Well, as nice as The Mall of Dhahran is getting to be, my days shopping there are done for at least another thirteen and a half months. I posted a short time ago that I was so thrilled that we now have a Gap and a Banana Republic - and for the occasional instance that I truly need something - it will be good to have them as choices, here. Four times I've been to The Mall of Dhahran this year. Plenty for 2008 and 2009, as well, I'd say.
The first time I went this year was when I needed silver shoes for a wedding we went to in February - and a wedding gift, which I never found there, but instead got in the States later that month when I was there, and hand-carried back to the Sandbox, after the wedding. The shoes were "rejects" which I bought at Aldo and paid way too much for to wear only once. They have already been given to our version of a "Goodwill" or second-hand store. I knew I would NEVER wear them again.
I went back to the Mall for the second time this year a month or so ago to buy black towels for DH's bathroom. Once again, I paid way too much for something - those towels - and DH can't stand them. The towels - which I think feel really nice - are soft and fluffy and have now been washed a half dozen times and still they leave little black fuzzies all over DH when he uses them. When I pulled the lint trap out of the dryer after washing and drying them the last time, DH was standing there as I emptied it [the lint trap], and said, "Whoa. Why don't you send that back to the company. I think they can probably make a couple of towels out of that!" When we go back to the States I'll get black towels there, and then get rid of the ones I bought here. Anyway, I mentioned in my post that the directory says that there is a Gap there and that a sign said "Banana Republic 2008" but I didn't know they were both open until a local blogger set the record straight for me. [Thanks, Nzingha!]
A couple of weeks ago, when I needed to go downtown for something - and a friend needed to go for something else - we shared a cab and went to do our errands - which we accomplished in an hour and a half and included my being able to run into both Banana Republic and Gap, making it the third time I've been to the Mall, this year. While at Gap, I bought a sweater. Nothing special to it, really, but it was the right color [a shade of purple] and it wasn't any more expensive than if I would have purchased it in the States.
I do not wear anything new without washing it first. Just one of those funny quirks of mine. The sweater sat in a bag in my closet until earlier this week when I decided that it is cool enough so that I can get away with wearing a sweater. It is actually cool enough so that I NEED a sweater! So I took the tags off the sweater, read the washing instructions and did exactly what they said - washed the sweater in a "bag," inside out, with cold water and Woolite. I dried it on a special flat "thingy" that I bought especially for drying sweaters that should not be hung. When I went to get the sweater to iron it, I picked it up, and realized there was a three-inch tear in a seam in the back. Whether I just didn't notice it before - I would think I would have noticed - I'm pretty fussy about "things," or whether it happened while it was being washed... Don't know. Doesn't matter. Not paying SR249 [$66.00] for a sweater that hasn't even been worn and can't take a gentle hand-washing without tearing. Crap. The sweater has to go back. I am past the seven days allowed to return something. Yes, I could sew it myself. That is not the point, however. What are we only getting the "seconds" from the Gap's in the States, here? [Probably!]
I decide I have to go back to the Mall and don't want to put it off much longer because they are NEVER going to take the sweater back - all I really wanted to do was just exchange it - if I don't go and take care of it, now. And, because I don't want to just go down to the Mall and hang out until the stores open if I take the bus, I arrange for a driver at ten o'clock. I am simply going to run in, and exchange the sweater. I know exactly which entrance I need to go to - so that I don't have to walk the entire Mall - and it is going to take me all of ten minutes. Right? Wrong!
My driver picks me up promptly at ten o'clock. I tell him I want to go to The Mall of Dhahran, Gate 9 [the entrance]. It takes all of ten minutes - if that - to get to the Mall. I tell the driver I am going to be ten or fifteen minutes and to wait for me.
