WTF x 3 (or 2+1)

1. A few weeks ago I went back to Exceptions Gourmands with a friend from New York.

The two women working there were quite nice and helpful, and my friend ended up picking out a few things to buy. The amount was something like 7.53€. So my friend opened her wallet and handed over a 10€ bill.

“Oooohhh,” the saleswoman said, eyeing the lone bill laying on the counter. “Do you happen to have exact change?” she asked.


After we rifled through our collective pockets and purses for something smaller, which took a couple of minutes, we eventually cobbled together a jumbled mix of euro coins and little copper centimes.

The woman smiled, picked up all the change, thanked us profusely…“Merci beaucoup, et bonne après-midi!”…as we left.

On our way our, she opened the cash drawer to put the money inside.

I happened to look down.

And noticed in the drawer stacks of bills in all denominations. And plenty of coins.

2. I recently went to a press chat, where a representative from the WWF gave us an impassioned presentation on the dangers facing us in Europe as a result of our overconsumption of the ocean’s resources, along with a nifty little guide-to-action called “Poissons en danger!!”

At the end of the talk, the fellow walked outside and lit up a cigarette.

Once he finished it, taking the last drag, he flicked the butt into the Seine, then turned and walked away. I didn’t check but I don’t think the guide said anything about the hazards of cigarette butts.

So I guess they’re okay.

3. When I was back in the states, I was watching television and landed on an episode of Oprah about overconsuming.

After following a couple of families around, advising them on how to live for less, chiding them on the amount of waste they were generating, Oprah triumphantly announced that as of that day, none of the full-time staff in her multi-storied office would be using paper cups anymore.

Oprah didn’t mention anything about eliminating the paper cups in one of her 7 or 8 homes.

But I’m sure she working on that.

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40 comments

  • It is really sad to think there are so many out there with no home or who are living in very tight conditions (I can say I am one of those with 6 children and a really small home, but we are fine) but thinking of those like Oprah who have so much and sure, they give some away but REALLY!!!, do any actually give until it hurts?

    Anyone can give from their excess! And these people still have zillions left. Big deal! Let’s see some of these folks give until they actually notice.
    ps. you have the best blog out there!! :-)
    Have a great day!!

  • Sandy: Although I applaud her for taking away the paper cups from her employees, I just hope Oprah’s not tossing any cigarette butts in the ocean outside one of her houses.

  • David you’re funny. Oprah doesn’t smoke. I’m not sure about Stedman though. :)

    The exact change is a big deal here as well, even at the supermarcato.

    Sandy, I think opening a school in place where there were none for girls and paying for everything, construction, teachers, tuition, food, uniforms etc. is being generous.

    Oprah gives alot, as does Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. I have a friend who works for the Bill Gates Foundation and they are doing great things regarding education here and abroad. Funny I have never heard about Donald Trump doing any kind of charity work.

  • Dang what about me, extolling the virtues of a wholewheat, healthy diet then going home after a long day’s work and breaking open a pack of msg-laden instant noodles out of laziness, lying in bed eating it….and LOVING it??? Oh, the shame…

  • As always, your postings are right on the money…and funny too! thanks!

    p.s. I am big fan, I think I have mentioned you quite a few times on Scoopalicious …made your creamsicle tasting ice cream the other night too…i adjusted it to make it non alcoholic and i don’t think that was a good idea! ;)

  • Off topic, Warren Buffett does not help his own family members financially, outside of paying for college tuition. Does this make him generous or a bad dude? Giving is optional, even for billionaires.

    But anyway, I see David’s point. I just moved to Miami, which is a little like its own WTF nation.

  • Hah, those are very amusing stories. I notice inconsistencies and odd moments all the time like that.

    I have actually caught fish with cigarette butts inside their stomachs (Pacific Steelhead Salmon).

  • Yes, these people mentioned do give away large sums of money.
    However, America is falling apart, literally, New Orleans is still a rubbish pile, American people are hungry, homeless and depressed.

    All the above mentioned benefactors made most of their money from Americans, living in America. Might be nice if they invested some money back into the culture that made them. Saving the world looks good and is sometimes necessary but not if ones own country is being decimated by greed.

    Disclaimer:
    I use an Apple and I can’t stand Oprah!

    Nice blog David.

    David

  • David,

    I love this. Oprah is Jesus so if she says that she’s not allowing her staff to use paper cups she’s hoping the flock, I mean the WORLD will follow.

