Oh my ... I wish I could say that I've never experienced anything like this here, but I can't.

Nude strawberries spark multi-media frenzy - South Island

An e-mail stoush between a former Queenstown Lakes District deputy mayor turned caterer and a potential client trying to organise a Christmas do incited a multi-media frenzy yesterday.

E-mail inboxes in New Zealand and internationally were inundated with copies of the exchange between Hayley Johnstone of an Auckland branch of Ray White Real Estate and caterer Margaret McHugh of the Gourmet Food Store, a cafe that runs out of the Auckland High Court.

Soon internet blogs were receiving thousands of comments and even radio shock jocks were in on the act.

The exchange started innocently enough with Ms Johnstone sending an e-mail to confirm a booking for Monday for 30 people, listing meals required and asking for a quote.

Ms McHugh, a former Southlander and Queenstown councillor and candidate for Queenstown's mayoralty, replied the price per person would be $13.

Here is where the quibbling began, with Ms Johnstone replying: "The food we have ordered amounts to only $8 per person. Are the strawberries $5 each per person?" Ms McHugh sent a reply stating large strawberries dipped in chocolate cost $2 and for two, per person, would cost $4 above the $9 cost of the meal.

Undaunted, Ms Johnstone compared the prices quoted with those listed on Ms McHugh's website Gourmet Food Store, found discrepancies, and asked for a price for nude strawberries.

Eventually the exchange became personal, with Ms McHugh suggesting Ms Johnstone collect her own strawberries.

When accused by Ms Johnstone of rudeness, Ms McHugh did not hold back: "Get into the real world young lady .... Not having the fortitude to call by telephone tells me your incrusted in your sit down loads of spare time job ... you are not in the real world and haven't fully matured but it will happen.

You were probably bottle feed till late teens." The e-mail went on: "And you thought my first email was rude. I expect you still believe in Santa Clause (sic)." Ms McHugh, who left Queenstown in 1997, said last night she would not comment on the exchange "not even to the Southland Times as a former Southlander" but had had plenty support for taking the stance.

Ms Johnstone's mobile phone was turned off last night.
IF you want to see more of the e-mail exchange, you can pop over to my blog. I didn't post it here because in searching for it, some sites have taken it down over fear of potential litigation under NZ's libel laws. I don't want to open Taffy up to that kind of risk.