We all make mistakes

Whenever things go wrong in my inconsiderable universe at the hands of others I remind myself that my trifling misadventures are hardly devastating. However neither this nor the admission that “We all make mistakes” is sufficient to dissolve what are otherwise unforgivable miscalculations.  Allow me to illustrate.

On April 24th (over a month ago) I custom-ordered a pair of Italian spectacle frames identical to three other pairs I have and which came from the same retailer.  I had discovered by browsing the internet that the manufacturer had discontinued production of the model.  Considering my advanced age and the fact that I have never been more pleased with a frame in the almost sixty years that I have worn glasses, I thought it prudent to do what I could to secure one last issue of the product.  The retailer assured me that his supplier had in stock the very colour of the particular model that I wanted.  So I placed the order.  As usual the retailer made it clear that I “could” (his vernacular for “must”) pay the deposit to cover the full price of the frames by cash, cheque or credit card.  I obliged him accordingly, especially as he told me the frames should be in his hands by next Tuesday (following the Friday on which I placed the order).

As you might imagine, the glasses did not arrive on the following Tuesday. Nor did I get any call from the retailer to explain why.  I called the retailer and he assured me the frames should be in hand by the subsequent Friday at the latest.  But they were not.  No explanation.  No telephone call.

When I called the retailer again, he gave me yet another story with equal substance, which is to say nothing.  More assurances which were merely followed by more delays and even further stories.  Finally after three weeks of this I demanded my deposit back.  I said the retailer could call me when the frames arrived.  Of course nothing of the sort transpired, no refund, no call.

Finally today – in what was quickly developing into nothing short of a rage – I called the retailer.  He did not answer his telephone.  I subsequently attended his office.  He told me he had spoken to the supplier that morning and that the courier (which he said was some extraordinary company whose name I had never heard before) should be at his office by no later than five-thirty this afternoon.  I pressed the retailer on this intelligence, first to advance an innuendo about him not having bothered to telephone me this morning with this advice, second to get him to commit to being in his office when I attended at 5:30 p.m.  By this time my trust in his assurances was dwindling and I creatively imagined that he would later tell me he had to leave his office earlier than anticipated (in order to avoid my revisitation).  Thankfully that did not happen and the frames did in fact arrive late afternoon.  I picked them up as requested.  We civilly shook hands and I departed.  I shall never return.  I failed to mention earlier that he never once responded to my email enquiries; and, the one time I tried to leave a message on his answering machine, the device informed me that his mailbox was full!  Oddly he told me on one occasion the frames were coming from Toronto; on another, from Italy (and they were caught in customs); and today from Montreal. I confess I haven’t a clue what is his state of affairs nor do I care to know.  Clearly he is encountering difficulties, a fact which naturally diminished my sometimes burning desire to destroy him.  I was also mindful of the admonishment frequently given by my late friend L.C. Audette, QC, OC that one mustn’t stand on others to make oneself higher (a variation on the theme of the inappropriateness of capitalizing upon the inferior position of admitted subalterns).  I am however the first to admit that the preservation of discretion and personal rectitude is frequently the furtherest concern from one’s mind in the midst of these kerfuffles. Happily I was spared the contemplation of retribution when he failed to press me for any money beyond my deposit that he had been so anxious not to part with.  I feel that my commercial integrity is restored now that I have the goods but the contemporaneous relief will never move me to deal with him again no matter what the circumstances of this protracted association may have been.  I view it illustrative of his mendacity that he never once advanced any plausible explanation.  My suspicion is that he was doing nothing more nefarious that some Mickey Mouse modification of a pyramid scheme whereby he used deposits from others to fund the purchases of previous customers.  Who knows, I may even have funded his realty taxes.  Whatever was going on, by his own admission he hadn’t the ability to repay my deposit and until the last day or so he appears not to have had other resources to pay the supplier for my frames.

The second incident I wish to relate is far less protracted.  Essentially a plumber with whom I have been in discussions for some time arrived at my mother’s house early this morning to install what we anticipated to be the first of three sets of replacement sinks and toilets in the three bathrooms of her house.  Trouble is, after disassembling the old fixtures, the plumber discovered the sink was the wrong size.  As he sheepishly descended the stairs from the second floor to the main floor carrying the new sink, he announced that the supplier had sent the wrong one.  I instantly took objection to this dismissive observation and distorted reasoning. I shared with him my instinctive reaction that the fault lay with him not his supplier.  No more would I have blamed my secretary for drafting errors when I was in business.  He astonishingly had some trouble digesting the thrust of my proposition.  In order to afford him some time to contemplate my meaning, I asked where we might procure the correct unit.  He said it was in the “east end” of the City, that he had just spoken with the supplier.  When I further enquired whether he might go to the east end of the City to get the article, he astounded me by saying that he would do so but that he would have to charge me for his travel time!  I knew then that I had hit a serious obstruction.  I didn’t however entirely let it go before insinuating that I shouldn’t bear the loss of his error.  This however was lost on him and the air between us practically froze.

In the end, by the time the plumber and his assistant re-installed the original components and removed the new, and arrangements were made for their re-attendance a week hence, we were all slapping one another on the back and agreeing that we all make mistakes.  Make no mistake, however, I have no intention of doing business with this fellow again.  I will naturally honour our arrangement to install the one set of new hardware, but there will be no truck other than that with him in the future.  I find it disheartening that this fellow so readily blamed others for what was – at least as between him and me – solely within his dominion and control; and, that through some odd contortion of logic which I shall never comprehend he expected me to pay for the correction of his mistake.

The frozen truth of these two gentlemen is this:  one is probably a petty criminal; the other is a conceited fool.  Neither of them can shield their indefensible conduct by saying “We all make mistakes”.  The petty criminal has yet to learn that the collateral skill of being a good liar is a rare quality. The conceited chap needs to be brought down a few rungs if he isn’t to allow this poison further to insinuate his character. Being a blackguard or proud is an ominous qualification.