    Rich people can afford things that everyday people can’t. Like they may not use paper plates at their family bbq’s because they have three dishwasher’s and staff to load them for them.

    When I think of waste I think of McDonalds giving you 500 napkins for a fry and coke! (btw I use these up in our house) I think of the junk mail that fills my box that I NEVER read and toss into the recycling bin, but I know a lot of people don’t. Living in California, green is big but I know it’s not the same for all states.

    Most people don’t like when you hold up mirrors.

  • Michele & David: Well, I do commend Oprah for using her influence to get people to think about what they’re tossing away, it was just odd to watch a program about excess hosted by someone whose carbon footprint ain’t exactly petite.

    (Don’t even get me started on Dr Phil springing that girl from prison….)

    nyc/Caribbean regazza: I don’t know about you, but anything we can do to keep Donald Trump out of the limelight, I’m all for! : )

  • Dear David: Forgive me for being off topic but I want to thank you for the Matzoh Crunch recipe of several months ago. I made a batch for Saturday night’s seder and than had to make an extra batch for Sunday. Wonderful! PS: There was a serious Matzoh shortage in SF this week. My parents brought up cases from LA.

  • We just gave you a BIG E for Excellent Award! Check it out – http://www.chezus.com/

    ~ Chez US

  • David –

    Wanted to let you know that I made two batches of the Matzah Crunch this weekend for seder. I topped a third of the results with toasted sliced almonds, a third with chopped unsweetened dried cranberries, and a third with fleur de sel and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar. My husband says that it is so good that he would eat it even if it wasn’t Passover!

    I can hardly wait to try making it after the holiday with better quality chocolate chips (Passover chocolate chips leave something to be desired) and maybe a higher fat butter. I note that my second batch turned out better than the first, probably because I added a smidge more sugar, never stopped stirring the toffee while in process, and had the oven thorougly preheated (my husband made a smoked salmon fritatta in it before I made the second batch). I also placed the finished toffee in a cooler room (my kitchen holds heat) to set up, which helped.

  • Gracious, why is it so hard to get change or use larger bills in France? I didn’t have the exact change for the RER back to Roissy the last time I was there, and the ticket machine wouldn’t take my 10, so I went about topside and purchased a few small things (orange juice, a paper) from 2 different vendors to get enough coinage… neither one would give me 3 coins for a 5… it was ridiculous. Next time, I’ll get my money from the ATM and then attempt to change it into coin asap when I’m abroad. Europe is the only place I’ve been where giving change has been a big deal. Le sigh.

  • Warren Buffet does not believe in giving children massive amounts of money as inheritance. He gave them money years ago (enough to be well off) in the millions of dollars in stock.

    He believes that inheriting large amounts of money creates a ruling class that does not do a lot of innovative things with the money since they are focused on wealth preservation rather than wealth creation. It also makes it harder for the children (and their children) to do anything meaningful.

    Warren also believes that America should be a meritocracy and worries about how this has been eroded somewhat.

    Buffet has also taken concrete steps to donate his 60 odd billion dollars to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation where a lot of good work is done.

  • Off topic… I received your well-received “The Perfect Scoop” book, one of 3 prizes (Kitchen Aid mixer, KA ice cream maker & your book) from you which I won (lucky me) for the Menu for Hope 4. Yes, I will be happily churning.

    Thank you again, David. I hope you had a good visit to your home country.

  • Around here the news is the latest poverty report. More and more counties in Illinois are on the “poverty watch” or “poverty warning” list. (I personally think that means the list makers are “watching” this area get poorer and poorer, and “warning” us, “Watch out, we’re warning you. You are getting poorer.” Like we don’t see it.)
    I saw that Oprah episode. I guess doing something is better than nothing. Oprah is OK with me, but doing more on less is not an attitude I associate with her lifestyle.

  • devlyn: It’s funny, because people come to visit and they’re always saying, “David, I need to get rid of some of this change in my pocket”, they say, while jingling a whole bunch of coins.

    And I’m, like, “Dude, hold on to those. They’re hard to come by!”

    I think the reason it’s so hard to get change is that they like to take money…but don’t like to give any back ; )

    Linda H: I wish I could say that I don’t believe you, but after watching the widespread panic caused by a few gray clouds, I can see the importance and value of an up-to-the minute poverty report.

    Um, I think I can…

    Guia: Glad you got the book and can start using your machine and mixer. Congratulations on the big win!

