Tag Archives: shopping

A dip into the bargain bin

Like everybody else, I’m using this period of indefinite detention to have a bit of a clear-out.

It’s incredible the amount of utter shite you find yourself stockpiling in cupboards you’d only ever open if you weren’t allowed out. Among other cherished keepsakes, I’ve found a router from the 1990s, two shit hip flasks – Christ knows where the decent one’s gone – and a length of bright green cloth I had sent to me for a specific purpose that’s since vanished into that part of my mind that resembles a misty tundra with drunken Finns stumbling about on it. I’ve said the words “What the fuck is that for?” so many times I no longer associate them with glancing down in the shower.

So you set about throwing all this crap away. And physical music is a great place to start, because it takes up so much room and can so easily be digitised, if you’re even arsed with that since everything you’d ever want is online anyway. That stack of CDs you’ve had in the corner of the room for years? You could have a lovely pot plant there. Bin them, that’s what I’d do.

If I didn’t have 3,000 of the bloody things.

Continue reading A dip into the bargain bin

Screen 15

Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush, on Black Friday. Whoops.

It didn’t occur to me when I booked my ticket. I had to be out west later to see a band, I had time to see a film first, there’s a cinema in this hideous place: fine, I’ll tolerate it. Little did I realise I’d encounter a battalion of rabid consumers surging towards me in waves with their unlimited boxes of trainers, always bloody trainers.

Still, not even people soon to realise that bargain Converse won’t fill the hole in their soul can ruin one of my favourite experiences – going to the pictures. That honour instead falls to the Vue cinema chain.

Continue reading Screen 15

One ping, Vasili

In the spirit of diversity and the love-in that is the current state of the post-Brexit British Isles, this is a mixed bag of angry observations. A bit like the bags of mixed sweets you used to be able to buy in the old days, but with added hemlock.

By my calendar, well on my phone thingy anyway, summer ends at midnight on the 20th of September each year. Really? My garden is already littered with all manner of autumnal detritus, including the usual high-end selection of cat turds. My heating has been on for the last week. Oh, and before I forget, my partner and I are enjoying our cosy winter evenings by the fire, dreaming of the day when the kids, no, young adults, will finally stop being self-centred fuckwits so that we can bugger off to Spain.

Continue reading One ping, Vasili

The Russell Hobbs stampede

Well, we’ve made it. We deployed the stiff upper lip, the fearless spirit that has seen Britain endure three plague epidemics, two world wars and a Margaret Thatcher, and we’ve survived Black Friday for another year.

About three years ago, the biggest shopping day in the United States migrated to her little cousin across the pond. The lack of a Thanksgiving Thursday over here would no longer stop us elbowing our fellow Britons in the jaw in a bid to secure the best deals on massive TVs on Black Friday. Videos of snarling housewives showed the lengths we’d go to for a good deal, dependable consumers that we are.

This year was no different. There were 14 arrests after a mass brawl at Tesco Extra in Watford, and six staff were treated for smoke inhalation as furious shoppers reacted to the Solihull John Lewis selling out of Dell Inspirons by setting fire to the Customer Service counter. A man died in the Russell Hobbs stampede at Lakeside.

Only none of that actually happened.

Continue reading The Russell Hobbs stampede

On safari in the land of the dead

Poor judgement led me to be swept away into the stream of bug-eyed, gut-swinging, make-up plastered humans that inhabit the West Quays shopping centre of Southampton. It was by far and away the most harrowing experience of the month so far – and I live in London. London’s a carnival of inhumanity orchestrated by a confederacy of subterranean dunces, and yet still the unending misery of life here doesn’t quite match up to the deranged experience in Southampton’s premier cattle market.

It was like waking up in a zoo, hemmed in by some unique specimens with no clear exit route. I found my trigger finger itching for the blunderbuss – I was on safari in the land of the dead. If this is mankind’s endgame then perhaps we’re due a meteor of extinction proportions. Something large, violent and destructive is the only feasible way to cut through the smog of apathy, gluttony, blind hatred, glum joy and the general victory of all that is smug, artificial and mindless in this consumerist society.

