Are You Being Served?

BILLY'S CONTRACT on Christmas shopping

Christmas comes but once a year ...and we can thank God for that. Like most chaps I love the eating and drinking part of Christmas bit as well as having the family around the place but, and I probably speak on behalf of every sane and sensible male here, I draw the line at Christmas shopping.

It is not so bad if you have an idea of what you are going to buy for who and whom but going to the shops blind and second guessing what Christmas presents to buy people in my experience is one of life's nightmares.

This year was different though as my daughter came up with the brilliant idea of 'Secret Santa'. This involved the names of all the adults in the family being placed into a Dut. Whoever's name was drawn for you was the person that you anonymously had to buy a present for, with a £30 set limit. Ding dang doo.

Several, mainly male, members of the family were so impressed with her idea, that we nearly clubbed together to buy her an additional pressie as a measure of out gratitude for saving us all that time and money, but upon reflection that would not be in keeping with the spirit of the Secret Santa ethos.

The person I picked from the dut, whom I will refer to as Mr B, would, I thought, be a doddle to buy for as he is a Borer supporter (hence the 'Mr B'). Someone suggested that I get something from their club shop and job done. I argued that:
  1. This would mean having to go into Middlesbrough.
  2. This would mean having to go into their club shop and possibly be seen in the act.
  3. I would rather give my money to ISIS.
He has several interests and hobbies but when I started looking around he had either already got or owned the items in question or they exceeded the thirty pound Secret Santa cash limit. With Christmas fast approaching I decided to bite the bullet and get the job over and done with and despite the words ringing in my ear from someone who warned me 'You won't get anything in Middlesbrough's club shop as they never have anything', I set off for the Cellnet Stadium post-haste.

First impressions were deceiving as the place seemed to be ram jam full of stock and I thought that I could be like the SAS - go in undercover, do what I had to do and be in and out in a minute without being noticed, but this was not to be the case.

Firstly the security guard spotted my Pools logoed polo shirt and joked that I shouldn't expect any discount for supporting Hartlepool United. Whilst I was looking through one rack of T shirts my mobile rang. It was my son. 'Now Dad what you up to?' I told him he had blown my cover. You should have seen the look of the faces of the shoppers as I told him not to tell anybody upon pain of death that I was in Borer's club shop. I don't know who laughed more - my son or the punters who overheard the conversation.
"I thought that I could be like the SAS - go in undercover, do what I had to do and be in and out in a minute without being noticed"

Try as I may I could not find anything in the size I required and a lady in the store made the same comment that she was unable to find an extra large polo shirt for her son and the only sizes she could see on display were small, medium and triple extra large. A few minutes later another lady approached me, asked if I worked there and could I tell her where the training tops were. I pointed to my Pools logo. She said she thought it strange someone should be wearing a top bearing another club's motif serving in their rivals store. Ever the gent I directed her to the training top area of the emporium.

I went through rack after rack and was desperately struggling to find something suitable for Mr B when I came across a gaudy extra large polo top. I took it from the rack and sought out the first lady that I spoke to and asked her if this was something suitable for her son. After profuse thanks she wandered off to the till.

I went back to this glorified jumble sale. I say that as there were more items of clothing on the floor than there were on the shelves and racks. If any readers can recall the now defunct Dunnes Stores (now Tesco) in Billingham, you will get an idea of the set up.

By chance I thought I'd found something suitable for Mr B. but blast! - it was thirty five quid, five quid over budget. Whilst I was contemplating breaking the Secret Santa price limit in order to make a quick getaway from the shop, yet another lady collars me and asks me if I will do her a favour... "What. in a crowded shop?" I say. (This Pools top I am wearing seems to be a pulling magnet.) She tells me that I am about the same size as her boyfriend (fat get) and asks if  I'd mind trying on a black quilted waistcoat she is holding in her hand, to see what it looks like. I confirm that it is a good fit, well made and figure hugging and very warm and that the only thing that spoils it is the Borer logo on the left breast area of the garment. We have a laugh and she too wanders off to the till.

Eventually after about thirty five minutes in the store I found a polo shirt in the right size (shan design though) and took it to the till. I asked the cashier if it wasn't the correct size could Mr.B return it. No problem she said as long as he has the receipt and it is back before the 6th of January. Getting into Alan Partridge mode I was in half a mind to inform her that this would be an infringement of the Sale of Goods Act (Revised), but if her management team, in training. had not bothered to explain the detail of the Sale of Goods Act (Revised) to her, why should I?

I know I am anti-Borer on all levels and hate them with a passion but having worked in the clothing trade myself for over thirty years, even I was taken aback at the poor quality of the majority of merchandise which was on offer with high end pricing. Some items were very thin and did not look as if they could survive a short cycle wash. As I was leaving the store the jovial security guard collared me again. "Did you find what you were looking for, Monkey Hanger?" I told him "not really" and mentioned that the quality of clothing on offer left a lot to be desired. I took the Borer polo shirt that I purchased out of the bag and asked him to compare it quality-wise to the Avec Pools polo shirt that I was wearing. he said nothing but the look he gave me was "it would be more than my job's worth to comment".

I left the Sellnot car park thinking "not the best experience in the world" but on the bright side: job done; Christmas shopping finished.

I was feeling well smug with myself and it wasn't until I got thinking of the three ladies that I assisted in the store that I realised the awful thing/sin that I had committed. Between the three of them and my efforts I probably was responsible for the Borer shop taking in an additional £250. It was about three o'clock in the morning when I awoke suddenly and sat bolt upright in my bed sweating and shaking with the realisation of the awful thing, nay crime against football that I had committed. It was bad enough my spending £28, but that £250 might be used to sign a star striker. Oh Lord forgive me for I have indeed sinned.

Talking of Customer service. During the half time interval in the match against Blackpoo,l two mates who had not been to Pools for nigh on twenty years went for some Bovril to warm themselves up. They came back sipping tea. They said that they could not believe that they were unable to get any Bovril. "Perhaps they are out of stock" came the reply.