How to Behave in the Outside World #2: Shopping
Welcome to the second installment of Leila Johnston's indespensible guide to how to behave like a normal person in everyday life.
With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, we could all do with a few shopping tips to make it through. So here's Leila's cut-out-and-keep guide to coping at the shops, kicking off with this interactive supermarket tutorial. Click on the flashing circles to proceed:
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Animation by Le Singe Media
A print-out-then-cut-out-and-keep guide to coping at the shops
Shopping is one of the nation's favourite passtimes, after fishing, stealing and spitting.
- Look for a bargain. One of the greatest ever short stories was written in the form of a classified ad from the For Sale section of a newspaper. Ernest Hemingway wrote: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Note how he added to the poignancy by leaving an essential detail hanging in the air: the price. To this day people still speculate on what those shoes were going for. They say "If you have to ask how much, you can't afford it." I find it very unlikely I can't afford a pair of baby shoes, especially second hand ones.
- Go to charity shops. Charity shops can be good for bargains, and are one of the few remaining places where I can legally buy used underwear. It's also the only shopping environment to make something look slightly worse than it actually is, so get that 50p sticker off, and try it on quick.
- Sometimes the alarms go off. If you're on the way in, it's usually to notify the security staff that you're too old for that shop. If you're on the way out when the alarm sounds and they don't find anything stolen from their shop in your bag, they're fully entitled to take something of yours to make up for it.
- Think about the ethics. Remember, when buying gifts, that vegans and some vegetarians don't wear leather and wool. They only wear clothing spun from the silk inside a chestnut shell.
- Help buskers. Buskers are the theatre of the street, and add to the whole experience of going down the shops. Soldiers and police on guard duty always appreciate a card and hat carefully laid at their feet - with a note saying "Help our boys".
- Self checkouts. Self checkouts are the neurotic mothers of the consumer machine world. If they're not continually reassured by a rational human, their paranoia escalates beyond control. Announcements might begin innocuously enough, with a simple "Unattended item in bagging area" but within minutes they've decided you've definitely had a fatal accident. "IT MUST BE YOU SLUMPED ON THERE. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MOVE. COMPUTER NOW CALLING 999".
- Some people shop for shoppers. They're usually holding clipboards with lists of the names of their victims.
- Shopping isn't everything. Always remember that some things can't be bought. Happiness. Friends. Trust. The weather. The planet Jupiter. Shoes for mice. An envelope the size of a stamp.
How to Behave in the Outside World will continue next week. In the meantime, leave your own shopping tips below!