Those Awkward Gumtree Moments…

We’re on the move again. As bonafide empty-nesters, we’re going for a proper “downsize” this time into a grown-up, executive apartment with posh fittings, a dishwasher that works, and voluminous sheer curtains that we hope will keep the outside world at bay.

Collection of pieces of furniture.

The latest move means, of course, that I’ve had to rekindle my love-hate relationship with Gumtree to get rid of more of our shit – an experience I return to with mixed feelings.

While I like the premise of the online marketplace, (and so far, I’ve had a pretty good track record with it), I am always surprised by what people sell and buy on the site, ie. Kurt’s “chef set”, as well as the sheer audacity of buyers who persist in negotiating on items that are obviously already bargains.

But I like that the process is simple – even for me, a technophobe. And for most people, the prospect of a bargain or getting something for nothing is invigorating, hence it’s impossible not to get a little bit excited as you upload the prized images of your loot and its enticing copy. And there is a real sense of power as you watch your virtual pack of buyers fight over your item – YES! THIS IS MY STAINED MATTRESS! – somewhat akin to what those unsavory sellers on “Antiques Roadshow” must feel in those few precious minutes before the valuer tells them that the old, fugly plate they inherited from Grandma is worth zilch.

But there are, inevitably, trust issues that you need to be careful about: the buyers that turn up and still try to negotiate, in spite of the price you agreed – safe in the knowledge that you’ve already visualized your gorgeous new sofa in your lounge and will accept just about anything to get the old one out of the way; or the Photoshopped photos that conceal chips on furniture or that large scratch across the top.

I imagine that selling on Gumtree provides a thrill similar to the sense of gratification you get from gambling or the chase in a new relationship. Unless your item doesn’t sell, there’s little to lose from the sport other than your pride, (from the public confirmation of your obviously terrible taste) and the cost and inconvenience of getting your rejected piece taken to the dump.

But even in the event of a sale, there are compromises to be made, such as the loss of your privacy and comfort zone when the buyer turns up to collect their goods – particularly when you are of a socially anxious disposition.

This time – somewhat surprisingly – our most popular item was an IKEA chest of drawers. But in my haste to get rid of it quickly, I under-sold it to the first buyer that contacted me, and so – after the old man and I chipped it, lugging it (like two old people) down the stairs – any hope of a decent profit went out the window. Egg on my face, I called our buyer to inform him, and after re-negotiations that mirrored a car purchase, eventually, we agreed on a price. Suffice it to say, however, I was pretty deflated by the time we got around to discussing the pick-up instructions.

‘Make sure you bring a big enough car,’ I warned him, unable to mask the bitterness in my tone from being robbed in broad daylight and the impending invasion of my privacy for so little financial reward.

‘I’ll take it apart,’ he said.

‘It’s from IKEA,’ I reminded him, ‘and instructions weren’t included in the price,’ I added, under my breath.

‘It will be fine,’ he said, while I reached for the Valium.

He turned up at 6.30pm on a Saturday night (!) with the enviably large toolbox of a “man who can”, leaving the old man drooling behind the curtains of our front window as we watched him take the chest apart on the front lawn. I can’t describe the level of discomfort as the two of us – socially anxious adults – watched this stranger, (who also expected to converse intermittently), hack away at our sold IKEA chest. I assume that he expected to put it back together again.

You may also be able to imagine our relief as his tiny Sedan swung out of our drive.

Our earnings almost paid for two drinks at our local. However, I’m certain that this, our latest experience of the potential perils of Gumtree, will not deter us in the future. We finished the day with extra dollars in our wallet, and the high from that close-to-profitable sale was all the recompense we needed for a slipped disc and the PTSD from tough negotiations and a stranger with a hammer in our home.

You Don’t Have To Be A Pretty Woman To Shop

I had a ‘Pretty Women’ moment yesterday.

Having failed miserably at juggling the demands of motherhood, work, ridiculous spring temperatures and a husband who seems to become more emotionally needy by the year (here), I decided that I needed a reward at the weekend.Pretty Woman by Freya at www.flickr.com

So to shift my hormone levels to a ‘thinking positive’ mood swing as well as put Saturday night’s hangover back to bed, I decided that some retail therapy might just do the trick.

