When Push Comes To Shove Or Brawl
by Maggie from London
Mon Dieu! The inevitable transformation has transpired. British life as we know it ' seriously altered. Must be from all that holidaying in France. Queuing - that British badge of honour has come to a messy end.
Just because it sounds French, doesn't make it so. The British have always distained the behaviour of their neighbouring interlopers: rude, pushy, smug, bloody superior. The French see queuing as a ridiculous absurdity that only the silly Brits do. Their badge of honour is more one of 'you're in my way' entitlement.
Historically, when more than two Brits assemble, they naturally create a queue regardless of the circumstances; no bus stop necessary.
Not any more. . .
Once that (up to) 50% off (selected items only) signage goes up announcing the beginning of the January sales, it's 'Oh'so sorry,' elbow to the ribs, 'Sorry,' boot on the instep. This is all out shopping war. 'Excuse moi. Where's that foie gras?'
After a disappointing retail Christmas Eve, with the number of last-minute shoppers down 43% on last year, braving the ever enduring nightmare known as Oxford Street, over half a million materialists packed the street. Two thousand of the hopeful arrived between 12:00-3:30 am on that holiday for all, Boxing Day, the day after the biggest gift giving day of the year.
Did Santa not make his yearly visit? What do you suppose these thousands of shoppers got for Christmas? Pens? Those pressing against the glass doors of Selfridge's Department Store were given free doughnuts, tea and coffee. Out of kindness or fear? The 'I shop, therefore I am' barbarians at the gate were so scarily numerous, Selfridge's had to open their Gucci and Louis Vuitton departments early. Ah. The spirit of Christmas is alive, then.
But at the big shopping centres, it was more a matter of punch-up-pandemonium. Angry tussles spoiled the start of the first full day of the sales as huge crowds salivating and ready to brawl for bargains jostled for the so hoped for massive discounts on offer. About 5,000 shoppers waited in the cold through the night for the 4.30am opening of the shops. When you are first, you are first ' if you know what I mean.
Then these same shoppers were forced to wait up to three hours before being admitted in groups of 20 into the shops, and then waited up to 90 minutes to pay for their bargains at the tills. What the hell are these people buying? How many reduced to '999.99 high definition Plasma TVs can one have? sofas, fridge-freezers, party dresses? Just how many pairs of Jimmie Choo shoes can one shove in one's wardrobe? Oh. That is a rhetorical question, isn't it.
Personally, I wouldn't consider scuffling with small children or wrestling men to the ground for less than a 75% reduction.
Security staff attempted to control the crowds and remove queue jumpers out of the line: 'Aye! We're British! Have you forgotten?' Witnesses reported: "There were a few people getting quite angry and starting to shout because they didn't open the doors exactly on the dot. I think they were annoyed because everyone had to get up really, really early." "It was incredibly packed with people pushing - it took ages to get to the cash point." '' people were pushing and getting crushed. You just cannot move, the car park can't cope, every one is just double-parked in the street, it's ridiculous. There are a lot of people trying to push in. It's pandemonium." "There were quite a lot of arguments going on outside and inside. The menswear section upstairs is quite small and loads of people were getting angry that they couldn't get up there and there was pushing and shoving.'
Picture 237,000 shoppers a day squeezing through double doors of the shopping centre entrance. Beware claustrophobics.
Retail experts say these pushers and shovers will have spent '800 a second and have predicted that as much as '6 billion could be spent by 37 million shoppers or 81% of the adult population by the time the sales are over in mid-January. Whatever happened to minimalism? Less is more? The Slow Movement?
However, there may be one problem facing the bruised but bold. The Government has warned that millions of adults will struggle to make the best of the sales because they lack the maths skills to find the bargains. Great. So not only are they black and blue, they have overpaid and will be charged an extra '30 if they go over their over-draft. Then they will have to go to Small Claims Court to recoup the money as it is illegal to charge and the banks know it. These sales take the maniacal dedication of a mad badger.
Concerned Ministers urged shoppers who find they cannot work out basic offers like "20 per cent off" or "buy one, get the second half-price" to sign up for a refresher maths course in the New Year. All to prepare for December 26, 2007 and the maths underachievers' subsequent sofa purchase. The Department for Education's Get On campaign said 14.9 million adults in England lack the numeracy levels expected of an 11 year-old child. Really? How can that be? That could be very scary, unless the model 11 year-old is a genius.
Skills minister Phil Hope said: "After trying to work out that '60 per cent off ' discount or multi-purchase deals, people may well be thinking about improving their skills in the New Year." Are there no calculators left in the shops? Couldn't they have dragged their 11 year-old son, daughter, niece, neighbour, hoodie with them? 'Quickly Rufus. 15% off '1,200 for this year's Mulberry must have handbag'.' 'That's mine, you dozy cow. Let go! S'il vous plait!' 'Help, Rufus. Did you say '1020? Bite her!'
Apparently it's the empirical experience. Pressed together, ancient tribal memories reawakened, a shove here, a push there, battling over bargains, these adrenaline-junkies could be home sipping a lovely cup of hot milky tea, a cognac soaked mini-minced pie or two, the air filled with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, ordering on line where the sales started Christmas Day and items are mostly cheaper - like me.
Maggie is from Manhattan, where she was a painter, then designer of clothing, objects, textiles, interiors while writing for various publications and her own webzine. She is permanently based in London, the city of irony, from where she writes regularly to her gal pal Lulu in New York.
You can read her amusing tales about London's daily life, people, current events, politics, fashion and culture at her website www.lettersfromlondon.com.
You can also read more of Maggie's letters to Lulu at Letters from London on this site.