Monday, 3 August 2009

Chocolatey Characters

Stay with me on this post, folks. Please! It's a little long-winded, but entertaining (I hope). You should come away with one or two interesting character ideas.

There's one good thing that comes from working in a shop - you meet a lot of people. Folk pick up their goods and potter on over to the till, where I - the bored-out-of-my-mind Sales Assistant (as we're called) - take everything, shoot it through the till, slap it in a bag and take the money (to put in the till, I might add).

Now we're clear on how retail works (for those who have been living on a spaceship for the last 100 years), let me explain how working in a chocolate shop works:

People come in and wander round, staring at all the yummy goodness, slowly loading up their baskets like mindless, sugar-fueled chocoholics, until, yes - the basket is full. Then they make their way over to little old me - Neil - who has spent all day counting out 50 little items, putting them in a bag, then zapping them through the zapper thingy and chucking them on the shelves *

And they are greeted with a smile. They place their chocolatey baskets next to the till and the fun begins. If I'm in a weird mood, I'll scan everything through the till, making an odd expression; one that says "Whoa! You've got a lot of shit here! You really shouldn't be eating so much chocolate! I'm judging you for this!"

This leads to the best thing about working in a chocolate shop - the justification.

At this junction, people feel the need to explain why they have such a large basket of 'bad for your health' chocolate. And now, to the point of this rambling post - people say the weirdest things when justifying their unhealthy eating. Here's some of them:

We'll start with the classics. These are the ones I hear most and never fail to amuse:

- "It's not all for me!" - Everyone's heard it, everyone's said it. Of course it's not all for you! It's for your husband, your wife, your kids, your aunt, your uncle, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your third cousin twice removed, your pet dragon! No matter what, all this chocolate is not for you! This justification is customarily followed by the 'Ah, now I understand' nod and/or a 'If you say so' smile.

- "I'm on a diet" - Not really a justification as opposed to a downright lie! No, you're not on a diet! If you were on a diet, you wouldn't be buying 10 bags of Misshapes and a Fudge! This is merely a way of addressing the fact that the chocolate they've bought has exceeded £20. Everyone thinks they're the first to say it and laughs proudly at their original sense of humour. This annoying explanation is followed by a forced laugh on my part. Not one so obvious that I'm taking the piss, but just forced enough so the person realises I've heard it all before.

- "There's so much chocolate in here!" - Yes, it's a chocolate shop! I'm pretty sure you were expecting a certain amount of chocolate when you walked in here! Nevertheless, this is a way of saying that because the shop contains so much chocolate, they are powerless to resist - they must buy at least 10% of the entire stock, otherwise they will die! Yes, DIE! This is almost always followed by 'You're not wrong!', 'Well observed!' or (if I'm very tired) an 'Mmmm' in agreement.

- "It's for my friends in America!" - Is it really? This is interesting. Last I checked, they had chocolate shops in the US and they were very weird on the subject of taking food into their country. Be honest, people - it's not for your friend in America, it's for you to enjoy while watching an episode of Eastenders! If I'm feeling particularly smart that day, I'll say 'Oh? Where abouts do they live?'. Some people (the experienced chocolate-buyers) will have their story well rehearsed and will reply (with no hesitation) "New York". They always get a suspicious eye-squint. Most people however, come out with this: "Erm.....they er......just south of.....on the the left of know.....the one that.......New York! They live in New York! Ha!" The response - laughter.

These justifications go on and on, but what I really want to say is that occasionally, you get some pretty weird ones! Here are a few I've heard and they're on this blog because they might be useful for some sort of character creation. Use what you will - I hope they spark ideas. Please note that all of these explanations have been used and none whatsoever have been made up:

- "I can't drink tea without food!" - As we all know, it is a physical impossibility to drink a cup of tea without it being accompanied by some form of sustenance. Moreover, this sustenance must come in the form of chocolate! Don't fight it, just eat it!

- "It's cold!" - Yes, this person was under the impression that chocolate now serves as a heating device.

- "My car's in the garage!" - It speaks for itself really. This person is planning on one thing and one thing only - building a form of transport out of chocolate! I wish this gentleman all the luck in the world with his epic endeavour!

- "I've run out of change!" - This is the person who has only a £20 note and requires a 10p piece. So what do they do? Spend £9.90 on chocolate!

- "I've not got long left!" - This old lady was probably in her 80s. Upon realising her imminent death, she decided to go out in style - by purchasing over £30 of chocolate. I pity the person who found her!

- "You're quite thin!" - Yes, readers, I am in fact quite a thin person. So this woman clearly feels the need to make herself that little bit fatter, just to even things out - restore balance to the world.

- "It's my child's first day at school tomorrow!" - What better way to make your kid fit in at a new school, than to send him with tonnes of chocolate? I'm absolutely certain there is no chance of him being jumped and brutally beaten to death by 30 sugar-starved five-year-olds. He'll be fine!

- "The wife's out of town!" - This fellow likes to live dangerously. His wife has put a ban on all things sugary and rules the household with an iron fist! No bag passes through the front door without her thorough inspection. But while she's away, the prisoners go wild - splashing out on Giant Buttons!

- "My daddy said I couldn't have this!" - Another adrenaline junkie, this time in the form of a 6 year-old boy. After being told under no uncertain terms that Trident Sugar free Gum was off-limits, the sneaky bugger decided to go ahead and grab one anyway. 'They're 49p each, or two for 60p...' I tempted, holding another strip. Doubt flickered in his eyes. The biggest choice of his life! Confusion as he glanced from the gum to the pound coin in his tiny hand. "........okay......." he replied. With a broad smile, I took his money and told him to hide the gum in his pockets. He crept out the door like a jungle cat - fearless and proud with his decision!

That's all I have for now. Hopefully something there gave someone an idea. Congrats on getting to the end of what was a most unusual blog post. Farewell fellow scribes and remember: next time you're in a chocolate shop, thinking of justification for all the stuff you've bought - say something clever!

* Please note - I always place chocolate carefully on the shelves. Never is anything broken in my hands! I take my job very, very seriously!


Sofluid said...

I loved this post :)

I think you missed the obvious factor with the man whose wife was out of town though... Clearly he was buying it for his bit on the side!

And that kid... You better hope he didn't choke on that gum you encouraged him to buy! Tsk tsk.

Some excellent and funny insights into the world of a chocolate shop.

But what I really wanna know is - do you ever sneakily eat the chocolate? Or are you off chocolate completely from having worked in a chocolate shop? :P

Neil said...

Ah yes, not sure why I didn't see it before - he was clearly playing away! My god, this is a completely new development - blows everything out of the water! I'll get right on the investigation!

Haven't heard in the news of any kid choking on gum, so I think I'm safe. Think.

And I never, NEVER steal chocolate! I'm shocked that you would suggest such a thing! Seriously tho, it's not really what you're after when working there. Although, occasionally bags split and have to be put in a special box. Who knows what happens then....

Sofluid said...

Ha ha, so basically you do eat a few, you just won't admit it!!! :P

Manda said...

Haha brilliant. There are many remarks there that are universal to the world of food retail but a few unexpected gems eg first day of school and car in the garage...

Love it.