Corner Shop Stories

Corner Shop Stories

On an average day we’ll get scratch card addicts buying the same scratch cards every week. I know which ones they’re going to get. Sometimes they win but they definitely spend more than they win.

We get someone from another shop buying all their lottery at our shop because I think they don’t want to be seen buying that amount of lottery. As a responsible retailer you’re not allowed to serve people who you think may be vulnerable or you think have an addiction. It’s not like we’re psychologists trained to make a diagnosis so it’s a personal judgement call. I’ve refused to serve people before, for example someone wanting to buy an entire roll of scratch cards – about £200 worth. I won’t sell someone that many.

One person used to come in and spend £20 on scratch cards and any winnings they’d put straight back on. They’d come in multiple times a day in and out like a yo-yo. We knew it wasn’t right and said to them they could come in once a day and spend a bit of money but we’re not having you coming in and out spending all your money on them.

One person was at the till and insisted another customer being served had their scratch card. It’s first come first serve and the other customer asked for a scratch card first. It got to the point where this person demanded that the other customer scratched it off at the till to see if they’d won. The other customer seemed really intimidated – it was beyond reasonable behaviour. You can’t just say “that’s my scratch card” if someone else has asked first. The card didn’t even win anything.

There’s one customer who comes in who always must have something extra. If they pay by card they must have a receipt. If it comes to £3.20 they’ll pay 20p and put £3 on their card. Always something. They had a little bag of change which was obviously more than £3.20 but wanted to pay 20p cash and £3 card. They always ask for something extra: picking something up and asking “have you got a newer date in the back?” You just do it – within reason obviously.

There’s another customer who always has to make a mess. They’ll come in and make a coffee from the machine. You wonder how someone can make so much mess. Sugar will go everywhere, stirrer won’t go in the bin, spilled coffee. How can one person make so much mess by making one coffee that goes in a cup? When they come to the till there’s no clumsy movements. I think it’s deliberate.

There’s one customer who comes in and spends £250 a week on tobacco. They’ll buy everything we’ve got of one brand. It sounds like they’re snoring at the till. They’ll buy 6 jars of peanut butter and then all the egg sandwich which go out of date tomorrow. They come in once a week. The staff were rude about them because they smelled so bad – mainly of tobacco – which is not surprising considering how much tobacco they get through! I said “Why aren’t you just nice to them?” So they started chatting to this customer every time they come in and they’re really friendly responding, saying things like “have a lovely day chaps!”

There’s a customer who comes in and talks to themselves a lot – very conspiracy theorist. Paranoia maybe. I never really grasp the conversation. They just mutters to themselves.

There’s was a really friendly person that used to come in – very loud – and would buy a 12 pack of lager. They would be fine when they bought that but then they’d come back in when they’d drunk it all absolutely pie-eyed and would want to be your best mate and then we couldn’t get rid of them. Apparently they used to be in the forces and had a brain injury which affected their personality. They spent all their benefits on booze. Not an alcoholic in the sense they were completely drunk all the time though.

There’s a lot of alcoholics who come in. There’s a council worker that buys a bottle of vodka every day on the way to work and you have to sell it to them because their not drunk at that point. Then there’s the cider drunks buying 2 litre bottles of cider at 8am or an 8 pack of cider cans. We get pensioners coming in buying a litre bottle of whiskey. There’s a customer who comes in and buys a litre bottle of vodka and a couple of scratch cards every day. It’s really sad. It’s serious when they’re buying a litre bottle of vodka every day. It’s bad when they’re on spirits because you can drink a lot quite easily.

The alcoholics who like the cider and the beer tend to be more functional. The functional alcoholics come and in at that point they’re not drunk so we can serve them. We’re not allowed to serve someone who is obviously drunk as by law they’re considered no longer responsible enough to make that judgement call so we have to make it for them. It’s always a judgement call. We can refuse to serve people but if they’re not drunk you’re making an assumption about someone being an alcoholic that might not be true. You have to assume they’re sober enough to make their own decisions.

Part of the problem is that alcohol is far too cheap and accessible. Like Scotland has the minimum price per unit regulations now. The high strength cheap stuff should be more expensive and alcohol manufacturers should lower the ABV of a lot of stuff. Most beers here are 5% but it would probably taste the same if it was 3%. You can by a litre bottle of 40% spirits for £15. The amount of units you can buy is cheaper with these spirits. It’s too cheap.

You know when it’s serious with people when there’s the smell of alcohol but they don’t outwardly appear drunk. The alcohol takes away their cares and you can see it in their body language. They’ve been anesthetised.

There was one person who used to come in drunk and we’d just sneak the beer out at the till and hope they wouldn’t notice. When they did notice it would cause an argument and they’d storm out, but sneaking the beer out was better than having a confrontation about not serving them in the first place. They would become really abusive if we got caught taking them out of their basket. We had to bar them eventually.


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