The good, the bad and the plain disgusting

02 November, 2007

A life in retail ensures you get to experience the rich tapestry of society

I like to think that being a retailer makes me a good customer. Whenever I buy anything elsewhere, I try to be polite, friendly and, although I make sure

whoever is serving me remembers who is the customer and where the balance of power lies within our relationship, I try to be nice about it. Accordingly, I'm always irritated (but to be honest, not surprised) when customers behave badly.

Now, I'm not talking about the really rude ones, they are easy to ignore. But there are little things that really bug me. For instance, digging around in the ­bottom of your pocket, purse or bag for money and then dumping it all the counter inevitably leaves a load of fluff, tobacco and suspiciously curly black hairs in its wake.

I know, I know, it's trivial, but sweeping someone's pocket detritus up just gives me the heebie- jeebies.

Ditto when someone gives you change

they've been holding for a while

- eeuw , it's all warm, and arrgghh, sometimes a bit moist . Whatever next? Shall I plunge my hand in your trouser pocket and rummage around for some coppers?

Detritus and effluvia seem to pester me. The other day, a chap popped into the shop asking if we sold milk, only to be redirected to the corner shop. As he left, he started to do that slightly wonky, stampy walk that signified that he'd trodden in something rather unpleasant.

My sniggering at his misfortune was ­short-lived, as it soon became apparent

he'd trodden in a big, squishy pile of dog mess (and when I say mess, I obviously mean shit) on his way INTO the shop. There's nothing worse, and wanting to get rid of it as soon as possible, I set to with a lot of citrus cleaner and some hot water, and dealt with it as best I could.

In terms of disgusting low points in my retail experience, this was second only to arriving at work to find (and if you're eating, or of a gentle disposition, you might want to skip the next few sentences) a series of pools of canine diarrhoea right in front of the shop door. I really didn't want to deal with it, but if I ignored it, it would only be a matter of time before someone trod it into the shop,

so I had to sluice down and scrub the pavement outside the shop. Let me tell you, the mess got worse before it got better. Still, at least it gave the commuters something to laugh at as they crawled by in their cars.

The whole dog mess thing is obviously unpleasant, but the most shocking thing ever brought in was by a homeless chap who, while trying to buy a can of beer, emptied his pockets onto the counter to reveal about

60p, lots of flattened ­cigarette ends obviously picked up from the pavement - and a hypodermic syringe complete with a grubbily sheathed needle. He left it there long enough for me to take a good look at it, and then explained that if he couldn't have a can of beer for the money he had, he was going to have to go out and rob someone to get enough cash.

What could I do? I politely but firmly declined his polite offer of an impromptu charity donation, and apologised for being unable to help him. Well, there's no need for nastiness, is there?

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