Sunday, 29 November 2015

Black Friday

So, did you venture out?  Did you dare to set foot in your local shopping mall for fear of being flattened by Black Friday lunatics desperate to save some cash? I mean, let’s face it, in not too many weeks the sales will be on with half-price-this and mega-discount-that.  Is Black Friday really worth all the huff and hype?  All I can say is it suited me to go Christmas shopping Friday evening – and it just happened to be Black Friday.  Did I get squashed by a stampede of rioting people?  No.  Bluewater, my local stomping ground, was no busier than any other day of the year.  Did I save money?  Yes, quite a bit actually.
          I met up with my daughter and sister for some girlie company.  Eleanor isn’t the greatest of shopping companions unless you are up for buying make-up, clothes, or jewellery.  Fortunately two out of three items ticked my Christmas shopping list.  Eleanor was like a bloodhound sniffing out discounted goodies.  However, she hadn’t counted on her aunty wanting to buy different things to her.
          ‘Ooh, look, a steam cleaner,’ Janice beamed.  She hovered outside Lakeland, clearly in raptures.  ‘It’s reduced from four million and sixty-three thousand pounds to just tuppence.’  No, it wasn’t really, but I’m trying to convey my sister’s excitement over a substantial saving.
          Eleanor looked unimpressed. ‘Are you going to buy it, Aunty Janice?’
          My sister dithered.  ‘Well, um, I don’t know.  It’s certainly a bargain.  But, I’m not sure.  Do I really need a steam cleaner for my floor?’
          ‘No,’ said Eleanor decisively.  ‘So let’s check out Russell & Bromley instead.  They have some brogue boots massively discounted and–’
          ‘But, hang on. Oh dear. I’m not sure what to do. If I walk away, I might later regret it.’  My sister paused, clearly torn.
          ‘Shall we go inside and check it out?’ I suggested.  Eleanor gave an almost imperceptible shake of the head. I warmed to my task.  ‘Perhaps you should get the contraption out of its box.’  Eleanor scowled.  I smiled mischievously.  There’s nothing like winding up a teenager in a public place where they’re unable to have a hissy fit.  ‘I think you should read the instructions too, just to be sure you’re buying something that’s easy to work.’
          ‘Good idea,’ Janice beamed.
          M-u-mmm,’ Eleanor begged nearly an hour later.  Please get Aunty Janice out of here.  She’s worse than you when it comes to shopping.’
          ‘What do you mean?’ I frowned.
          ‘She’s buying really boring stuff.  I mean, like, really boring.  She’s not only bought the steam cleaner, but also a huge machine that shreds raw veg, and now she’s looking at casserole pots and kettles and toasters.  I can’t take any more.’
          I had to admit, there’s only so long one can delight over a set of saucepans.  Five minutes later we were out in the shopping mall again.
          ‘Where to now?’ my sister asked. She looked different. Odd.  Her eyes were alight.  Cheeks glowing.  She was clearly experiencing an adrenalin rush induced by so much spending and saving.  I’d seen that look before – on our mother’s face when armed with my father’s credit card.  We then spent a further couple of hours demolishing every shop with a substantial discount.  Finally, weighted down with boxes and bags, we staggered into House of Fraser.
          ‘Oooh, designer sunglasses,’ my sister smiled, ‘and there’s fifty-per-cent off!’ Janice then proceeded to try on three-hundred-and-twenty-five pairs of black shades.  ‘What do you think?’ she asked, price tag bobbing over her nose.
          My daughter studied her aunt.  ‘I think this pair looks exactly like the other three-hundred-and-twenty-four you’ve just tried on.’
          ‘Can we move away from the sunnies?’ I implored.  ‘Jan, you said you wanted a handbag for Christmas.  Can we head over to bags?  After all, the time is getting on.’
          ‘Okay.’  My sister reluctantly whipped off a pair of shades that made her look like a brunette Lady Gaga.
          As we walked past leather bags by Mulberry and Vivienne Westwood, Eleanor began to hyperventilate.  ‘I want them all,’ she breathed.  Ignoring her, I began to search through House of Fraser’s own brands.  I turned to my sister.
          ‘This one’s nice.’
          Very nice,’ my sister enthused.  ‘And look – there’s a matching purse to go with it!’
          ‘Would you like them both?’
          ‘Yes…I think so…let me just have a little explore.’  Her fingers whizzed across the bag and the purse, checking out pockets, flaps, zipping, unzipping, fastening, unfastening.  ‘I’ll have them both!’ she declared.  Shoving the purse into the handbag, she passed the whole thing over to me.
