Live in Paris and you get used to having a curt "No" barked at you from people who should be trying to sell you something but frankly do not give a stuff. What is genuinely surprising is that they are doing it even now.
Twice in the last few days - in a popular children's clothes shop and a High Street electrical store - I have faced what is, in current circumstances, particularly astonishing rudeness. In both I was about to spend up to 100 euros (£67). I was so fed up by the surly attitude of the staff when I asked simple questions, I put down what I was going to buy and walked out. Both times I thought: "I'll order it online." In a third shop I returned an item because it was too small and was told off by the harpie-voiced manageress because the wrapping was damaged. I pointed out it was damaged when I bought it. "No it wasn't. You damaged it," she said.
What planet are these people from? Have they not seen the newspapers, listened to the radio, watched the television, had a pep talk from their stricken bosses? After a certain Schadenfreude here about the 'American' financial crisis, people have woken up to discover France is not an economic island. "Yes guys, it can happen here," I say in sorrow not smugness. Even in a boom I have difficulty understanding how one becomes so far removed from reality as to not realise that if you are employed by a shop it is in your personal interest to encourage people to spend money in it. If you cannot do it for sensible economic reasons, for God's sake do it for selfish ones.
It truly baffles me. I would not wish unemployment, hardship and misery on anyone so why do these people behave as if they wish it upon themselves?