Cornershop Customers: a Random Gallery

Call us daft, but we decided it would be quite fun to chronicle a couple of hours in the life of an average cornershop in 2011. We also did it in honour of this particular cornershop’s 10th birthday: an online time capsule, if you will.
It started with the idea of capturing on camera what customers actually wear to ‘pop down the shops’, but we decided that could get quite personal/backfire on us. Fashion photographers we are not. So this is purely and simply a collection of pictures.
The first nine were taken on the afternoon of Saturday October 1st, which was unseasonally warm. The second eight were taken today (New Year’s Eve), which was predictably drear. We have lost our record of the names of some of the first ‘batch’ of photographees (we’re disorganised like that), and so if you recognise them, do let us know their first names.
It is surprisingly hard randomly to ask if you can take a picture of someone: we are quite proud of ourselves for overcoming our shyness. And we also have great respect for real photographers who do this kind of thing regularly.
Oh – and Happy New Year from Mr. & Mrs. Shopkeeper.

If you really really love your cornershop…

You’ll vote for it. Yup, that’s right. Thanks to the Telegraph Magazine, there is actually a shop awards thingy that offers the category of ‘cornershop’. Which is awesome. You can also vote for shops in other categories: food, fashion, books, interiors, wine, health and beauty.
If you are stuck for shops to recommend, we would suggest that you vote for this one. But the important thing is to vote. To show the wee shops of England that you heart them, that you value their services. After all, you could win a holiday

Cornershop Book Review #3: Shelf Life

In which we look at the Corner Shop in ‘literature’…
In the interests of academic research and a more interesting blogsite, we have recently taken to reading the odd book whilst propping up the counter. Not any old pulp fiction, we’ll have you know: there are strict criteria. The book must be about shop life. We wanted to know how the corner shopkeeper is being portrayed out there, and set the record straight if necessary. This exercise is also, of course, a very good way of lending gravitas to the shopkeeper’s image….
Synopsis: This book is largely autobiographical: author Simon Parke gives up his calling as a vicar and rejoins the rat-race. Aware of the need to earn a crust and in some desperation, he takes a job at a local supermarket. And that is the extent of the plot. BUT. It somehow manages to combine enough action, intrigue and comment to be completely unputdownable. We meet the full panoply of supermarket staff, from the religious zealot to the lascivious shelf stacker to the insecure security guard, stitched together by Si’s funny, warm and poignant observations on life, the universe and shelf-stacking. Think Zen and the Art of Motorbike Maintenance (link included for those of you who are not closet or real hippies), add a lot more humour and a crisper writing style, and make it 100% relevant to British society today and you’ll have some idea of what it’s all about.
Real Shop Cred: 10/10 on the credometer. It is set in a real shop, and written by a real shelf stacker. It doesn’t get any more real than that. We empathise with the day to day joys and frustrations of shop work, and recognise the bonhomie and back-stabbing amongst the staff. We know the customer types of which the author writes, and, work in a shop or not, we’ve all seen the self-important supermarket managerial type strutting the aisles. This should be made the official shelf-stackers handbook. End of.
Buy, borrow or avoid: Oh buy, buy buy. Buy it for all your friends too. At £7 or so on Amazon, you can shove it in their Christmas stockings. Even if you have no interest in the machinations within your local supermarket, this book has so much more to offer. All life is there. The book is studded with little snippets of true joy and undeniable wisdom. Truly, it is one of the best books we have read in aaaages.

