Pretty Woman…Shopping for togs the Italian way

The hero of the hour, Pina, knows how to pull a few strings. Pina and her husband Brian own the school and have shown us nothing but kindness so far. Not only that, Pina can be hard as nails in the best possible way. Her tenacity would give the mafia a run for their money. She also knows EVERYONE here in Bari. It is a fact I would bet good money on. Not only does she know everyone, but they seem so unbelievably grateful to her as at some point in the past they have encountered the school and in turn, the kindness of our very own Don Corleone.

So…it was never going to be a trip to H&M when Dave told Pina he needed some new clobber after pay day. In true Pina fashion, she told us about a shop she visits when she needs to buy male clothes. This shop was owned, of course, by an acquaintance and she assured us we would receive ‘mates rates’ and excellent service. She was not wrong.

Despite being Dave’s tag along, I had one of the nicest shopping experiences of my life. Roberto, the owner of the shop, kindly took us for a coffee before opening the shop and letting Dave peruse his designer boutique. I sat and enjoyed the view from the comfort of a leather sofa while Roberto offered up an array of coats, jumpers, shirts and trousers and gave our very own Julia Roberts the personal shopper experience of a lifetime. Not only did he make sure every single thing Dave needed was catered for, he worked the floor and offered similar assistance to every other customer who came in. Roberto is a true dappa gentleman. He was rocking a nice blazer with colored handkerchief in the pocket, over a turtle necked top with tailored skinny leg checked trousers and boots. Rather quirky and individual for the usual conservative southern Italian males.

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Dave was lapping it up. Of course he was. Customer service of this level is basically non existent in the UK these days. A shop owner who knows his customers by name and is familiar with their families, who takes newbies for coffees is in dire need of resurrection if our high street is to succeed. Roberto was fantastic. Showing us the labels and washing instructions, describing fabrics and showing us the ranges he had in stock of everything. Being a salesman in the UK is a hard slog. As someone who has worked in shops before, I know this. I know it is hard to put in the effort and describe fabrics and thread counts to people who probably don’t care anyways. Which brings me to another reason Saturdays’ shopping trip was so refreshing…

MEN…shopping…alone
MEN…shopping…with their sons
MEN…Shopping
And not out of necessity like all the men in my life do. Shopping out of interest. Genuine interest in fashion and care in their appearance. It was fantastic to see! The image of men shopping in my world is an image I only see very late in December when gifts NEED to be bought and even then, its a reconnaissance job. We plot where each and every store is, then it’s in and out with SAS style precision. No browsing, no coffee stops…god forbid. But here, it’s all about the browsing. Men, carefully feeling materials, eyeballing colours caring about the fit. Not the way the English boys I know, particularly Dennis my brother, throws on a top and as long as it doesn’t feel skin tight, says ‘aye that’ll do’…nothing will just ‘do’ here.

We enjoyed the experience so much that we went back again the following Saturday to let ourselves be shopped and sold to despite having already decided we would buy christmas presents from the wonderful Roberto. Now isn’t that what is missing from our shops? The extra mile to make customers feel special.
Roberto has 2 new customers for life.

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