too. After it passed muster, I cradled it for fear of dropping it as I left the store.

It is now sitting on my desk like a trophy "First Place goes to Ryan James for standing up to the mean lady at the housewares store". I may never use it. There is nem garancia that it will not break to bits after the first use.

For the young or uninitiated, the title of today's post is a play on an old song title "Yes, We Have No Bananas". 

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