Painting You In Broad Strokes

| Sydney, NSW, Australia | Working | March 22, 2017

(I live in the Blue Mountains — an area where many people that live here view as some what ‘exclusive,’ while people that don’t live here often view it as ‘alternative’ or ‘hippy’. I am renovating my first house which is 40 years old and needs almost everything replacing. I am in my local paint store trying to get advice about how to fix up the exterior. The guy serving is about 60 and slumped across the counter. When I enter, he just grunts. I say good morning, explain my house exterior, and ask for advice on what products I need, how I need to calculate how much I need, and how to go about preparing and painting. Things, I thought, were pretty standard questions he would receive.)

Worker: “Why should I help you?”

(Stunned, I don’t know how to respond. “Er” is all I manage.)

Worker: “If you don’t know what you’re doing, get a professional painter.”

Me: “Well, I, er, can’t afford that and besides, I am quite capable once I know what I am doing. I just don’t want to use the wrong type of paint or do it wrong and have to redo it in six months.”

Worker: “Well, It’s not my job to give you advice. You’re just going to go to [Major Hardware Store Competitor] and buy paint from them.”

Me: “I wanted to support local businesses but…”

Worker: “Why do you live here, anyway? If you can’t afford to get a professional then you should just move back to [Other Suburb with 90% government housing, that for the record, I haven’t lived in before].”

Me: “So, because my husband and I want to keep costs low and renovate ourselves, we aren’t allowed to live here?”

Worker: “If you can’t afford here, go back to [Other Suburb].”

(I leave, feeling pretty awkward and shaking. Embarrassingly, my first reaction is ‘why can’t I live here?’. I drove home, crying. After a few minutes I am able to think more logically and I call the store. I get the same guy. I ask for his manager.)

Worker: “I am the manager.”

Me: “Well, I was just in there, trying to get advice, buy paint and support my local business and I wanted to say that I don’t appreciate what you said to me.”

Worker: “Why are you getting all worked up? Listen, dear, if you can’t afford your house, go back into housing commission. I know what this is; you’re one of those f****** feminists. This is a feminist thing.”

Me: “What are you even talking about? Why are you so angry at me for asking for paint advice in a paint store? And, for the record, I haven’t lived in government housing but there’s nothing wrong with people that have.”

Worker: “You’re getting all worked up. Not me. I haven’t said anything wrong. You’re getting all angry and attacking me. I never brought up feminism. You did.”

Me: “Look, what is your boss’ name?”

Worker: “I am the boss.”

(I hung up and called the franchise head office directly and explained what happened to three different people, all of whom were completely shocked. They called me back a day later, when they had spoken to the real owner, who said Worker wasn’t a manager and they couldn’t understand what happened, but Worker had chosen an early retirement. All the franchisee could say was that he thought Worker was over his job.)

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