Obviously I'm a huge success in the world of comedy. That goes without saying. However, when I'm not wowing audiences and holding a microphone the correct distance from my face to look pro, I like to hang out in shops. Because shops (one in particular) pays me to be there and that funds the petrol it costs to plug the gaps promoters insist on leaving between what they pay me and what my rent is. You'd think, after four years of doing this someone would have called my landlord to ask him how much I need and then adjusted my rates accordingly, but it turns out I am not very important yet and I probably have somewhere close to 3-4 years before I can afford shoes or smiling again.
I quite like the shop I work in, truth be told. It's a little independent company, the people are great and I sell kitchenware. I love kitchenware. It is an excellent thing for me to sell because:
a) It doesn't need folding
b) People actually need advice on it.
My last experience of retail as a sixth form college student, was on the menswear department at Debenhams. I spent every Saturday for two years stood by myself next to an escalator in the Jasper Conran section because NO MAN IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD HAS EVER ASKED A SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD DRAMA STUDENT FOR ADVICE ON WHAT TO WEAR. The easiest way to assist in that job was to just nip round the shop, pick up a new version of whatever the man happened to be currently wearing and present that with a smile that said, "Now you don't need to use the washing machine until she gets back."
But my current job requires me to give people advice on what blade angle on a knife will suit them best, how to make non stick last much longer and how to enter their pin number in a timely fashion after the age of 63. However, yesterday someone said to me "I can see you owning a shop one day. You're great at this, yeah, you mark my words - you'll have your own shop one day." and this chilled me to the bone. I started to worry that I was looking too worried when people said idiotic things to me, perhaps I was being too efficient when they asked me to find something? So, I thought, if I am condemned to a life of Open All Hours, then my last act as a free person will be to muse in an unstructured and partially thought through fashion on the injustices of shopping in the modern world.
I'll begin with a request to consumers on behalf of penniless shop assistants everywhere: Try not to look at the sales assistant like they've grabbed your boob and asked you if you fantasize about William Hague because they've said hello to you when you walk in the shop. These people work in this shop, if you were sat in your office and someone came in and started touching stuff, you'd also go over and say hello. It's their job.
"I don't want them to start selling me stuff!" Will be your response to my previous paragraph. Of course you don't, who does? Here's what to do to avoid being approached by sales assistants in shops: stay at home so that no one can mistake your taking your money into a shop and considering purchasing as a sign that there may be something you need or would like help with. A sales assistant does not have the magical capacity to shove 8 t shirts and a kettle in your bag if you smile and say hello back when you walk in - it's not a binding contract. You may still browse. Remember, the sales assistant has no desire to say hello and couldn't give a shit if you can't find what you're looking for or whether you like the weather today. They just have a weird touchy guy called Adrian who makes them say this stuff and loiters at the back of the shop with reprimands if they fail to make you feel uncomfortable. By saying hello back and letting them walk away sweat free, you are merely giving them another pay cheque. It's a bit like sponsoring a panda but they won't send you photos.
Weird requests are something that I deal with on a daily basis (that's long term relationships for you am I right, GUYS?! Lad.) today, I genuinely had this exchange with a woman:
Her: "Have you got any more attractive saucepans?"
Me: "I'm sorry?"
Her: "Have you got any more attractive saucepans?"
Me: "Um, what do you mean?"
Her: "Well, these all just look like lumps."
Her: "I usually buy Le Creuset. I want something like that but in a saucepan."
Me: "Would you like a Le Creuset sauce pan?"
Her: "No, I don't like them. They're disgusting."
Me: "Right." *Shows her 8 different sauce pans.*
Her: "No. They're all so ugly. Do you know what I mean?"
NO! Of course I don't know what you mean... it's a sauce pan. It's a bowl with a handle for heating shit up in. There are some very good ones, there are fancy coloured ones, there are even ones made of beeswax. But in order to be a sauce pan it has to be a pan you can cook sauce in. Other wise, it's just something else. There's quite possibly something wrong with your life if you cannot bring yourself to cook dinner because the kitchenware is offending you. I imagine this poor woman starving to death on the floor of her kitchen just wishing Vera Wang would bring out a line in hard anodised pans so she could just do something with these confounded baked beans. Baffling.
While we're on the subject of baffling... I have this conversation about once a week:
Customer: "Lovely, I'll take one."
Me: "Great. I'll just box it up for you."
Customer: "Oh. Is it going to be that one?"
Me: "Yes. Oh, sorry, did you want a different colour?"
Customer: "No. It's just, that ones been on the shelf."
Customer: "Haven't you got a boxed one?"
Me: "I'll put this one in a box."
Customer: "Yes. But, it's been on a shelf?"
Me: "It's a shop. We have to put things on shelves or it would just be an empty room."
Customer: "Well, I know that. It's just that I'M buying this. But it's been on a shelf."
Me: "Yes, but it's only been on the shelf for 2 days since I sold the last one and it's never been used, we can look at it together and check there's no damage from the mean old shelf of death."
Customer: "Is there any discount for it being on the shelf?"
Me: "Er, no. There's nothing wrong with it."
Customer: "But it's been on the shelf?"
Me: "Yes, but shelves don't actually cause damage to toasters because they are just innate planks of wood. It's actually one of the main reasons we use shelves to put the products on instead of fire."
Customer: "I don't want one that's been on the shelf."
Customer: "Unless you can give me a discount?"
Me: "Because it's been on a shelf?"
Customer: "That would be lovely."
*I have to go and beat the shelf for 20 minutes because its careless supervision of the toaster has cost the company 5%*
How do these people cope in supermarkets? Is that why supermarket staff always have the haunted look a recurring nosebleed sufferer because they are perpetually trekking to the stock room to find a brocolli that has been cushioned in a Dyson air blower to keep it from the harmful rays of the shelves? At least supermarket staff don't have to put up with people looking at you pointedly and saying, "It's cheaper online." As though you're so supposed to apologise for not being a Chinese slave child and offer to make them a cheaper one from the skin of your siblings and post it to them whilst simultaneously avoiding making any contribution to the UK economy via business tax. Sheesh. Who'd ever have thought a sales assistant could think so much whilst smiling and trying to find the prettiest sauce pan of them all.