The title of this post, Entrata libera’ can be translated as being ‘free entry’. To where? You might well be asking. Well, the answer is: to shops in Italy.
You see, certain shops here have a little card in the window which displays these words. This means, of course, that you can go in the shop. I know that this is generally quite a normal thing to do. Shops, after all, need customers – otherwise selling things can become quite difficult, if not impossible. And not selling things if you have a shop is a good way to end up on the sorry road to bankruptcy.
Italian shops, some, not all, want to encourage you to come in by putting up this little sign, the existence of which would seem to pre-suppose that at some point in the past you were only allowed in unless you wanted to to buy something or maybe you actually had to pay an entrance fee to go into a shop. Strange, is it not?
I’ve tried to extricate a plausible explanation from Italians for this odd message, but none so far has been satisfactory.
I assume that the sign means that you are free to come in and just browse, so the sign tries to help people understand that simply entering does not oblige them to make a purchase. Maybe at some time in the past the shop owner would have physically threatened you, with his sword or pistol or something, if you had had the temerity to enter his premises and then, you scoundrel you, decided to leave without making a purchase.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
“Oi! I’m sorry sir, but now you are in here, you must buy something. You cannot leave until you do!”, one can hear a shop owner of old shouting, in Italian, at an innocent customer as he started to walk in the direction of the door without having made a purchase.
One can only assume that the process of brandishing swords etc. at non-purchasing customers was not particularly good for business, and some bright spark must have finally woken up to the fact that letting customers in to your shop to have a look round may well encourage them to come back in the future and possibly; sharp intake of breath; buy something. Hence this little sign which you see hanging in shop windows all over the living museum. Must have worked wonders for profit levels when it was first introduced.
Can you imagine Amazon, or some such e-commerce site flashing up a little message saying ‘Before you can shop, you have to pay 10 dollars.’, or ‘You cannot leave this site until you have bought something.’
Could just be the business model of the future. But then you, as the potential customer, could fire off a little e-mail saying ‘Pay me, or I won’t shop at your site.’
Unless I get 10,000 euros by midnight tonight, I won’t write another post on this blog. So there. And if you leave this site without having bookmarked it, left a comment, and/or bought something from Amazon, then something embarrassing will happen to you in the next few days.
PS If something embarrassing does actually happen to you – come back here, click on an Amazon link, buy something, and nothing else embarrassing will happen to you for at least seven days. Probably.