Shopping centres are for people who have nothing to do. Spending your weekend in these air-conditioned hells is essentially declaring to the world that you have no interests, no passion – just a lifetime to waste fawning over shit you simply don’t need. Like people whose favourite crisps are ready salted or like a bit of everything when it comes to music, these ones will be the first to be harvested for organs when the sun implodes.

Watching people clamber over one another in the name of Black Friday is a bit like turning a stone over to see a heap of maggots feasting on one another in the absence of sustenance. How quick we are to debase ourselves for a TV that we can download porn onto. Watching it on the news, I couldn’t tell if it was the beginning of a SyFy disaster movie or just another collective lowering of the bar – pretty soon we’ll dispense with the pleasantries and just get back into hacking one another to death in the pursuit of property.

Conjure up an image of shopping centres and you’re probably seeing fat middle aged goons jostling one another to be first in line to buy household appliances that can tie your shoelaces and teach you Mandarin all at once. Still, it’s probably good training for when they’re wading through charred skeletal remains in search of the last uncontaminated hunk of bread following the inevitable collapse of our consumption-orientated society. It’s just more meaningless shit to put in that tomb you paid a mortgage for so you can sit and stare in horror at something other than one another as you both desperately try to find something to talk about that isn’t the crushing hell of it all.

To what kind of dribbling ape is a shopping centre supposed to have meaning? Given the amount of hours of life lost to these time-vampires we may as well put the bastards on the board of culture and tourism. Perhaps at some point we actually started believing the guff that advertising farted into our minds; maybe we really thought we could get all we’d ever dreamed off at 0% APR with free home delivery and that the terms and conditions might not cost us our collective souls.

It’s all part of this aspirational living that has us all bobbing up and down on steel conveyor-belts like well-groomed cattle to the slaughter. West Quays is an abattoir run by Philip Green that’s free to the credit card-toting public. If the threat of the nuclear bomb rendered death a senseless, causeless event that could sweep us away in a moment, then shopping centres, malls and the like have left life just as meaningless. Judged on the merits of these places, humanity just seems like an awful parade of pampered, farting meat-slabs that are all too impressed with the latest shiny toy that smells like a used car air-freshener.

These emporiums of commercial dreams aim to regurgitate the ambitions of others down our throats, as though happiness is just a new television away. Replete with all the glossy posters of unfeasibly attractive people flogging perfume made from cow semen, indicating that you too can be as happy and as beautiful if only you smelled like a bovine ball-sack. It’s probably got some pheromone-fuelled potential to arouse in others the same level of sexual desire as you’re supposed to feel for the swaggering, pouting chumps that adorn the windows of these shops.

So we walk around shocked and baffled into submission under the barrage of images and claims that your life can only be improved through buying more and working harder to buy some more. Whether it’s the sculpted Hollister models sauntering around topless outside the store like grinning wads of flesh, or nude celebrity endorsements for jewellery, water or whatever else needs to be sold – the whole place helps to reinforce the notion that you have failed in some way, that success is attainable, but only with the guiding hand of money.

It’s as if we should be grateful for the existence of shopping centres; where else could we find so much progress in one place? Everything you’ve ever wanted is there – health, beauty, youth, comfort and happiness – it’s all yours for the taking, provided you can pay for it. Perhaps this explains the gormless look of hopeless despair that’s splattered all over the faces of these wretched souls as they trot up and down the farm of dreams and realise that they can’t afford it all, that they can never attain true nirvana in this church because it all costs too much. In six months’ time it’ll all be out of fashion, out of warranty and the uselessness of it is revealed; so onwards they march, hopeless in the knowledge that they can’t afford to hold onto their happiness and so they go to the food court and wash all that shame down with a Big Mac and watery cola to try and escape all this defeat.

Why do we do it? We run ourselves through the gauntlet of comparable living when we know full well that we can’t afford it, and we don’t really need it. You can’t lose a game you refuse to play, but still the rules ensnare so many people who drag their tired, bloated carcasses around in the hope that maybe there’ll be a sale that allows them just another taste of ‘success’. Come friendly bombs and free us from the scourge of the great British tradition of worshipping weekly in the church of the damned, the fraudulent and the smug.