The driver drops me off at the door, and I head straight for Gap. Unbelievable. The store is packed with shoppers [all dressed in head-to-toe black]. I head for the rack where the sweater I wanted to simply "exchange" is hanging - there are four "Large" and two "X-Large," but not a single "Medium" on the rack. Of course there isn't! Now what am I going to do? Are they going to give me my money back? It is way past the seven days... I head to the check-out / customer service counter. [Customer Service?!? Snort! That is a completely FOREIGN CONCEPT here!!!] There are three women in line ahead of me - and I am thankful I got in line at Gap when I did, because while I was waiting my turn in the "queue" another half dozen women were in line behind me. Don't you know, there is always that ONE woman who thinks that the "queue" doesn't apply to her and she stands to the side and tries to get the ONE man working as cashier to ring up her purchases while the rest of us are patiently waiting. Ut-uhh. Not happening. She sees that I have a return - and she thinks she is going to get him to ring up her "dress," or whatever it was she had, before the single, lone Gap worker assists me. Like I said. Not happening. Didn't happen. Well, yes, it kinda sorta did.
I show the man the sweater and the tear it has in it - and tell him that I just wanted to exchange it but that there are no more Medium's so now I want my money back. "Yes. Please wait." The man whips out his mobile and starts calling someone. He tells me that the Manager will be right with me. Okay. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. I'm still standing there. Sure, I could have been shopping, but I have no interest in shopping there, at this point, because I am now so frustrated that "this" is so "typical," here. No one works. The single, lone cashier is not "authorized" to take care of my return and has to get the manager's approval. But he store manager isn't even in the store! He's out in the Mall, somewhere... Probably having coffee. He certainly isn't working! I am doing my "standing here patiently waiting," which means I am shifting my weight from one foot to another, making a "glare" with my eyes which I hope says, "shooting dagger-looks," and "huffing" [the heavy sigh... that says, "You have got to be f'ng kidding me!"]. The poor guy working realizes that I am not happy. He calls the Manager, again.
The poor lone, single Gap "worker" [likely the ONLY one who actually "works" there!] is getting frustrated, too. I am not the only bitchy woman he is having to deal with; there were quite a few of us there yesterday morning. Since my Arabic is so basic, I have no idea what was being said in several different conversations, but could just tell by the "tone" that was being used that the conversation wasn't particularly happy. The woman who tried to cut in front of me attempted to make a purchase with not enough money and a credit card that wouldn't go through. Ha! [Almost comical. What, did she think she could "bargain" at Gap like you do at the souks downtown?!?] Then another woman tried to return two items - one of which she had the receipt for - and one which the man couldn't take back - for whatever reason - I'm guessing that she hadn't even bought it there - I didn't understand the conversation - just the tone of the voices and the hand, arm, body gestures... I felt sorry for the guy. I really did... It just was NOT pretty. The whole scene.
Forty minutes. Forty f'ng minutes. I got to the Mall at about ten past ten - it is now going on ten of eleven. Finally the "Manager" saunters in [using the term "Manager" in the loosest possible sense of the word!]. Naturally, I am not happy with having had to stand and wait for so long so that the asshole could finish his coffee or whatever the heck it was that he was doing that was so much more important that being in the Gap. I show him the sweater and my receipt and tell him I want my money back. He says, "No. Exchange only." I explain that I would exchange the sweater if there was one to exchange it for - but since there isn't - I need my money back. We "argued," for a few minutes and he realized that he can say "exchange" until the store closes at prayer time, but that I am not "exchanging," and want my money back. So he rattled off something in Arabic [he could have been saying, "Just give this crazy woman her money and get her out of my store and hopefully she will never return" and using curse words to describe me - I don't know - but he doesn't have to worry - I won't be returning to his store!] to the man who has been working the entire time who rings up my return. The man who had been "working" this entire time apologized for the inconvenience - which I thought was very nice of him - and he gave me back my SR249.
Done. Oh my gosh. What should have taken fifteen minutes - at the very most - has now taken almost an hour! An hour!!! I have never had much in the way of "patience" to begin with. At this point, I am completely void of any patience. None. I have none. I leave Gap and walk out the exit at Gate 9. Where is my driver? What the ? ? ? Where did he go??? He is GONE! I am furious. Yes, I know I said I would only be a few minutes - and I expected that I would actually ONLY be a few minutes. The driver was told to wait. Quite frankly, I don't care if I said "I'll be five minutes" and then don't return for hours. He was told, in no uncertain terms, to wait and he is gone. I walked up and down outside the entrance for another ten minutes and wandered through the parking lot to see if I could find him - the parking lot was relatively sparse with cars so he shouldn't have been too difficult to find. He is NOT there. I whip out my phone and dial the driver's company.