  • I suspect no one enjoys irony quite like the French. If they could -they would bathe in it.
    I have often wondered if it is physically painful for cashiers in France to make change. Does it inspire exquisite agony?

  • Off-topic (although I can sympathize – I recently moved to Paris and have had a number of WTF moments – like the woman standing behind a desk who wouldn’t answer my question until she was behind another desk – it was her job at one desk, but it was not at the other!) – do you sell your ice cream in local stores? If not, will you please? I live near the Bastille. Thanks!

  • David,
    Love the post. I used to be the head chef at a “very liberal” liberal arts college here in Virginia. And it would always amuse me to watch them wear a shirt that said, “SAVE THE EARTH” while they walked along the quad smoking a cigarette and holding a styrofoam container of food that when they finished, they tried to cram into an overfilled trashcan and when it wouldn’t fit, would just toss it on the ground by the trashcan. I was always like, WTF.

    Also, when I worked at the local kosher butcher shop here (Now, defunct. Surprising here in Biblebelt, Va), I had a cardiologist who would come in almost daily and order a corned beef sandwich with thousand island dressing and a side of fries. And, if I gave him the lean corned beef instead of the fattier (better tasting) corned beef, he would send it back. That always made me wonder whether diet really had anything to do with heart disease. Either that or he wanted to die happy!!

  • We are all hypocrites at some point or another. Doesn’t mean we have to like it though. What I find particularly annoying is how “going green” has now become a big consumer byline. Somehow, purchasing a bunch of stuff you don’t actually need is considered helping the environment. The truth is, if we want to live more sustainably, we need to cut down on our consumption in general. It is over-consumption of resources that got us into this mess to begin with. I’m not saying don’t ever buy anything, but in addition to buying wisely and “greenly”, try to simply CUT DOWN on purchasing stuff…stuff that you probably don’t need, and might not use.

    Or buy used stuff, or swap things on http://www.freecycle.org/. Of course, I’m sure I have a few things at home that I don’t use as often as I should.

    Thanks for the WTF post David, its nice to know that so many of us notice these things too.

  • lyra: What I found odd (and funny) was when I was reading People magazine on the plane, and it was full of articles featuring how ‘green’ all the celebrities were.

    Yet the magazine was full of ads for things like heavily-scented fabric softeners and bleaches, and a lot of plastic gizmos and gadgets.

    Since moving to small apartment, I’ve radically cut down on what I buy and limit myself mostly to buying what I can eat.

    Like the 3 chocolate bars sitting next to me right now, including one filled with caramel!

  • When Oprah says something it makes me want to do the opposite. I’m fighting the urge to stock up on paper cups, or better yet, send her a truckload.

    Since I never have exact change I’ve gotten good at saying no and staring people down. Although I’m sure that easier to do in the US than in France.

  • bless the french and their cold little hearts.

    oprah, i have no use for.

  • Oh don’t get me started on Oprah….

  • I dunno … I can’t really see Oprah using paper cups at home …

    The story about her office reminds me of an ad agency I worked at. No paper cups in sight — we all had mugs, and had mugs we let visitors use. Being a progressive environment, we all had a rotation of “KP duty,” which consisted of loading and unloading the dishwasher of those mugs, etc. Some people did a good job and others did a terrible job and still others paid off people to do KP duty for them. I’d love to be on the fly on the wall to see how it’s handled at Oprah’s company.

  • When the franc was still in use, I always had tons of small change in my wallet, never to be used.
    Since we changed for the euro, I never have any change available. Except tons of 1 centime coins, never to be used.

    Since euro became our currency, prices almost always end with “99 cents”. Just like the US. Round numbers are a thing of the past. So what we have in our wallets is basically one and 2 euro coins, and 1 centimes. Hence the store people’s reluctance to give away whatever change they have, especially on the weekends when they can’t go to the bank to get small change.

  • Reminds me of my own Parisian Coinage WTF moment, more years ago than are polite to count:

    I had just moved to Paris and was doing some grocery shopping with a friend and we encountered the same “change” situation.

    I whispered to my friend, “It must be a European thing; this is just like Italy.” (We had just returned from a get-away in Italy.)

    My friend responded, sotto voce, in English, “No, this is different; in Italy they gave us candy as change.” (We received pieces of candy instead of Lira coins on several occasions.)

    The shopkeeper responded in very grave English with just the right amount of haughtiness, “Yes, this is different; in France, we don’t give change.”

