Tumbleweed City West Midlands

Mainstream media are getting their knickers in a twist this morning over gloomy reports from the retail industry. Predictions of “The death of the High Street” abound.

More Closures Likely In Retail Sector:The festive period has been a gloomy one with Barratts Priceless axing over 1,600 jobs and La Senza and D2 Jeans going into administration. Industry leaders have warned that mass discounting failed to kickstart a recovery … The Guardian

High Street Retailers Being Squeezed To Extinction : More shops will collapse into administration or announce store closures in the next couple of weeks, afters suffering from “profits squeezed to extinction” as well as a fall in sales over Christmas, according to the head of Britain’s retail trade body … Daily Telegraph

All in all it conjures up images of desterted town centre streets lined with derelict and decaying shops. A howling wind stirs up dust devils and drives a few ominoius looking tumbleweeds. Somewhere, some unseen creature whistles eerily, wooo – oo – oo – oo – ooo – wooo – oo – ooo and a distant, lone Church bell tolls a funereal rhythm.

How can Boggart Blog predict the furure in such detail?

Well Accrington town centre has been like that for twenty years.

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You Get What You Deserve

I was in a shop yesterday, a proper shop, with a counter and a man serving.
It was an electrical shop, so the transactions were not exactly brief, not like being in the newsagents where you just pick up the organ of record of your choice and hand it over to be scanned, make your payment and leave, not even having to indulge in the social niceties if you so choose.
And it wasn’t a big superstore shop, just a little independent electrical goods shop in a little independent market town.

It was quite busy, there was someone purchasing a new T.V., then a chap waiting to buy a specific type of bulb, me browsing for a new mixer and another woman clutching a packet of vacuum cleaner dust bags as she spoke on her mobile phone.

She wasn’t speaking quietly, people on mobile phones never do with the possible exception of my youngest bro, Willy Mumbles, who tucks his chin into his neck whilst holding the mic part away from his mouth and out into the permanent Lake District westerly gale howling around his head; and the signal is forever disappearing behind the next fell looming on the horizon or else being eaten by the sheep or something, resulting in conversations which consist of, on my part, “Sorry, didn’t get that, you’re breaking up, I can’t hear you, say again, did what?! and so on and so forth.
Obviously I can’t tell you what his part of the conversation goes like as I haven’t got a bloody clue.
Heaven help us when they actually get rail transport up there, I may have to break off all contact with him if he starts insisting on phoning from trains, which is, as I understand it, the de rigeur place to use one’s mobile.

But back to the lady who didn’t have a quiet voice, didn’t have her chin tucked into her neck and was certainly not exposed to a howling westerly gale, even in the westernmost part of South Yorkshire.

As we waited we couldn’t help but overhear, and the overhearing sparked our curiosity and pretty soon we were all listening to the one side of the conversation we were privy to.

And it became clear that the woman in question was actually interviewing a prospective employee!!!

Now I know some firms have started to do preliminary phone interviews, presumably because everyone these days has got 24 A* GCSEs, half a dozen Btecs that count as 3.33′ A Levels, a degree in Sports Theory and i-Tunes from Usedtobeapoly University and a personal statement that starts off, “Ever since setting fire to my pyjamas at the age of eight I have had an abiding interest in….”. It’s a way to sort out the wheat from the chav, as it were.

But I have always imagined that these interviews were conducted from an office somewhere. You know, a place with four walls, a window or two if the occupant is lucky, and definitely a door that can be closed, to signal to others that the occupier is involved in something that requires no disruption or interuption, no background chat or office high jinx, no unsuitable ears flapping as what is being discussed is private and confidential.

I never for one moment thought that such interviews could be carried out with the interviewer blabbing away loud and clear in a public place, where others are present and unable not to overhear.

(The candidate had to give a month’s notice, which was a bit of a problem as the interviewer was hoping to appoint somebody who would be up and running before Christmas.)

It was at this point I was sorely tempted to shout out,

“This person has no discretion.
You really don’t want to work for this person or their organisation.
You are so important to this woman she’s actually buying dust bags for the vacuum cleaner as you speak.

Plus there are four other people here who have nothing to do with this woman or her organisation and we now know quite a lot about you so just supposing I was actually your current boss you would shortly be finding yourself unemployed, not least for conducting your personal business on my time.”

But being the well brought up young lady that I am I kept my gob shut, just indulged in mutual eye rolling with my fellow customers who were not discussing private and confidential matters on their mobile phones.

But then when I got home I read an article in the paper claiming that bosses were a bit pissed off as people being interviewed by phone were likely to be using a keyboard, eating a meal, taking the dog for a walk or even using the toilet. EEuugh.

To all the people whose manners are so poor, interviewers and interviewees alike, all I can say is that you deserve each other.

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January Is Getting Earlier Each Year

One of the time honoured Christmas traditions to be killed by consumerism and the credit crunch is the annual ritual of queuing for the January sales.

Every year the Boxing Day news bulletins would feature a story about greedy little people turning up outside Harrods and other big stores with their tents, sleeping bags, camping stoves, extra woollies, a weeks supply of snack foods and a glint of steely determination in their eye. They wanted to be first in line when the doors opened on January 2nd, to get into the store and buy something they neither wanted nor needed simply for the sake of it’s being marked down to a bargain basement price because nobody wanted it or needed it.

Such a triumph may seem a hollow victory but to some people queuing for the opening of the sales WAS their Christmas. The sales to them were as much about companionship, shared experience, shared pot noodles and jolly old sing songs as the snow settled on their bobble hats.

(For anyone who has wondered where these people go when they need a wee, our investigative reporter on the scene will be calling in a bulletin soon.)

January sales may be part of the social season to some suburbanites but to the shops they represent a chance to shift all the dreck before people totally max out their credit cards. Thus as conspicuous Christmas consumerism became more rampant the shops had to move the sales forward to start on Boxing Day. Although the change made it necessary to camp out on the pavement throughout the Christmas holiday.

Such an inconvenience did not deter the bargain hunters, on December 21st as we pagans celebrated the symbolic death and resurrection of our livers, the January sale fans were on the pavement, insulated from the worst weather of the year by their dreams of getting a Christian Dior soup tureen for 25 pence.

This year things were even worse. The credit crunch made stores so desperate for cashflow goods were being discounted by up to 90% on November 5th . Early arrivals armed with survival kits were greeted by signs saying “Next January Sale begins on the Autumn equinox, 2009.

This has destroyed many peoples’ holiday and some people’s hopes of a better, brighter future.

So far Boggart Blog has had no reports of suicides but we will be manning the news desk twenty four hours a day and will keep you informed.

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