Market Sins

Having worked numerous jobs involving heavy interaction with the public, I feel experienced enough to say confidently that we’re dickheads. I’m not saying we’re bad people and for the most part we don’t mean to be dickheads, but somehow we manage it. The variety of dickheadery is dependent on the circumstance – a restaurant-goer treating you more like a servant than waiting staff, for example. What follows is a list of market-specific dickheadery which I mention not because I want to make people feel guilty about it but merely because it’s amusing.

Ignorance is Bliss

It’s not an unreasonable action on my part to greet someone perusing my wares with a cheery “Hello!” or, if I’m feeling saucy, a pleasant-yet-businesslike “Hi, can I help?” Some people, however, are not at home to such over-bearing shenanigans and flat out stonewall you like you’re on the other side of sound-proof one-way glass.

Such a denial of mere acknowledgement from a stranger is more demeaning than you might expect. It’s possible they’re actually deaf and didn’t hear my salutations but the regularity of this response is higher than the statistical likelihood of them genuinely being deaf. It’s tempting to call them twats to see whether that cures their hearing impairment.

Splash Zone

For some, there’s an invisible barrier (or at least I can never see it) approximately 1.5 metres away from a market stall. They will go right up to the barrier and browse your stock from afar in the manner of someone standing on the White Cliffs and trying to sight-see in Calais.

I like to think of it like Sea World’s splash zone – the first three rows of seats next to the pool of orca whales and marine-biologist-cum-aquatic-acrobats – except instead of getting soaked in brine every two minutes, you spend all your money without meaning to.

This diagram of a Camden market stall shows the 1.5m boundary of a market trader's sphere of psychic influence; any close and they can hypnotise you into doing whatever they want.

Screw Face

If you’ve never been to a market before, you’ll know that we traders all stand around next to barrows bellowing “FOURFER UH PAHND,” regardless of what we’re selling, in thick Cockney accents at a volume louder than a howler monkey’s mating call.

You will then no doubt be surprised if anyone is trying to sell anything for a higher price and will be perfectly within your rights to respond to this disparity between your expectations and the cold, cruel light of reality by screwing your face up in a look of shock and indignation like I just got my cock out and tried to piss in your pocket. If you’re feeling ambitious you could also follow this with a sharp intake of breath through clenched teeth and a disparaging “Oooh, that’s a bit expensive” and in so doing, simultaneously undermine the product which I’ve made with my own two hands and infer that I’m trying to con you.

Thanks for that.

This guy taught me everything I know about retail...

No Good Advice

Many’s the time some selfless, generous character has approached my stall to impart unto me their idea for a T-shirt slogan. These ideas tend to range from mind-bendingly obscure to clichéd and/or vulgar, and finally the blatantly stolen. There’s the occasional diamond in the dog turd but I tend to shy away from using these because:
a) SCD is mainly a product of a supermassive ego, rather than the reasoned temper of a man open to suggestion
and b) using a stranger’s idea for my own gain would genuinely feel a bit dishonest; don’t ask me why.
After explaining the design which will be my key to stratospheric wealth, they invariably say “I’d buy it,” so straight off the bat I’ve got a consumer base of one. Awesome.
I know it’s meant well and I don’t begrudge them for it, I just hate trying to find a polite reason why I don’t want to print a T-shirt advocating sex with livestock (a distressingly common suggestion).
On the other hand, the people who tell me how I should alter an existing design so I might gain their approval, possibly even their patronage, can fuck off. I’m not going to rework an existing, successful design just because you like broccoli but hate aubergines.

Whatever slogan you suggest, you will NEVER surpass this.

Dear Davery

There’s an hilarious T-shirt slogan I’ve seen umpteen times which reads “Everyone knows a Dave!”
No, I don’t get it either.
Occasionally, a gaggle of friends will walk past a stall, spot an item and will remark to their friends about how a mutual, sadly-absent friend of theirs (whom we shall call Dave, because apparently everyone knows one) would go ape shit over it. It’s often accompanied with an excitable “Oh my God, Dave would love that! We should SO get that for Dave!” They then don’t buy it, go home and say to Dave: “Dave, we saw this amazing [insert item here] you would’ve loved. We thought about getting it for you but then we didn’t. Anyway, happy birthday; I got you a Snickers and a box of condoms, but I ate the Snickers and used the condoms to have sex with your sister in your own bed, so I guess I got you nothing.”

Recipe for Disaster

Broccoli’s horrible. Apparently it’s a “superfood” but it doesn’t give you X-Ray vision or the ability to fly so I’m dubious. In spite of my feelings about broccoli being neatly summed up in seven works, people still insist on giving me recipes for the stuff so that I might see it in a whole new light. 90% of these recipes involve masking (rather than enhancing) its taste, which isn’t exactly encouraging. It might be really good for you but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Under Stalin’s rule, the USSR went from a backwards, primarily agrarian economy to a heavily industrialised nuclear superpower on the cusp of the space age; it doesn’t mean he was a nice guy.
And yes, I did just liken broccoli to Stalin; what of it?

Translation reads: "Comrade Stalin, please take this disgusting vegetable and force feed it to the traitors in the gulags; it is more than they deserve for betraying the communist motherland. They will soon regret their treachery!"

I’m not saying any of this to insult you or make you feel uncomfortable when you visit markets; the last time I went shopping in a market I noticed myself doing a lot of these things and I became so self-conscious I had to leave. Seriously.
The market is there for your enjoyment, as well as for your financial transactions, so never lose that; just spare a thought and a bit of consideration for us foolish tossers on the other side of the table. Cheers.

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4 responses to “Market Sins

  1. Powerful stuff. And not least because I’m guilty of at least the first two of these… I have an irrational fear that if I come within a meter of a stall or look the stallkeeper in the eye I will wake up in an alleyway half an hour later with no memory and a shitload of awful Indian jewellery. Soz. I always say hello to you though if I’m in the area!

  2. Tell it like it is!

    I’m reminded of the time I volunteered at charity stores and had to deal with the endless hagglers, shoplifters, and people who took things off the display mannequin in order to try them on.

    I mean there’s no real similarity beyond the fact they’re ALL DICKHEADS, but there you are.

  3. Pretty sure that the “Dave” shirt is from a Kids in the Hall sketch called, “These Are the Daves I Know.”
    Keep your chin up, skippy.

  4. All too true. How jaded are we of the wary and wonderous ugly tourists, their facial expressions like they’ve just smelt a particularly offensive turd.

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