The mail will never stop coming

Of all the queues we must join, the post office line is by far the most character revealing. Try as you might to avoid it, sooner or later you are going to need to mail that crappy sweater you sold on eBay for far less money than was worth your hassle, or the Mother’s Day card you are sending a day late. (By the way, your mum knows it wasn’t the postman who slacked off, despite what you might have told her. She knows you bought the card the day after mother’s day because it was on sale, and you are a cheap bastard. She birthed you and wiped your ass. She knows.)

Unlike other goods and services we’re required to queue for, such as takeaway coffee or the bus, the post office has no magic level of customer service or schedule they’re striving to meet. No-one who works at the post office looks at the desperate, sweaty line of sad sacks wasting their lunch break and thinks; “I am going to stick more stamps than I’ve ever stuck before and expedite these important packages!” The post office workers don’t give two rat’s asses about you or your mail. They don’t care because no matter how many packages or letters they send, the mail will never stop coming. Theirs is a Sisyphean task, endlessly laborious and futile.

Nevertheless, you wait in line, your package clutched to your chest. To pass the time, you engage in conversation with the person in front or behind you, smile at the mother with her baby in a stroller and offer her your place further up in the line. You wave and coo at the baby, and the baby smiles back, gurgling and laughing. You make the most of your time, responding to emails and sending text messages on your phone.

But the room is becoming unbearably stuffy with so many people in it, and you are cordoned off and corralled by a rope barrier like a heifer waiting for slaughter. The collective patience and human civility lasts about 7 minutes. At this point people start to sigh audibly. The suits roll their eyes at the unstaffed counters and well-dressed women mutter incredulously that there should be more staff during such a busy time. Each member of the line swiftly becomes the authority on the correct operating procedure for the post office.

Then, having officially abandoned all social niceties and composure, the line begins to unravel. Coats and jackets are unbuttoned; bags are dropped loudly to the floor. Someone stamps an indignant foot. Everyone is a petulant, pissed off toddler, with a need more urgent than anyone else’s. You glare at the older lady ahead whom minutes before had filled you with fond memories of your gran, and shake your head at her excessive number of packages. No-one is making cooing noises at the baby in the stroller any more, and the baby is no longer cute; it is screaming and red-faced and trying to claw its way out of its wheeled prison.

The baby embodies how you feel but you are not sympathetic to its discomfort. You blame its mother for bringing it here and taking a place in the line, a place that was yours before you gave it up, before the post office line had robbed you of your ability to feel compassion.

More people enter the post office and join the line. They are civilized at first, but turn quickly, ready to throw the first stone at whoever is holding up this godforsaken line. A man lingers at the counter, buying stamps after he has already paid for his package. A woman asks drawn-out questions about different rates and shipping times as she fishes around in her purse. Can’t they see there are people waiting? Can they not feel the hot glares and seething impatience as they dilly dally with their change purse or forget to fill out a customs declarations form for their international package? You glare a silent warning at the people in front of you: try and buy a single stamp and this angry mob is going to descend on you like a biblical swarm of locusts on a crop field. Three of the counter windows remain unstaffed.

The situation is nearing its apex, the fabric of society so thin it threatens to snap completely. Only a fragment of order remains, and it is the counter worker who holds the last frail thread, for she is what stands between you and your package being mailed. You no longer even care about your package, but you have invested this time and you are going to see this through. Finally, you arrive at the front of the line, and taste a long-awaited victory.

But you have grown accustomed to the line mentality and forget what you are here to mail. When the counter worker asks about the contents of your package you pause and stutter, unable to form words after so much non-verbal grunting and seething. You take too long to answer and the din of the mob grows louder behind you. You mutter something unintelligible and then remember you didn’t fill out the international customs form still clutched in your sweaty palm. In an urgent whisper you ask to borrow a pen, and the counter worker raises a knowing eyebrow and pushes a pen through the window. Hastily you fill out the tiny boxes on the form, hoping the line doesn’t notice your misstep, but they do. Twenty, thirty people strong, the line bellow their dissatisfaction. You shove the completed form back through the window, and pay for your package.