    Gotta love the French!

    Thanks for making me chuckle.

  • I have a habit of giving exact change when I buy something, reduces the weight of my wallet. But I wonder if the reason Parisian vendors prefer the customer to give exact change is because they don’t want to make the effort to figure out what change to give back? Seems really unpleasant.

  • Y’all’s WTF moments are nothing compared to mine. I had so many of them back in the day, that i left Paris for Oakland Ca. Now that i’m back home i remember why i left!

  • Paul; That is too perfect!

  • David-Thanks for this post! It’s always a reality check to visit Argentina-especially the rural area where my husband’s family lives-I see just how little people make due with there.

    What do they do with old mattresses? Well, the neighbor used a box spring to create a gate to their yard. This is an extreme example, I know, but the point is that most other places do with MUCH less. It’s also quite common to see VERY old cars still on the road, (Someone down the street has a Ford Falcon!) that are still running and in great shape. Even Argentina is succumbing to the plastic bag and bottle plague, though-which is sad and pollutes everything around.

    People need to think about where things are coming from, and then where they go. Cigarette butts in the Seine? Don’t tell me that even the fish in France smoke!! ;)

  • What people do not get about france and coins, is that this is like a dance, i mean, a ballet : The cashier plays his own part, always asking for the exact amount. The client plays his part too, sometimes having the amount, sometimes offering partial amount ( i have the 3 of 7,53, do you want them ?) sometimes not having any coins.

    In the situation you described, the lady asked you for the change probably because she does that whith every client.

    Someone who is used to this kind of ballet would have said “No, i have no coins”, evaluating the need of coins of the lady compared to the lack of time and energy to find the exact amount.
    After that the lady probably would have said “Ah ? (disappointed look on her face, resignation), tant pis “, and would have given you the change she had.

    See, it’s a matter of strategy from both sides. most of french human interactions have this part of strategy and evaluation. it’s like a subtle game.

    what was different with you and your friend as clients is that, when she asked for change, you heard :
    “Do you have the exact change ? – because i can’t give you any coins and you won’t be able to buy things here without the exact amount”.
    One french people would have heard the same sentence as :
    ” if you have coins, i prefer that because i’d like not to use my stock of coins, i need them for this afternoon. But if you don’t have any, that will be ok, it’s just that i ask every body to be sure i won’t have a lack of change”.

    For example, I, in the same situation would have said “No, i don’t have any change”, even if i had some. Just to start the ballet and see how she would react. If she would have said ” hss… well, it’s a problem”, i would have answered ” ok, let me look in my wallet… oh, seems that i have some”. But an other day i would have also looked in my wallet at the first asking if i had some time left, if the person was really friendly or anything : it really depends on the mood that influences the strategy.

  • The change situation being discussed reminded me of when I first spoke French in France in 1960. I was going there fore art school and felt pretty full of myself. I’d taken French all through school and was eager to blab away. My high school French teacher had taught us the slang…or what SHE thought was the slang…for change “grisbie”. So I used it at the earliest opportunity. I heard chuckles and snickers all around me and wondered what was wrong. Later I found out that grisbie was hip slang in about 1920. I shoulda said “23 skidoo!”

  • Haha, nice comment on Oprah.

  • ahaha! hilarious WTFs!

    the ‘environmentalist’ butt throwing doesn’t surprise me so much: many marine biologists tend to live in their own ‘butts’ in my experience, obnoxiously impassioned but clueless – anything outside the vast and beautiful sea doesn’t count:

    Marine biologist to my partner tom (a freshwater fish ecologist): “are there fish in fresh water?” LOL.

  • I love when celebrities talk about how “green” they are, and they live in a 22 room house. Or when they preach to the unwashed masses about how important it is to drive a hybrid, yet they travel by private jet (John Travolta).

    The New York Times just published an article on “garments that are less harmful to the earth.” They had a photo of a dress made from
    ‘biopolymer’ a corn-based alternative to polyester.’ Priced at about $10,000 at Barneys. I guess if you travel by limo, own a place in NY and another in the Hamptons, you can still feel good about doing your part to save the planet by purchasing ‘green’ clothing.

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  • Reminds me of a visit to Franprix and giving a 20euro bill for a about a 16euro charge and being asked if I had smaller bills. Upon opening the till noticed it was filled with an abundance of bills and coin in almost all denominations. Duh.