August 7: the grey suit

The business of purchase is a painstaking and psychologically taxing one.

When I was at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Berne last month there was a gaggle of businessmen undergoing in some annexe room to the gallery a training session on communication or creativity or something and they were, almost to a man (there were only men), wearing dark charcoal suits. I thought, that’s a rather cool look in the heat of the summer, I’ll look into buying a dark charcoal suit when I come back to London. When I returned from my travels I went onto Jermyn Street and looked at all the classic suit shops: Hawes and Curtis; TM Lewin; Charles Tyrwhit. They were all much of a muchness in dark charcoal suits. They were suits for middle management types, industrially mass produced, cut for work with a long jacket and unflattering trouser width, and the salesman treats you like a battery hen (one said What’s the occasion? as if I’d never worn a suit in my life and in another shop the salesman with a big red wine-sodden nose said Work or pleasure? as if everyone’s life was so clearly compartmentalized.) Neither, I amswered, which foxed him). I refrained from a purchase on Jermyn Streer. I went into John Lewis to see what was on offer in the odds and ends department. I saw what I thought was an attractive charcoal jacket (not dark charcoal and not part of a suit). After oo-ing and ah-ing I bought it. At home i looked on line to try and find the trousers that went with it. I thought I’d found them and ordered them. When they came they weren’t the right trousers and the whole ensemble did not look good. Grey des not flatter me. I looked like a grey man The shape was too fuddy-duddy. It slowly dawned on me the entire look was a mess. Could I get my money back? I extirpated the wrapping for the trousers from the bin just in time. I have had the returns label printed and will post the trousers back tomorrow. Some people are doing these returns every day, I know. Buying and returning; buying and returning. I am innocent in the matter, but that’ll be £100 saved. As for the jacket, I will go to John Lewis tomorrow amd try and get my £`150 back but I have no receipt. I have conflicting opinions on this. One tells me they won’t refund without a receipt (the receipt went thoughtlessly in the bin straightaway). Another say no John Lewis are fine, they’ll refund you no problem. Even if they don’t I have decided on my line. – No sir, we can’t refund without the receipt, I’m afraid Sir.What! Even though you can see I bought this from here on my bank statement. I’m sorry sir, it’s John Lewis policy. – All right, I’ll say. Here’s the jacket back. I can’t wear it. Sell it again for another £150. And with a theatrical yet sovereign motion I will hand the jacket back over the counter. They will receive the pristine garment aghast. This will be some kind of a victory. After all, I will never wear it. I am happy with this as a gesture. even though I’ll lose the money. I’ll feel somehow vindicated and might not feel the heartburn that insists on rising in my gullet when money has needlessly slipped through my fingers.

Yes, the business of shopping is a painstaking and psychologically taxing one and you must be ready to pick out any minor triumph from the ashes of your day.


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