A hat-rack please…


Went shopping for a hat-rack the other day. No big deal, this was a need rather than a want – my hats had multiplied in direct proportion to my vanishing hair.

I rang a store which stocks everything from rope to paints and plants, and asked for a hat-rack.

“No we don’t sell any” said a South African accent a little too emphatically, the way some people do when they want you off the line.


“I’ll put you through to hardware” she said, and was gone, though Hardware was displeased.

“A hat-rack!” a man there grumped. “This is hardware” and you could tell he meant this was where the big boys played – not pansies who wanted hat-racks.   He sent me to Storage where he clearly thought I belonged, and in the process cut me off.

I rang back, more certain of my ground this time, and asked for Storage.

“Do you sell hat-racks?” I asked when I was put through.

“What was it you wanted?” said a woman with an Indian accent as thick as dahl.

I asked again.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about” she told me. Probably true, very sub-continental but not here lady, somebody should tell her.

I ground my teeth and decided to break my question into easily digestible parts.

Hats!. You understand hats!”

“You want hats? We don’t sell hats”.

Very deep breath. Time to look elsewhere.

I rang the company’s rival with the same question and here a salesman paused as if he was puzzled, then told me the store didn’t stock them.

“Just out of interest” I said, “what did you think I asked for?

“I thought you said head-rack”.

“You thought I wanted something to hang skulls on…?”

At least we shared a laugh, and then it was time to change tack and try antique shops. Let’s face it, anybody wanting a hat rack was already antique.

“Hat-racks, stands, no mate we don’t sell them”.

“Know where I can buy one?”

“Mate, if I knew, I’d whip in and buy it myself. People ask for them at least twice a week.”

One last try then at another antique shop – where the owner confirmed that she too had people asking for them regularly.

“I’ve only got a bamboo one left” she said.

“How much?”

“950 dollars” she said, and managed to laugh at the price herself.

A few days later I trotted up to the first store I’d called, made a few checks and within a few minutes, found the very hat-rack I’d asked for in the first place.

Price: $20.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.