Morally reprehensible behaviour

"I was standing with my father on a train platform in Lao Cai, a city on the Vietnamese/Chinese border," writes Michael-Lorton on "Next to us, an Australian woman was trying to negotiate down the price of a shoeshine with a local boot boy of perhaps 8 years of age. The boy pointed out the obvious: his asking price of 500 dong (about US3c at the time) was rock bottom, not by his own policy but by the fact that the Vietnamese Government did not print any bill smaller than the 500. That only stymied the Australian for only a moment. "Shine my shoes and his," she insisted, pointing at me - a person she had never seen before in her life, but, by virtue of my white face, apparently more worthy of her largess than this starving child. I indicated that my plastic sandals could not be shined, so the woman moved on to the only other Westerner on the platform, and forced this poor kid to clean my father's suede athletic shoes as well as her expensive pumps. (My father, in a memorable act of grace, tipped the boy 15,000 - about US$1.)"

Shoes' owner sought

A reader writes: "On Thursday, September 8, my granddaughter and I were driving along Remuera Rd when we spotted these shoes on top of a smallish white car," writes Rosemary. "We tried to overtake to get the driver's attention but one shoe fell off - we retrieved it. Without breaking any speed limits we caught up with the car only to see the next shoe fall off outside St Johns College. The second shoe was retrieved as the white car disappeared into the roundabout. We would love to return them to the owner - they are in such good condition. They look like school shoes so maybe someone is in big trouble?"

Petrol-price puzzle

Neil Armstrong, of Highland Park, writes: "We were coming home heading north on Sunday afternoon and came to the Bombay Hills and called in for fuel. Later, because of the gridlock from Drury, we came off at Papakura, went by the RSA and saw that the garage price was 169.9c.On checking our receipt we discovered to our horror we had been charged 17c per litre more yet only a few kilometres away. How can they justify that?"