July 6th 2006
The Flogiteer turned up at the charity shop again this morning. Atkins Down The Road and I were ready for him.
Since the Flogiteerâ€™s last visit we had purchased two fairly plain ceramic vases from another charity shop. Atkinsâ€™ wife, a dab hand at painting, and induced by Atkins with a tenner, had painted it to my instructions in the bright, almost garish colours and design of a piece of Clarice Cliff pottery. She had then added â€˜Bizarre by Clarice Cliffâ€™ in that potteryâ€™s distinctive script on the bottom of the vase. The bait was ready.
â€œIâ€™d like to give all the items of pottery in your windows a closer examination,â€ said the Flogiteer, immediately on arriving.
â€œOf course, sir, my pleasure,â€ I said, obsequious to a fault.
I duly removed all the pieces of pottery from the window, about twenty in all, and placed them on an MFI pine table which, if all went well, I intended telling the Flogiteer was an example of early Chippendale, with a view to a possible sale. I then proceeded to go about my business while the Flogiteer went about his; however my eyes never left him for a second.
He proceeded to go through his routine of turning every item upside down and inspecting the bottom. He literally froze when he turned the first of the â€˜Clarice Cliffâ€™ vases upside down. He must have stood stock still for at least ten seconds before, with a shifty look around him which would have done credit to Richard Nixon at his trickiest, he placed the vase carefully to one side and continued his search. The same thing happened, only more so if anything, when he came across the second vase. He went through the rest quickly and was very soon back with me, his treasure trove clutched tightly in his greedy hands.
â€œFound something you like, sir,â€ I smiled.
â€œNot really. Not really my cup of tea this stuff, but Iâ€™ll take it off your hands if you like,â€ he said, trying to sound disarming and couldnâ€™t-care-less.
I looked at the price stickers. â€œThat will be ten pounds then, sir.â€
â€œMore than theyâ€™re worth,â€ the ungrateful twat replied.
At that moment Atkins stepped in. â€œDid I hear you say ten pounds, Mr Ravenscroft?â€
â€œThatâ€™s right.â€ I indicated Atkins. â€œThis is the manager, Mr Atkins.â€
â€œThere must be some mistake,â€ said Atkins. â€œSomeone must have priced them up incorrectly. They shouldnâ€™t be five pounds each they should be a hundred and five pounds each.â€
The Flogiteer nearly choked, his faced a wonderful mixture of shock and rage. â€œA hundred and five?â€
â€œOh yes. These are Clarice Cliff. Genuine antiques. Didnâ€™t you know? Oh yes, theyâ€™re easily worth a hundred and five pounds of anybodyâ€™s money.â€
The Flogiteer wasnâ€™t giving in that easily, even though the vases, if the genuine articles, would be easily worth three or four hundred pounds each at the very least, as he well knew. â€œBut the price tag on the vases was five pounds. Therefore youâ€™re obliged to sell them to me for five pounds.â€
Atkins stood his ground. â€œNot a bit of it. A price on an item is only an invitation to purchase,â€ he said, then went on with great authority, although it was probably absolute bullshit, â€œSale of Goods Act, Section 2, Sub Section 3, Paragraph 2 applies.â€
â€œ Iâ€™m sure you wonâ€™t be wanting them at a hundred and five pounds each since you said they arenâ€™t even worth five pounds so Iâ€™ll put them back in the window shall I?â€ I said, making to do just that.
â€œNo!â€ the flogiteer squealed, grabbing hold of me in an attempt to stop me putting them back.
â€œNo. No Iâ€™ll take them.â€
â€œEven at a hundred and five pounds each?â€
â€œWell â€¦â€¦well after all you are a charity. And Iâ€™m feeling in a generous mood today.â€
â€œWell thatâ€™s most magnanimous of you sir,â€ said Atkins. â€œMost magnanimous indeed. Cash please.â€
â€œSorry, we only deal in cash. All the rogues you get about today, you know. Present company excepted of course.â€
The Flogiteer duly tipped up after visiting a cash machine.
So all in all it was a satisfactory morningâ€™s work. The charity shop ended up two hundred and ten pounds better off; and with any luck the Flogiteer wonâ€™t be bothering us again. The only disappointment is that Atkins and I wonâ€™t have the pleasure of seeing his face when he realises heâ€™s been conned. But then you canâ€™t have everything, can you?