Seeing, as Sherlock Holmes pointed out, is not the same as observing. Failure to appreciate this truth has landed me in the soup on a couple of occasions.
Once, in the late 1960s when such things were considered trendy, I owned a knitted tie. Two, actually.
The first, striking in a fetching mustardy sort of way, was bought on a trip to Germany.
I stole the second. In broad daylight under the noses of the Old Bill.
A couple of days after the German visit I popped into a photographic shop in Cannock to inquire about a camera I was considering buying. I’d been wearing my new tie earlier, but it was sunny and warm so I’d removed it and put it in my jacket pocket.
When I left the shop two women were chatting, one of them holding a knitted tie. I recognised it immediately because it was striking in a fetching mustardy sort of way.
So I grabbed it and put it in my jacket pocket.
“Thanks,” I said, smiling politely. “It’s mine.”
Neither woman argued as I stepped into a waiting car and sped off.
That evening I found a tie in each pocket and gave myself up. The police station was just across the road from the camera shop, but the women hadn’t reported the incident and, after giving my details, I was allowed to keep the tie, which was logged as lost property. I was told I’d be expected to give it back if it was claimed within three months. It wasn’t, so I didn’t.
The second incident, a couple of weeks ago, involved another German product: a six-pack of lager, bought for £2.57 from the Aldi supermarket in Rugeley.
Two of the bottles were duff, filled with a non-alcoholic, colourless liquid which drew odd looks when poured for guests.
I returned the empty bottles to Aldi expecting a goodwill pack. Company policy, apparently, doesn’t run to such gestures, and they offered two bottles.
I pointed out that I regularly spent three hundred or so pounds a month at the store (“Irrelevant”) and that M&S would have unhesitatingly offered a replacement pack (“This isn’t M&S”).
Miffed and having received no apology for being sold substandard goods, I phoned Trading Standards who checked (and gave the all-clear) to the entire lager stock at both Rugeley and Cannock branches.
Cut to last Thursday and the monthly visit by our window cleaners.
Stick with me. There is a point to this.
“Thanks for the beer,” they said as I handed over a tenner.
It was sweltering when they called the previous month, so I’d left them a couple of bottles of lager in a bucket of cold water in the back garden while I went to town.
“But you didn’t drink it,” I said, recalling that I’d found the unopened bottles still in the bucket of water and put them back in the fridge.
You can see where this is leading, can’t you?
Quite so. They’d filled the empty bottles with water and replaced the caps to see if I’d be daft enough to think they hadn’t been touched.
Wizard ruse, eh?
Can’t you just hear those Aldi people chuckling? And Trading Standards?
The moral, Watson?
Don’t jump to conclusions. Especially, wrong ones.