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November 30, 2008 Heater Hassle

My big buta heater didn’t make it through its first week. The pilot light burned through the mesh screen, meaning that the heat sensor (a nice safety feature) was directly exposed to the flame, meaning that it cuts off every five minutes. Or less.

So I took it back down to SouqTown, where the attitude that the Customer Is Always Right has not yet penetrated. The sales folks assumed that the silly foreign girl didn’t know how to work it properly, and kept reassuring me that I’d just done something wrong. Then they tried to convince me that the problem was one of ventilation – if I light up my heater in an enclosed space, it’s designed to turn itself off in 15 minutes, to avoid poisoning me with carbon monoxide. (Another nice safety feature.) I ended up having to hook the heater up to a butagaz tank and fire it up, in a well-ventilated space, to demonstrate the problem.

Once they were convinced that my heater, and not my utilization thereof, was faulty, they tried to find one to exchange with it. I didn’t particularly want the same model, so was glad when they said that it was sold out. But then they said that the one they’d replace it with was another 100Dh, so could I please fork over the difference?* Fortunately, a manager intervened, probably seeing the fury in my face at having transported the first one a total of 420 km already, and just gave it to me. :)

* “Difference” has the same two meanings in Arabic and in English: both contrasts and the answer to a subtraction problem. When I’d first been looking at the heaters, last week, I asked what the prices were. Upon hearing the two price tags, I asked what the difference between them was. “100 dirhams,” the clerk patiently answered. “Yes, but why? What makes them different?” I persisted. “This one costs 100 dirhams more than that one,” he reiterated. “Right. But what’s the difference?” I tried again. I should have rephrased, but I don’t know that many ways to structure questions. “100 Dh,” he said for the third time. “Which one is better?” I tried. He shrugged. I gave up and took the cheaper one.

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