On Tillerisms

Shopping. Some of us hate it. Some peeps, unfathomably, live to shop. Most of you probably fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. But you all have to do it at some stage, and you’ve all got our own little foibles. Nowhere is this as obvious as at the till. When you pay. In fact, customer tillerisms enable us to divide them into some fairly distinct categories…

  • The super-organised control freak: These are usually ladies. They bring incredibly well pressed notes out of their immaculate, strangely flat purses, easily producing extra change if required with a careless flick of their perfectly manicured fingers. If paying by card, the card in question glides with irritating ease out of its allocated slot. One is left with the feeling that any money used is eerily replicated and replaced within seconds. Stepford shopping, this is.
  • The Real Man: real men have Alpha male wallets. They are worn, but big and beefy (the wallets, that is: the men are frequently the opposite), and often have cowboy insignia embossed on the real rawhide front. Big though it may be, the Real Man’s wallet is never quite big enough, and there is always stuff spilling out: receipts, business cards, wads of cash. And an out of date family snap. This causes them to faff a lot at the till, and smile sheepishly. The Real Man secretly hankers after a manbag, but has learned to repress his feelings.
  • The Student: is always 3p short. He or she has a wallet made out of recycled loo roll wrappers, and it contains more rollie stubs than actual coins. It also invariably contains a plectrum, regardless of the holder’s musical ability, as this is the epitome of student cool. Student purses are tiny, and involve much shaking thereof in order to extract anything at all. Sometimes a whip round amongst the student’s friends will actually make up the shortfall, but if not the shopkeeper is left with an apologetic grin by way of payment.
  • The liberated woman: Liberated women are trying to wean themselves away from handbag use and save the world simultaneously. They either carry a range of cotton shoppers (which are just replacement handbags if you ask us), or wear cargos and parkas with an unfeasible number of pockets, or they have joined the trolley army. They are justifiably jaunty and happy with their stance…until they get to the till and cannot recall in which trouser or trolley compartment they put their purse. They also faff a lot.
  • The Mature Citizen: this may actually be regarded as an age psychometric. There are quite a few mature citizens under 30, and conversely there are plenty of octagenarians who are not mature. The Mature Citizen is positively anal about change, you see. They are obsessed with giving you the right money, because they know that they have the right money, even if it means holding up a whole queue of other shoppers while they rummage. This sort of tillerism ranges from the really quite comical to the irksome, although of course in the truly elderly it can just indicate a sad and desperate lack of means.
  • The Nouveau Riche: comes in and gives the shopkeeper his credit card before actually doing any shopping. They’re always male – but interestingly come in a huge range of nationalities. The NR does a lot of back slapping and hand-shaking too, and probably calls you ‘mate’. All very ‘hail fellow well met’. He really is not interested in the price of things – but the moment he thinks that he’s being taken for a ride, he’ll be out of there before you can say ‘holdiay-home-near-Malaga’. He likes to talk, the NR, and so the shopkeeper learns to allow more till time for him.

Bet we’ve missed some. Any shopkeepers reading this? Please leave your comments below…

On Famous Shopkeepers

So we were thinking about well-known shopkeepers. Mean, there must be a few. Oh we all know about the grocer’s daughter, and the Chiswick shopkeeper. But then we drew a blank. Well actually we didn’t. Googling ‘famous shopkeepers’ brought us to this rather charming poem, to which one should presumably French skip:
I’m a famous shopkeeper
And I can count in tens
I’m a famous shopkeeper
And I can sell you pens
I’m a famous shopkeeper
And I can give you change
I’m a famous shopkeeper
And I like to rearrange
I’m a famous shopkeeper
And I can count in tens,
Sell you pens,
Give you change
And rearrange.
Thanks to Charlotte Westaby, aged 9, of Newbold Verdon Primary School for the above. It really made our day (and made us skip). Even though we’re not very good at counting or rearranging (but maybe only famous shopkeepers are good at those things). 🙂
Anyway, we thought we’d ask you. There must be loads of celebs out there who have owned or still own shops. And even more who worked in shops before they were famous. Any ideas?

Thank you for your suggestions thus far. We are drawing up quite a list of fictitious-but-famous shopkeepers, including Arkwright, Apu, Tubbs and Edward, Miranda, and Young Mr. Grace. Any others of a slightly more flesh and blood nature….?