Today’s brief tale of Travel Gone Awry would perhaps be more appropriately called Shopping Gone Awry. May your holiday shopping go much more smoothly!
In a town full of chocolate shops, Mamushka’s approach to marketing appeared to be “go bold.” Its façade was a bright red mash-up of art deco, whimsical stained glass, and – inexplicably – Russian nesting dolls. The approach seemed to work, as the store dominated an intersection on the main drag of Bariloche, Argentina, a small town famous for its chocolate, and inside it was hopping with customers. The interior was a veritable wonderland for anyone with a sweet tooth, with case upon case of chocolate truffles and bonbons and pastries.
Feeling limited by the language barrier and also wanting to be efficient with my shopping for the sake of my traveling companions, I decided to buy one of their mixed boxes of truffles. With the aid of hand gestures, I asked for one box with six truffles. They handed me a ticket and pointed me toward the cashier. As I was counting out pesos, it crossed my mind that this chocolate seemed a lot more expensive than I thought it was going to be, even with my limited mental currency conversion skills. But too late now, right?
I returned to the center counter to retrieve my little box of chocolates. I handed over my receipt, and the woman handed over a large shopping bag. Confused, I looked inside to find six boxes of chocolate. This time my “hand gestures” consisted mainly of me shaking my head No! and trying to hand back the bag until they found an English-speaking employee to translate. Then they had to find another employee who could refund my money for the five boxes I didn’t want (to the tune of a couple hundred pesos – I was right, at least, about the initial bill being too high). And then, finally, I was given my one now-lonely box. They all seemed very put out with me for the ordeal (and, presumably, for the lost sales). Meanwhile, my attempt at efficiency had failed and I was officially holding up the group.
I had originally planned to sample the truffles myself (in the name of chocolate research, of course), but eating them myself seemed like a waste of all that effort. So I saved the little box of chocolates, festively wrapped in bright red paper and adorned with those Russian dolls, to give as a gift. I really hope they were good.