MY PHONE IS OUT OF TIME! It is not working. Oh how I hate the Sawa cards or whatever it is the "pre-paid" cards are called here. I have plenty of money in the phone, but I am out of time. Let me explain how it works. You buy these "cards" that have numbers on them which you enter into your mobile and you have XXX-amount of money to use for your calls. However, regardless of how much money you have in your phone, the time for each card expires in ninety days. I have some SR500 left for money to use on my phone. I never use the phone so there is no way I am ever going to be able to spend all the money that is in it. But my time is up. I need another Sawa card. It used to be that the minimum amount you could put in your phone was SR100 and it was good for three months. Now, you can buy SR50 for the same three months. But, when that ninety days is up, doesn't matter how much money is there - you still can't use your phone.
No problem. Use a pay phone, right? Yeah. THERE ARE NO PAY PHONES IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD! I am fuming. I head to Ikea to see if I can find a phone to use. I walk up to a Security Guard and ask him where I can find a phone. He says, "No English." [Liar!] I go to up to a Filipino driver I see standing by his car and ask him if he has a mobile. He says he does but tells me he has no minutes left. [You can have some of mine!] Finally I see a "Western" looking man and walk up to him and ask him very nicely if he has a phone and if I could please use it to make a local call. He is very nice - British - and hands me his phone. Oh thank you! I call the driver's company and explain that I had booked a car and driver for a round-trip and that my driver has disappeared. The man that answered the phone at the company says he will call the driver and call me back. Ahh, no. You can't call me back. Just send a driver to Gate 9, RIGHT NOW! "Yes, Madam." After profusely thanking the man who let me use his phone, I walked back down to Gate 9.
Less than a minute later my driver appears and I hop in the car. As the driver pulls away, I very calmly and nicely explain that I have been standing outside for the last fifteen minutes looking for him and that I had told him to wait. "Yes, Madam, I was there." No. You were not. I walked through the parking lot and you were NO WHERE TO BE FOUND! "Yes, Madam, I have been waiting the whole time." "Well if you were in the parking lot where you say you were then you would have seen me walking back and forth looking for you!" You have got to be kidding me - you are going to argue with me about this?!? He's got the car radio turned up and it is playing techno-garbage-hip hop crap. I tell him to either turn the radio down or turn it off. I have a headache and it is his fault. Thankfully we have a very short drive back to the compound. As he pulls up to my door, he says, "I am very sorry about this Madam." Yeah. I bet you are. I am probably one of the best tippers to drivers that this part of the world has ever seen and I have a tip for you! "You need to pay better attention and keep an eye out for your passengers from now on. Especially if it is me." I jumped out of the car and slammed the door. He had better never be sent to be a driver for me, ever again.
Pain in the ass. Waste of an hour and a half. What should have been a half-hour trip. Part of it is the fault lays at the feet of Gap - does the corporate office at Gap - wherever they are - have ANY IDEA HOW THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE is handled on this side of the world? Newsflash: Gap on this side of the world is destroying your reputation! But if my driver would have been where he was supposed to be then I wouldn't have wasted time walking through the parking lot looking for him - and then having to search out a phone - because Sawa cards SUCK - to call and find him. Blah, blah, blah.
So, that is four trips to The Mall of Dhahran in 2008. As far as I am concerned, I've used up my "trips" for 2009, so it will be 2010 before I set foot in the Mall again. I can shop in the States when we go home - and enjoy a much, much, much more pleasant shopping experience. I can order from a few stores that ship internationally. Or, I can go to Bahrain where shopping is a whole lot more civilized and where one can actually count on "customer service."
In the meantime, I was at another blog yesterday morning where Slick Sumbich had a post up that he thought he could get 2,000 comments in one day. He also said he was going to personally respond to each and every comment. So, I commented at his site that I would mention on my blog that he was looking for 2,000 comments and if anyone who reads posts here felt like it they could stop by and comment at his place so he could reach his 2,000 comment goal. He didn't reach it. Doesn't matter at this point. He's closed the thread and has closed comments. Sorry, Slick. I meant to do it yesterday, but I just didn't...