The counter worker eyes you blankly. “Do you need any stamps today?” she asks. “Yes,” you reply, suddenly remembering, “Can I have a book of first class please?”

The wide-eyed Tommy and the shared chocolate bar

As a man quite keen to distance himself from his own and anyone else’s emotions whenever possible, I’m not prone to tears. I might feel like wailing like a Muslim staring at a particularly egregious wall in Jerusalem at various points each day, but I’ve chosen a path of reason. Emotions are to rational thought as I hope these pellets will be to the bastard slugs that have taken to crawling through my flat every night.

Incidentally, it may be Jews who wail at the wall, but I’m yet to meet the person whose eyebrows don’t rise at the sight of the words ‘wailing like a Jew’, and in any case I don’t care.

Like all sane men, I will shed a happy tear at the end of The Shawshank Redemption. I also know of one song, and only one, that cuts me up just about every time I hear it, though I’ll never tell anyone what that song is lest they play it at me to render me useless. Other than that, though, very little provokes water works, unless I’m legless and have just realised once again how pointless I really am.

I was in the cinema yesterday to watch the remarkably over-rated Interstellar, but before we got to the point where Anne Hathaway starts shitting out words about how ‘love is the only thing stronger than gravity’ or whatever the hell she was on about, we had the trailers, and before that the adverts, including the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon monstrosity, but also including the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert, which up until then I’d not seen.

The First World War, just about anything to do with it, is the only other thing that has the power to make me weep like a girlfriend six months into a relationship with a man she now realises is not everything she once dreamed of, after he accidentally farted in the shower while she was shaving her legs nearby. Everything about that conflict is dreadful, and provokes anger and sorrow in me unlike anything else. Just thinking about the lines of men on both sides, pushed to their deaths by Melchett-style characters who never had to stare down a barrel themselves unless it was filled with brandy, makes my wish to avoid emotion where possibly crumble to dust.

That a supermarket has decided to use the Christmas truce of 1914 as the basis of an advert to sell Yule Logs comes as no surprise to me. That it’s Sainsbury’s, the supermarket that strikes me as the most decent available to those of us unable to afford Waitrose Tangy & Aromatic Lemon & Garlic Couscous, with two ampersands no less, is a bit more of a shock.

I get the point, with the wide-eyed Tommy and the shared chocolate bar, a man making his own little bit of peace with one German soldier. And if you’re going to do something like this, it’s as well to be on an important anniversary of the actual truce. But, my dear Lord Sainsbury, have you ever heard the expression ‘too soon’? Do you think, in this case, it may be a little too soon to use the horrific slaughter of millions of men in a sickening style of warfare to sell Taste the Difference Extra Thick Brandy Cream With Remy Martin at £2.65 a throw?

It’s too soon, Lord Sainsbury, it’s too fucking soon, because there will never be enough time passed between the First World War and now to justify using it to sell your Christmas shite to a public that’s going to buy it anyway. Nobody, not one single person, will decide to go into Sainsbury’s now because of the advert you’ve produced; nobody will find themselves thinking “I was going to pop into Morrison’s, because it’s near, but that Sainsbury’s advert has given me real food for thought. Their non-cynical use of surprisingly clean and chipper-looking Western Front troops to sell Sainsbury’s Mull Of Kintyre Extra Mature Cheddar has given me an overwhelming desire to drive the extra four miles to the nearest burnt orange supermarket to hand over more money than I can afford, because buying cheaper food and giving the savings to the British Legion just doesn’t seem like Christmas any more.”

It will always be too soon to use the First World War to further commercial gains in any way. Use the Second World War all you must, with the more obvious good versus evil and a set of heroes and villains who lend themselves particularly well to caricature. Save yourself some advertising spend by making next year’s ad from that bloody Downfall clip of Hitler raging, “How the hell have we let them be cheaper than us for a pack of baubles? How have we let their turkeys be so much more succulent than ours this year? Nein! Nein nein nein!”

