So, in addition to telling you all about the things I'm doing here in Rome, I have decided also to start a How To portion of my blog in which I will give practical advise for life in Rome. You know, just little tidbits I've discovered about living here. . .
For starters, How To: Get Good Customer Service
This is a trick I employ anywhere customer service might be a desireable thing (such as the butcher shop, bakery, fruit and vegetable stand, jewlery shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, the grocery store, etc.) and is really quite simple: find a place which only employs men.
When looking at earings made by a street vendor, chosse the oldest man with shaggy white hair and only one hand. When you come up to the table, he will probably say something like "Ciao, principessa!" which is flattering, I'm sure, but it's a little wierd, too. Then, when you point to some earings you like, wait patiently while he puts them on you, and nod interestedly as he explains to you in broken English that your earring holes are at an angle, and that's why the earings don't go in very easily, otherwise though, stay very still. As he is attempting to get the second one in (remember, he only has one hand, so that complicates the matter as well) explain to him in broken Italian that while you are from America, you are actually of French and Irish descent, not American Indian. Then continue to nod interestedly as he relates the names of a few Indian tribes to you. Occasionally respond with a polite "Oh, yea?" even if you have no idea what he's saying. When he crimps the ends of the earings together, think to yourself "This is a good sales tactic, since now I can't get them off easily by myself." When he hands you a mirror to admire his handy work, thank him profusely. And when another American tourist tells you they look nice, thank him, too. Then, you get to ask the price. At this point, though, it may not matter how much they cost, because you're not sure you want to have an angry street vendor pulling his earrings out of your ears. After you pay him, he might ask for an "Italian kiss" (where you kiss the air next to each other's cheeks). When you oblige and he kisses you on the cheek, just laugh and say "Ciao!" as you walk away.
If, however, it's not possible to find a store which employs only men (such as at the grocery store, the only place I've found to buy milk, and where the women are exceptionally mean), try to only ask the men for help, and when you check out (since its only women who work the check-out stand) try not to make eye contact, speak only Italian, and try to have exact change. If you're at a smaller, family-run shop, try to talk to the more elderly women; it seems that grandmas are nice wherever you are in the world!
At the market in the morning, the only stand to sell cheese is run by a kindly old lady who always gives me a sample of the cheese I'm buying. Not that I can change my order after I've sampled it, but at least that way I know if I'll be giving most of it to my roommates when I get home. Also, she is more than willing to cut the cheese up for me. Sometimes her slices are quite large, however (like a whole wedge of cheese large), so I always have to be ready with a quick "Basta, basta!" (enough, enough!).
I don't know what it is, but it seems the women here are especially cranky, and the men are exceptionally amourous. Maybe that's why the women are so cranky. . .
Anyway, I don't know that this trick will work with the men, but I suspect it would still be better than trying the other way around (only shopping at stores with women employees). That just may prove disasterous, but I could be wrong. Clint, you'll have to experiment for me when we come next year!
Coming up next -- How To: Get Out of a Malfunctioning Elevator