Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Magazine article The Spectator

Dear Mary

Article excerpt

Q. I am an expatriate living in a beautiful Art Nouveau apartment building where I am the only English-speaker. Recently my neighbour modernised his apartment by introducing a new stove. This meant the disposal of his previous unit. As we live on the fifth floor and there is no lift, the old stove has now been standing on our shared landing for several weeks. Whilst the soup stains, goulash and pieces of dumpling offer a certain relief against the white enamel, I am now finding its continued display irritating and depressing. Given 85 stone stairs and language difficulties, what would you suggest?

G. C., Prague, Czech Republic

A. In the technique of `lethargy selling', unsolicited bully goods are posted to people's homes on approval. A small print proviso informs the recipient that should the goods not be returned within two weeks, then he will be billed for them. Naturally, most recipients are too sluggish to find brown paper and string, let alone heave parcels to the post office and queue up for stamps, so they end up paying until such time as they have the energy to write and warn that no further goods should be despatched to them. `Lethargy looting' is exactly the same technique in reverse, and is practised by scrap dealers worldwide. They need only be tipped off as to the whereabouts of an unsightly and unwieldy metal object and they will beat a path to the owner's door. The lethargic owner will be only too delighted to let them take it away free of charge. …

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