Just leave the First World War alone. They weren’t romantic heroes, they were young men pushed unwillingly to their deaths at a rate of hundreds every minute. Those who survived refused to discuss it for very obvious reasons, not wishing to relive the utter horror of trench warfare for a single minute of their lives. And though they’ve all gone too now, it’s no excuse to start using them and their butchered mates to shift a few Luxury Fruit & Nut Christmas Puddings, 450g, serves 4.

This beautiful dance of retail mundanity

I fucking hate people.

That’s a lie. What I actually fucking hate is the response people give me when I ask them this deep, complicated, thought-provoking question: “Would you like a carrier bag?”

As an innocent shopper, you may feel bemused, confused and probably emotional at the fact this irks me so, which explains a lot. Because never in my life, before I started working in a shop, did I realise that this was such a complex fucking question. And after day after day after day of the same shitty, retarded responses from every type of shopper under the sun, I have had e-fucking-nough, to the point where steam literally pours from my ears and my areolae harden in rage before I’ve even asked the fucking question.

You walk around the shop, we exchange pleasantries, you ask a mundane question, I give you a mundane answer and we continue this beautiful dance of retail mundanity until BOOM, it’s time to ask the question. And you say:


In an offended, crumpled up, saggy faced angry kind of way. Why the fuck is my question so worthy of your fucking rage? Did I kick your child in the face? Did I tweak your nipples? Did I unknowingly think I’d asked you if you wanted a carrier bag when really I said “Do you finger small mammals?” No, none of the above. I asked you a simple question that I have to ask you and you’re so fucking offended your bumhole is tensed so tight the shit’s gone back up.

Or, it’s this:

“Hahaha erm yeah?”

In a ‘you’re a thick bitch of course I do are you blind?’ way.

Why the fuck would I assume you want a carrier bag? Especially as you’re only buying one finger-sized chocolate bar. Did you notice me ask you with a smirk on my face, like it was obvious you didn’t want a fucking bag? Let me turn this on you – why the fuck do you want a bag? You’ve not got anything to put in it!


(embarrassed laugh) “Yes please…”

Why are you embarrassed? Have you realised your stinking carrier bag addiction is something to be ashamed of? Have you realised the environment is vomiting on your dirty, filthy carrier bag habit? Or have you never been asked this question before and you don’t know how to respond? Did I actually just ask you if you wanted a cheeky peek at my labia? Fuck me, get a grip!

Perhaps I’ll hear:

“No thanks, save the environment and all that.”

SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT AND ALL THAT. What the fuck is wrong with you? ‘And all that’? There are fucking massive whales being washed up on shores, looking all sad and whaley and that, with their stomachs full to fuck with carrier bags. It’s not a fucking joke! The environment isn’t an ‘all that’ you cunt. If you’re going to give a shit, do it with conviction! Don’t be so fucking blasé about the world your children will be living in!

Or there’s this:

“No, erm, yes, erm…”

An overly long period of time considering this difficult question. I asked you if you wanted a bag, not if you wanted a sex change/had an STD/if you would rather lose an arm or a leg. Man up.

And what about when we don’t have any bags to give you? Now that’s a fucking controversy. You have never seen such outrage and despair as in a person who does not have a fucking carrier bag to put their one chocolate bar in. The worst are the old bastards with their fucking souped-up trolleys who don’t even need a bag, they just like to ‘keep everything separate’. Fuck me, if you can’t tell the difference between your shopping items you should get to the opticians before you choke on an ornamental pebble thinking it’s a Werthers.

Have you ever been in Asda when they’ve ran out of bags? My god the abuse they get is horrific. You can see them with their thousand mile stare, gazing past the sani pad isle, shaking in their middle aged sag, waiting for the next barrage of abuse. Honestly, you’ve never seen such emotion from people over something so pathetic. I have been told ‘it’s just not good enough’, I have been told ‘your shop will close you know, you can’t run without bags for people, it’s ridiculous’. That’s right, RIDICULOUS.

So I suppose, in a way, I do fucking hate people. At least people who feel it’s right to throw tantrums over their right to the noble carrier bag.

