There used to be a saying in Ulster, ‘You were sold a pup’. It meant you got very poor value for money.
I never knew exactly where it came from, but was told it had a similar meaning to ‘buying a pig in a poke’. Instead of getting a piglet, you would open the sack and find a pup.
I’m not sure anyone in the countryside would ever have been naïve enough to be sold a pup, but I think I get sold a pup fairly often.
I spent the day in various Government offices trying to find the history of a piece of land. It was a frustrating experience as one place said, ‘We don’t have those records, you’ll have to try the other office’, and the other office said, ‘No, we don’t have those, you’ll have to try the other place’.
It would have seemed rude to have suggested that the two offices appeared to be performing what was essentially an identical function and that it might have been convenient for everyone if they merged. When I looked at the hours spent and the return we got – a pup came to mind.
Exhausted by lunchtime, the guy I was with and I sought somewhere for a cup of coffee. We found a little cafe where we had soup and rolls and coffee for €4 each – a tiny amount by Dublin standards. The cafe was virtually empty as we ate our home-made soup and I wondered why there weren’t more customers. Then I saw a notice in the window announcing that the café was closing in a couple of weeks time and thanking everyone who had given the café their support over the past six years. It seemed odd that somewhere serving good quality food at modest prices should be closing. Down the road there was a MacDonald’s, needless to say it appeared to be enjoying a thriving trade. Why did people not say to themselves, here’s a nice café and it’s cheap, why don’t we try here? The wisdom seems to be to go to the chain restaurant. Are we happy to be sold a pup?
Our local butcher sells excellent meat that is cheaper and better than what is sold by the local supermarket chain. But the advertisements have told us that the chain is the cheapest and the best and we believe what the advertisements tell us. Are we happy to buy a pup?
We seem to be easily sold a pup – but there are two parties to a transaction. We can only be sold a pup, if we’re prepared to buy one!