Gem of a shopkeeper
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TURNER, ACT MYfriend and I had spent several days exploring Lijiang’s Old Town in Yunnan, China. This heritage-listed quarter is a network of cobbled alleys lined with wooden houses and shops and the crisscrossed alleyways tested our navigation skills.
My friend wanted to buy a small jade souvenir and we finally found a store that had four small disc-shaped pieces that she liked. After some haggling (with my ‘‘survival Mandarin’’), a price was agreed. My friend bought two pieces and I bought one. Then we asked the shopkeeper if he could thread the discs to make two simple strap necklaces.
Later, my friend decided her necklace should be shorter, so back we went and the obliging shopkeeper fixed it.
On the evening of our tour’s official dinner, my friend couldn’t locate her new jewellery and thought she must have left it at the shop. She rushed back and it wasn’t there. The trusting shopkeeper said he didn’t want her to be sad, so he threaded her another piece and said she could return it if she found hers.
Well, she did find hers. Hotel housekeeping had moved it, and in her panicked search she hadn’t seen it. Next morning, back we went, with an offering of boxed chocolates for her saviour, to return the extra necklace.
The shopkeeper didn’t really know us, but he obviously put the happiness of his customers above all. Looking back, I can’t quite believe his generosity. Most retailers are kind to passing tourists but, transactions done, they have little reason to care what happens next. Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column: travel@ theaustralian. com.au. Published columnists receive a 200ml Sodashi Mint Soother Foot Treatment lotion ($63.60) to cool aching feet and legs; the lotion is perfect for a deeply moisturising overnight treatment. More: sodashi.com.