up, down, and up again

Last November I got a gift certificate from these guys, a late but welcome ripple in the wake of the defence of my dissertation. Someone had found out about my interest in cooking: it was from the Swedish kitchenware chain Verner&Verner, issued at their first-ever store in the Nordstan mall of Gothenburg. Gratefully, I went to V&V’s website and picked out one of these things I always wanted to have but refused to pay for.

Verner&Verner, which began in 1986, has a profile that attracts the Glass-Door-Pantry and See-Me-Cooking types, with a lot of colorful Le Creuset’s assorted pots and pans, a selection of expensive knives, a sharpening service, shelves full of gleaming espresso machines, kitchen-aid mixers in green and red, piles of design accessories, pasta in fancy glass tubes, herbs and specialty coffee. They used to be quite alone with this concept in Sweden. It always was a pleasure to walk through their shops. But competition has caught up. Both V&V shops in Borås closed last year, and a week after I had chosen my gift-certificate-item, the newspaper announced that Verner&Verner had gone out of business altogether.

Darn. As soon as there was time, I stuffed my coupon into my backpack and we went to Nordstan in Gothenburg. Yes! The shop was still open. It was still called Verner&Verner. I went to the shelf, grabbed my box and lined up at the desk.

A young shop assistant, all towering regret, “I’m so sorry, but we are not accepting these coupons any longer. We have been selling their certificates as a service, but they’ve gone bankrupt, and we cannot, at this point…I am really sorry but there’s nothing I can do about the matter.”

For Pete’s sake! I was standing in front of the very cash register that had swallowed my friends’ money! But there was nothing to be done. They even had a regretful stack of letters, printed in color, prepared in anticipation of people like me. I got a telephone number and an e-mail address for filing my claim, was finished off with another set of regrets and that was it. At the dedicated Swedish Beer And Wine Store, opposite to our Shop of Woe and Misery, we bought a lot of beer and went home – fuming. Who cares about the ways the legal wheels are grinding after a business failure! I just didn’t like the idea that someone who’s been trying to be nice to me had, in fact, been paying into a big black hole for nothing. And as to their ‘we’re only part of the chain, we have no responsibility’ concept! Is it my fault, my heated mind was shouting to itself, that they ever agreed to selling those stupid worthless, good for nothing…

Give me a few more years and I’ll be writing to my local newspaper about frustrations like this. Every Friday.

Thinking “this will be the last time I’m hearing about the matter,” I instead wrote a lame ‘hey what’s up’ message to the indicated info@… mail address – then I immediately began forgetting about it all. Swedish social customs have many virtuous and charming sides, but this nation’s deeply ingrained, rock-stable (and infuriating) “No Sorry” mentality is not one of them, so much I have learned after sixteen and a half years in this country.

Two days later, I got a phone call. Not just a simple phone call – one of the two founding members of Verner&Verner was speaking. Everything was a misunderstanding, he said, and he had given the store instructions to accept my certificate. This was later confirmed by e-mail. Today, finally, Robin brought me a compact Le Creuset fondue set, as I had planned from the start – the last one in the shop, too. Of course I have been wondering whether it was Kitchen Blogging that made all this happen. In any case, I am very happy.

So now I can disclose that the free-cheese-fondue we had a while ago was, in fact, served in a large cast-iron pan on top of a makeshift rechaud made from various parts of a Trangia camping cooker – quite a nerve-racking outfit really.

(I have read that the Verner&Verner store in Nordstan is the only one that will stay open even in the future. Good luck to them!)

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