When I lived in France, I shocked some British friends, and even one or two French ones, by sticking up for the Gallic approach to customer relations in shops.
Everyone else seemed to have had appalling encounters with surly or downright rude serveurs and serveuses who clearly regarded the attentions of members of the public as an intrusion on their day.
Without pretending never to have been confronted by a curt or scowling French assistant, I had become so accustomed to polite and helpful welcomes that my only concern was to make sure I didn't forget the obligatory bonjour as I entered a store.
The same had not been true of most of my recent attempts to shop in Britain, where I became weary of the non-availability of staff and their inability, when finally located, to be of much assistance. The blank faces that so often greeted requests for gift wrapping made me long for the automatic "désirez-vous un paquet cadeau, monsieur?".
Bearing in mind that I loathe shopping in any case, and spend as little time and money doing it as possible, I am happy to report that the Abu Dhabi experience still more closely reflects the France of my rose-tinted view.
There is such a cosmopolitan mélange of people here, and an almost exclusively foreign service sector, that you cannot put this down to the Emirati temperament.
But whenever I run out of excuses for avoiding the garish but functional malls, I am amazed at how painless shop staff try to make my visit. In fact, I am deterred from going there at all less by the possibility of receiving poor attention than by the likelihood of a long queue for a taxi afterwards.
The night before last, a charming Lebanese assistant at the Al Wahda mall - rather smaller than the sprawling Marina Mall featured in my picture - suddenly stopped describing the merits of a particular piece of electrical equipment and led me instead to a far-off counter where, from a drawer, he produced a different version.
"I won it in a seminar," he proudly announced. "Take it away. If it works and you like it, come back and pay me if you feel like it, but not even half what you'd have paid for the other accessory. Otherwise just bring it back."
The object quickly proved perfectly suited to my needs, and a phone call established today that I could leave it as long as I wished to pop back to settle up.
I'd love to share the man's name and even photograph with Salut! readers. But while he may have a golden touch when it comes to customer relations, his career prospects would perhaps not be enhanced if his employers knew he had deprived them of a sale. There'd be no further seminar prizes, for sure.