I’ve got a theory. Well, I’ve got hundreds. But I never have the space in this esteemed publication to explain them all. Don’t worry. I will . . . eventually.
The theory I present you with today touches upon something that concerns us all – the so-called ‘Death Of The High Street’. I say ‘So-called’ because many towns still have thriving shops attracting regular customers – despite the predictions of every Doom Merchant.
As I recall, ‘Doom Merchant’ wasn’t a career choice when I left school. The closest would have been Coal Merchant or Wine Merchant, while the Merchant Navy wasn’t an option as I have phobias about sea creatures and deep water. It’s so bad I have to hire someone to feed my goldfish every day.
My theory suddenly came to me one day, just like the very first time Edison illuminated his workshop – it was a light bulb moment!
I realised many of our High Streets and shopping centres started to decline 15 or so years ago after the day each and every British shop assistant was invited to a secret meeting in a secure and remote location where they were brainwashed en-masse.
Under hypnosis they were told that, despite it being the height of rudeness, it’s now absolutely fine to engage in a loud personal conversation with another staff member while a customer tries to pay you for an item. Bonuses will be paid if you avoid eye contact.
They also received firm instructions to stop greeting customers with the pleasant “Can I help you?” in the time-honoured tradition and instead replace it with the annoyingly bland “Are you alright there?” – which isn’t so much a greeting as a half-interested enquiry into how much longer you intend cluttering-up their shop.
Once I realised that “Are you alright there?” was every shop assistant’s meaningless new mantra, spoken robot-style, I wanted to reply. “No. I’m not alright here. So, I’m going to walk over there and see if I feel any better.”
I didn’t, of course. Because I’m too well-mannered. Maybe that’s why ‘Shop Assistant’ was never a career choice for me . . .