Back in August 2014, Matt Jarvis went shopping with three generations from the female side of his family (which is a brave thing to do by anybody’s standards). However, when the ladies decided to pay a visit to tat and trinket store Claire’s, he wisely decided to stay out of the way…. which ended up being much more interesting!
Dear Customer Relations,
Hi there, we thought we should let you know about our experience at the Christchurch1 branch of Claire’s today.
To be honest, it was not that great.
Before we stepped through the door, we had to step around a large and aged pile of pigeon guano.2
It was not just a few random splatters, but the south coast equivalent of a small pacific island – prior to the 18th century mining for the valuable fertilizer.3 In fact, you could probably sell this pile of excrement for more than the total weekly sales of this particular outlet.
Perhaps the store could receive on its next delivery a stiff broom and some floor cleaner. In fact, I am sure that the pound shop4 across the way could supply these items at a competitive price.
In fact, not wishing to risk a slip, trip or fall I did not enter the store, but after assisting them to safely enter, left the 3 female generations of my family to browse while I sat upon a strategically placed bench with a good view of the shopping mall.5 You may well be aware that Saxon Square has recently been refurbished to a high standard and now features an up market Travelodge6 to compliment the pound shop, Millets and other premier outlets so contained, so it was a pleasant vista, even more so when one of the shop assistants took up her position in the shop window to stab a small child in both ears and attach golden pendants to her pierced lobes.7
This would not normally have attracted my attention, had it not been for the store assistant’s outfit – or should that be uniform, I am not entirely sure.
No doubt in the pursuit of hygiene – and not wanting to be splattered in the blood of her next victim, she had donned gloves and a disposable apron over what I am sure she felt was a rough interpretation of a nurse’s outfit. Finishing at about mid thigh, this dress was possibly acceptable for a night on the town in one of Christchurch’s trendy discotheques,8 but totally impracticable for any sort of work involving bending over to retrieve small items from the floor – particularly adjacent to a large plate glass window.
Suffice to say, my knowledge of shop assistants’ tastes in underwear has now increased immensely and should I ever be required to advise, can recommend a pink thong worn over lace topped stockings. As you may well be aware from the recent BBC3 documentary, Christchurch is a haven for the retired, and had an elderly gentleman been passing, I am sure he would have had a stroke – if it was not for the aforementioned plate glass window.9
My family was also finding the atmosphere in Claire’s not entirely conducive to purchasing. Despite the lack of selling space and there being two staff on duty, it took quite a while to prise the member of staff not currently flashing her pants at passers by away from her duties of loading yet more trinkets onto a rack and pleading with her to take our money for the fluffy pineapple phone case my daughter had fallen in love with. Leaving her basket of tat in the middle of the floor – forming quite a trip hazard, she was eventually persuaded to take my daughters’ £5 and they left, being careful to step around the Isle of Guano.
I am sure you will want to address these valid points that I have raised and trust you will dispatch a hit squad comprising a cleaner, health and safety manager and hopefully a wardrobe adviser to the branch as soon as possible.
And they did! After Matt posted this on Facebook, Claire’s came straight back to him promising to address the issues he had raised. It is not entirely clear what wardrobe advice was offered to the thong-flasher.
It strikes me that the whole thong thing could be rather good for business and after this letter is published, who knows, the bench that Matt sat upon may just become rather popular!
For American readers: This is the British Christchurch (not the one in New Zealand) and is a small town of 55,000 souls on the south coast of England in the County of Dorset. A lot of people go there to die and as a result, Christchurch has more old people than just about any town in the UK. ↩
Guano: (from the Spanish, ultimately from the Quechua word wanu) is the excrement of seabirds, cave-dwelling bats, pinnipeds (seals etc) or – in English usage – birds in general. As a manure, guano is a highly effective fertilizer due to its exceptionally high content of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, three nutrients essential for plant growth. Or in other words, bird shit. ↩
The setting of Ian Fleming’s 1958 James Bond novel ‘Dr. No’ is actually a guano island (in other words, a pile of shit – albeit one in the Caribbean) and the villain dies at the end buried in the nasty stuff. ↩
For American readers: A Pound Shop is a peculiarly British phenomenon and, as the name suggests, is a shop in which everything costs exactly one pound – roughly $1.27 though nearer $1.60 when the letter was written – whereas most of the stock is actually worth considerably less than this amount. Not very bright poor people tend to shop there. ↩
I suspect that if I had been with 3 female generations of my family, I would have escaped to a bench in the mall too! ↩
For American readers: Travelodge is to hotels as the Pound Shop is to the High Street. i.e. it is a chain of budget hotels and you gets what you pays for. ↩
Claire’s began their ear-piercing service in 1978 and all staff are trained in the use of the ‘Studex gun’ which they use to make holes in the hearing equipment of anyone over the age of two years! ↩
I find it rather hard to believe that Christchurch has more than one trendy discotheque. The ‘Grab a Granny’ night is probably very popular though. ↩
Nice wordplay! Stroke: 1. Noun: A cerebrovascular accident caused by the interruption of the blood supply to the brain, usually because a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by a clot. 2. Noun: A movement of one’s hand with gentle pressure over a surface (e.g. pet or shop assistant), typically repeatedly; a caress. No guesses for which Matt is talking about here. ↩