I wish I could say that the old man gave me unlimited use of the credit card to buy rack upon rack of designer clothes, and when I went into the changing room I had lost 10kg and ten years and looked absolutely fabulous in all of them – but it wasn’t quite like that.

Nor have I found my own millionaire bit-on-the-side in the form of a Richard Gere sugar daddy replacement for the old man, whose sole aim in life is to spoil me for sexual favours.

(I’m thinking of him more in officer uniform here, Richard Gere that is, although privately I’ve always had my doubts that he would be able to lift me off the ground quite as easily as he did Deborah Winger, and obviously that is, before he lost his credibility as sex-on-legs with that awful mane of white hair). 

No, it was because I dared to enter the hallowed floor of Designer wear in David Jones that I experienced my awkward Pretty Woman moment.

After two hours of trawling the shops aimlessly, trying on round after round of outfits that all looked terrible and feeling more than a little disgruntled that not one swimming costume made me look as slim as Elle McPherson, curiosity (or was it desperation?) got the better of me and I found myself on that elusive floor. I was like Charlie entering the Chocolate Factory, (which obviously would have been my first choice).

I’ve only been on that floor only once before, when I mistakenly thought that I could splash out on a Melbourne Cup dress there, did a shifty quick sneak at the first price tag I could find and scurried back down the escalator, the eyes of the sales assistants boring holes in my back.

I’ve suffered from ‘belonging’ issues ever since.

This time, though, I was in a ‘ready to take on the world mood’ – I’d just got through the week from hell and NO-ONE was going to mess with me.

So I sauntered confidently towards the first rack of gorgeous clothes.

You can tell that the clothes there are not for poor people because the atmosphere is very different ‘upstairs’. It’s like the retail version of heaven, where all women dream they’ll eventually end up, although many of the clothes are alarmed and chained so they’ve still got a few trust issues to work on. Everyone talks in hushed tones, conspiratorially.

More importantly, there are actual sales assistants there to help.

I say ‘sales assistants’, but what I really mean are ‘sales BITCHES’.

There are two types of sales bitch on the designer clothing floor. The young, Amazonian model type who sashays around her brand in her expensive clothes that she’s obviously had to give up food for to afford and has been given a huge discount to wear, and then there’s the silver-haired middle-aged woman with the rod-straight back who just fusses and who thinks she is related to Anna Wintour.

Even though she is a sales assistant.

Nevertheless (I consoled myself), I am middle-aged now, mature, more confident and fully embracing of everyone and so I dared to walk towards one of those middle-aged bee-atches who was stroking one of her designer’s dresses a little too possessively for comfort. She turned her head slowly around towards me as though she smelt me first, evidently in defence-mode in case some poor person thought they could afford one of HER dresses. Her face promptly froze the minute she took in my appearance. I watched her look me up and down slowly, and then turn back around to carry on with what she was doing.

To be honest, I didn’t think I looked that bad. Who dresses up to shop? I was wearing what I like to call my ‘Cape Cod meets the gym’ look – stripey tee shirt (admittedly it hadn’t quite kept its original shape in that hot wash), black shorts, Bali faux-Converse and a straw hat to hide the grease.

But to Sales Bitch, I obviously didn’t look like I could afford to be on that floor.

Now, that’s just not right, is it?

I remember a long time ago when I worked in interior decoration and a client came in one day and I must have spent a good three hours with her until eventually she ordered two rolls of border for her baby’s bedroom. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I gave her the service I would have given any client in my role as the salesperson. I certainly didn’t judge her. That client came back when she bought a new house and ended up spending in excess of $150,000 on curtains.

That sales bitch will never know that I am actually Chris Hemsworth’s real wife and if it had not been for her shocking attitude, I might have bought the whole fucking Designer floor of those silly dresses that only look good on stick insects.

I may not have been the Prettiest Woman on that floor, but I still have feelings and shitloads of money to spend elsewhere.