          ‘Right, I’ll just see how Eleanor is getting on over there, and then I’ll go and pay for the handbag.’
          My daughter couldn’t decide which bag she liked and began to get flustered.  ‘You’re stressing me, Mum.  This is such an important decision. Don’t rush me.’
          ‘Don’t rush you?’ my eyebrows nearly shot off my forehead.  ‘Between your aunt in the sunglasses department, and you in the handbag department, we’re almost out of time.  The shops will be closing any minute.  While you’re choosing, I’m going to pay for Aunty Janice’s Christmas present.’
          Trying to find a pay station that was still open was difficult.  Hardly anyone was about.  Craning my neck, I spotted one last open cash till in the next department.  Bracing myself, I half dragged and half carried my shopping over to the pay station.
          ‘Had a successful night?’ asked the young sales lady as she took the handbag from me.
          ‘Yes, thanks.’  My mobile began to ring.  ‘Excuse me,’ I apologised and took the call.
          ‘Where are you?’ asked Eleanor sounding peeved.
          ‘In the next department.’
          ‘Well the bad news is I’ve lost Aunty Janice.’
          I turned away from the sales lady and scanned the shop floor.  No sign of my sister.  ‘She’s probably trying on sunglasses again.  I’ll see you outside the store in two minutes.’  I rang off and did the chip-and-pin thing.  ‘Thank you,’ I smiled taking the wrapped bag and receipt.  Rearranging packages and carriers, I took a deep breath and, like a weightlifter, raised my arms.  Everything was so heavy.  Indeed, after hours of carting stuff about, my arms had started to shake. I clanked and rattled towards the exit, lurched past the security guard…and all hell broke loose.  Alarms sounded, bleepers bleeped and lights flashed.
          ‘Hold it right there, Madam,’ boomed the security guard.  You could tell from the glint in his eye that he’d had a tremendously boring day but – hurrah! – the final second before shut down one shopper had set off alarms and bells thus relieving him from crippling inertia.  ‘Have you paid for your shopping?’
          ‘Of course,’ I replied.
          ‘Show me all your receipts.’
          ‘No problem,’ I replied and dumped everything around my feet.  As my arms yo-yoed back into their shoulder sockets they began to visibly tremble.  The security guard observed them suspiciously. A shopper with the shakes.  Guilty as hell.
          ‘I’m going to have to go through all this shopping and closely inspect every single receipt.’
          ‘Be my guest,’ I invited whilst willing my arms to behave.  They’d gone from stretched spaghetti and swinging somewhere around my knees, to shrinking forty-eight inches in a split second.  In fact I was pretty sure my hands had relocated into my armpits.
          ‘Hmm,’ the security guard declared.  ‘Something isn’t right.’
          ‘I know,’ I said, worried.  ‘Look at my arms.’
          The security guard ignored me and proceeded to wave every piece of shopping in front of the alarm detector.  Finally one offending item sent the alarm into orbit.  My sister’s handbag.
          ‘You haven’t paid for this,’ he accused.
          ‘I most certainly have,’ I retorted.
          He began checking out the bag’s pockets and flaps, as my sister had done earlier.  I had a sudden feeling of déjà vu.  As he zipped and unzipped, fastened and unfastened, a nasty memory rose to the surface just as the guard hauled out the matching purse my sister had shoved deep within the bag.  Clearly the sales assistant hadn’t spotted it and Eleanor’s ill-timed phone call had distracted me from pointing it out.
          ‘Was it your intention not to pay for this, Madam?’ the security guard accused.
          I had an uncontrollable urge to reply, ‘Indeed.  I have spent umpteen hundred pounds this evening but the thought of sneaking past your security barrier with a two bob purse was absolutely crucial to my sense of wellbeing.’  Instead I just shook my head and sighed.  ‘Clearly an oversight.’
          He gave me a look that begged to differ.  ‘I’ll have to escort you back to the cash till, Madam.’
          As I walked back into the store with a security guard hot on my heels, I met Janice and Eleanor coming in the opposite direction.  My daughter’s jaw dropped as she took in the situation.
          ‘Oh cringe, Mum.  This is sooo embarrassing.  I’m sooo glad it’s closing time and nobody else is around to see my mother caught for shoplifting.’  Which reminds me.
          There’s a gang going through Bluewater systematically stealing clothes in size order.  The police believe they’re still at large…


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