When you can’t spend money, no matter how hard you try…

When you can’t spend money, no matter how hard you try…

Thwarted at every turn. Or: Why is it so hard to spend money?

I happened to be in town and remembered that I wanted to buy a bluetooth ear-piece. My previous one died a death last year and I’ve not got around to replacing it yet. I’ve been using a wired set of earphone things with an in-line mic which came with the phone, but I keep getting tangled up when the camera is round my neck and once or twice I’ve nearly had my ears ripped – and that bloody hurts!

I went firstly to the Carphone Warehouse. Now, you’d think with the word “Warehouse” in the title there would be a fair old choice, right? Wrong. They had two different models. The bit that goes into your ear on the first one was like a football – I’ve got relatively small lugholes and matching canal, there is no way that would have fitted. The other model looked and felt very cheaply manufactured, so that got eliminated and I decided to try elsewhere.

Across the precinct was the Orange shop. Now, I’ve been an Orange contract customer for more years than I can remember, but well in excess of 10. So, you’d think I’d be able to find something suitable in here, right? Well, yes, I did, very quickly. But, as is the way, the three staff were all seemingly busy with other punters so I stood about like a spare part for a good ten minutes until I was even acknowledged. This is a pet hate of mine – even if you shop staff are all busy, at least let a waiting customer know you’ve seen them and maybe ask if what they require can be dealt with quickly? There is no need to sit with someone else who is clearly on a long phone conversation – they can manage by themselves!

Eventually the lad comes over and asks what I’d like and I point to the kit of choice. “Oh”, says he – “I could have got one of those for you if I’d known”. He disappears out back and I count to ten – I had a number of possible retorts, but CBAitis was affecting me – I’d been stood in here for long enough and just wanted to get out, now. He emerges with the item and proceeds to the till furthest from the one I’m stood by – which was not being used by anyone else, so I follow him, annoyance levels now on the way up. He zaps the scanner over the product – no response from the robot. He presses a few buttons and zaps again – stony silence from the robot. He makes a feeble apology and speaks to a colleague – apparently the tills have been “playing up” all day. Our man tries to enter the code manually – still nothing. I’m fit to burst, so I suggest that I’ve perhaps wasted enough time (by now 20 mins have elapsed since I walked in) and tell him not to bother.

Two shops along is what used to be Cellnet, now known as “o2” – stupid name for a business, if you ask me. They have what I want. They also have only two staff on and about 4 people waiting. Blood pressure, annoyance levels and hatred of shops are now approaching critical levels. Fearing I’d still be waiting at closing time I walk out of the store and into “Phones 4U” next door. Two staff and no punters – a result. I have a look around and discover the rack with the bluetooth products – in keeping with all the other shops I’ve been in, they only have one of each item on display and it’s as good as bolted down. But, they have the one I want so I stand by it, waiting for one of the two staff to come over. And I wait and wait some more. Okay, it’s a test. I go over to them. And I wait politely whilst the one on the left (female) finishes her conversation with the one on the right (male). She seems to be engrossed in retelling the events of a recent night out and the male seems to be hanging on her every word.

Really bored and fed up now, I interrupt the flow of our female friend to enquire if it’s at all possible to spend some money? She gives me a look that could have turned me to stone and with a deep sigh asks what I want. I give her the details and she says very quickly and with a heavy hint of sarcasm – “The manager has gone to lunch and taken the keys to the stock cupboard with him, so we can’t let you have it. You could come back later, though.”

A rare thing then happened – I was stuck for a response! After a moment I shake my head very slowly and make it perfectly clear that I will not be returning today, tomorrow or at any time in the future. I invite her to get back to the important matter of gossiping and walk out.

Four shops down and still I’m without my ear-piece. Clearly the deity of your choice has decided I’m not to have one today and I give up – besides, I don’t know of any other shops in town that would sell such items so I head home.

Now, here’s the rub. The town centre has been re-vamped in recent years. As a shopping centre, it faces stiff competition from nearby Lakeside and Bluewater. There are a lot of vacant units within the precinct and some seem to have been so for some time. With the economy in turmoil and shops closing at an alarming rate – why is it so bloody hard to spend money?


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