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Jul 20, 2019

Life in a shop is no joking matter – really!

Asideways look at the world of independent retailing

Have you heard the one about the woman who went into the bank and asked the cashier to check her balance? He came from behind the counter and pushed her over.

My assistant Norman told that one this morning to a woman who had come to complain that the flashing lights on her son’s new trainers had affected her epileptic cat. She was not amused.

He tried again. “Have you heard that in Japan the Sumo Bank has gone belly up, the Bonsai Bank has cut some of its branches and there’s something fishy going on at the Sushi Bank and the staff are getting a raw deal?”
“I don’t know about any of that,” the woman said. “I keep my money in the Co-op bank. What are you going to do about these trainers?”

To be honest, it’s been pretty depressing in the shop just lately, what with Brexit and then with Ipswich getting relegated, and Norman was only trying to cheer things up a bit with some jokes he’d heard from Darren, a football shinpad salesman who had apparently reached the last 5,000 in the auditions for Britain’s Got Talent

“He actually saw Simon Cowell driving past on his way to the studio and got a picture of him on his phone so the day wasn’t completely wasted,” Norman said. “He’s pretty certain it was Simon although he only saw the back of his head.

“It certainly made Darren even more determined to get into showbusiness, especially now he’s lost his job at the citizens’ advice bureau. Apparently someone came in to ask how to start a small business, and Darren said: ‘Start a big one and wait six months.’ Noone thought it was funny.”

It seems that Norman got the idea of telling jokes in the shop after watching yet another repeat of “Open All Hours.”

He’d also read in the paper that happy people spend more money on outdoor hobbies than the miserable gits who sit at home staring at Countdown, (the last bit was Norman’s interpretation but who am I to argue?)

“I think they’ve got a point,” Norman said. “Remember the man who bought all those expensive Tiger Woods replica golf clubs. I’ve never seen a man laugh so much when spending money on a healthy hobby.”

“That was because by some miracle he’d just got a divorce settlement which allowed him to keep his house in Droitwich and his villa in Portugal,” I said. “But as a general principal I see what you mean.”

Norman got the chance to put his theory to the test shortly afterwards when a doleful-looking cove came in to look at our fishing rods.”Excuse me, sir,” Norman said. “What do you call a fish with no eye?” “FSH,” the man said. “My eight-year-old son told me that. Why are all your reels made in the Dominican Republic?”

But Norman wouldn’t give up. “Have you heard about the man who went into a fishing shop and said ‘Can I have a fly-rod for my son’ and the assistant said ‘Sorry sir, we don’t do part exchanges’.”

The man looked at him and said: “I think I’ll go home and see what’s on eBay.”

Later that day an inoffensive chap who was unaccountably interested in a Wigan Athletic sweat-shirt was bombarded with pet-shop jokes. “Here,” said Norman. “This chap went into a pet-shop and said ‘Do you sell wasps?’ ‘No sir,’ said the assistant, ‘we don’t sell wasps.’ ‘Well,’ said this bloke, ‘you had one in the window last week’.”

“I’ll leave the Wigan shirt until I see if they buy anybody decent in the transfer window,” the man said, and he was out of the shop like the favourite in the 3.30 at Uttoxeter.

After a day of football jokes which included “What’s the difference between Manchester United and a teabag? The teabag stays in the cup.” I finally found a way of shutting Norman up.

Thank goodness I came across that story in the paper about a Welsh shopkeeper who was warned by police for breaching public order for putting jokes on his promotional leaflets like: “What’s the technical name for three days of horrendous weather? A Welsh bank holiday.”

Norman took some convincing that his jokes fell into the same category but finally agreed to call it a day if he could tell his favourite just one more time.

It turned out to be the one about the man who went to have a Turkish bath, took off all his clothes and when the steam cleared found he was in a fish and chip shop.

As luck would have it, he told it to a man buying a dartboard who appeared to actually think it was funny, and booked Norman to do a turn at the local Rotary Club’s next barbecue.

I’ve said he can have the Saturday afternoon off in exchange for the usual agent’s fee of ten per cent. No one can say I don’t like a joke.

  

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