So next time you’re shopping and you’re about to approach the checkout or the desk or whatever, consider your bag situation. Is it too much to ask that you’re polite? Could you possibly even consider doing something really controversial like, bringing your own bag?

Get yourself together and fucking get your priorities right. Do it for the checkout assistant, do it for the whales, do it for the planet. For fuck’s sake, do it for yourselves.

Wandering off down the stationery isle

I love my local Lidl. I love how it’s noticeably cheaper than the humongous Tesco that just opened next door. I love that it has survived the opening of said Tesco. I love that its counterpart, Aldi, has opened up shop nearby waving a big German ‘fuck you’ in the general direction of the same Tesco.

Just like many other supermarkets the country over, however, Lidl still can’t get past one particular aspect. It’s an aspect that I have inexplicably lamented and avoided as much as possible over the years but now I fear my silent, solo efforts need to take voice and a stand must be made.

I speak of course of the “Next Customer” conveyor belt separator.

Why the fuck do I need one of these stupid pieces of plastic to avoid entangling my shopping with that of the person in front or behind me? OK, I concede that the shopping blockers are there in order to assist the spunk monkey behind the till but in my experience the worst that has ever happened as a result of not using a piece of plastic to do the talking for me is, you guessed it, have a few polite fucking words with the cashier.

“But Matt”, I hear people say, “what if you are using your phone or not giving your shopping your full attention for whatever reason?” To that I would reply that it’s your fault if you end up with someone else’s party napkins or dry pinto beans.

Depending on the situation, most people will have some form of list that will help keep them wandering off down the stationery isle or stopping too long at the deli counter. Believe it or not this list can also be used as a check list at the check-out. It’s really not that difficult to remember if you came in for OK magazine or not and if that is a bit too confusing someone else should be shopping for you and your day-release should be reconsidered.

If you abhor eye contact, light conversation or any other form of general interaction that much, there is usually a self-service option, though you’ll inevitably need some form of assistance with it as the member of staff asks you for ID or checks your bag, swipes their magic card and enters a set of random numbers into the screen.

Next time you’re shopping, try it. Leave a little gap between you and your fellow shopper. Just watch them slyly peek over their shoulder and frantically lurch for the magic barrier after realising their precious tid-bits are at risk. Why not use all of the available stoppers to split down your own shopping into dairy, meat, fruit and veg, frozen etc? That will really fuck with them, like these stupid fucking barriers mess with me.

The rats are grumpy

Everyone talks about bad customer service, but let’s take a moment to consider bad customers, or more correctly stop and listen to a retail employee.

For those of you who have never worked in retail, or have been lucky enough to work in a shop so exclusive that refusing a sale to those deemed unworthy is actually mandatory, let me describe what dealing with a bad customer is like, with this helpful illustration.

Imagine a horde of rats. Hungry, unwashed, surrounded by their young ones. Now imagine them trying to burrow into your face through your left nostril, collectively. The rats are grumpy, and the slightest fucking whimper or sigh from your end is a clear sign to them that you are disrespecting their God-given right to enter your face in whatever disturbed, fucked up way they see fit.

What do you mean you don’t have enough room for all of us? You didn’t cater for every individual rodent personally? What kind of sick mind games are you trying to play? Also, where’s the fucking bathroom? My little vermin offspring feels the need to block the toilet with its gigantic stool.

You may try to reason with them, but reasoning with your fur-infested left nostril is fucking difficult when your right one is full of paperwork and policy stuffed there by a kindly wizard. I didn’t mention the wizard? Don’t worry about him, he’s here to help. Just hold still and that left nostril will be stretched out in no time.

Let’s imagine you’ve survived the day. You’ve cleared your nasal cavity and the swelling has reduced. You’re ready for some light refreshment and entertainment, in the form of a glowing box of poorly written programming, where more fucking rats are now surrounded by cameras desperately hiding their horrific true personalities while trying to win some massive, undeserved jackpot.

And you, you get to start it all again tomorrow, when the shops open, there to be rat-fucked like the walking left nostril you are.