Friday, 11 December 2009

I Am Till Monkey, Hear Me Roar……..

Retail workers of the world, I salute you. For too long I have taken you for granted. For too long I have watched you behind your tills of misery, eyes dead, drool hanging limply from flaccid lips, souls seared by the inanity of the monotonous routines that you grind out, while each day bleeds relentlessly into another endless procession of bone twisting torture which is sound tracked by the cheery sound of jingling change.

I have ignored your pleas for acceptance, as the very fibre of your being cries out for a simple thank you from us undeserving members of the public, a pure gesture of acceptance from one human being to another. I have ignored you and I am ashamed.

Not anymore.

Retail workers of the world, you are one of the essential cogs that enables this miserable planet to keep turning. Providing small trinkets of pleasure for the rest of society to purchase and consume as we try to forget the daily pressure of our own mortality bearing down on us with the weight and heat of a thousand burning suns.

You are the unsung angels of the common workplace.

God bless you all.

As you may have guessed, I have started that Christmas temping job, working in one of London's premier luxury department stores. And it has opened my eyes to world I never knew existed before.

The world of the till monkey.

Now at this place, there are basically two kinds of people who work there.

One group is the beautiful people. Those glamorous and well dressed folk who work in all the designer departments. The women wearing miniskirts, high heels and makeup so thick you could grout your tiles with it. The men in their smart suits, immaculate gel sculptured hair and aftershave so strong, it is like a nasal form of rohypnol. These people are bastards. Sub human scum. I honestly can’t put it any clearer than that.

The other group that works in this place are the till monkeys. Those sad, walking meatbags, whose only use is as a pathetic object to abuse, mistreat and look down upon. 

I am a till monkey.

And very much like a monkey in the wild, at various points during this week, I have had an almost uncontrollable urge to suddenly begin screaming out loud and to start hurling handfuls of my own steaming warm faeces at people as they pass by.

It’s not much fun.

I started on Monday. It had been about three weeks since I had partaken in the training of what to do in my section, so naturally I had forgotten everything by then. So when I arrived that morning, I reported to the manager of the department I would be working in.

After the usual greeting and such, I was asked if I had done the till training.

“About three weeks ago” I replied, “So would it be possible to have a five minute refresher course just to get back up to speed?”

Somehow those words were run through a translator that turned them into: Yes, I am fully versed in the world of tills and would so dearly love to start serving the public straight away please, as that is what I suddenly found myself doing.

“This is your till.” the till monkey manager said to me, pointing at my lonely little island with its cash register sitting in the centre like an accusing frown. “You just get on with it and you will be fine.”


I stood there, looking dumbly at the high tech machine in front of me, a machine that could do anything in the world of retail but tell me how the fuck I was meant to use it.

“Me and you are going to have problems, aren’t we?” I muttered at it darkly.

It just blinked back at me mockingly, like HAL’s eviler twin brother

Suddenly there was a customer walking over to me with a basket of shopping.

Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.

*Quick word on most of the people that shop in places like this.



That's probably got us up to speed*

“Hello. Can I help you at all?” I said in my best cheery retail voice.

“Just these please.” The customer replied, handing me the basket.

Now somehow I managed to muddle my way through this transaction. There were only a few things in the basket and I managed to press the right combination of buttons on the till to make it all work.

I ruled.

I served my first customer. I could do this!

And then I looked at who I was serving next in the queue and saw that it was my first celebrity.

*Another quick word on this, as this department store is very posh, well known celebrities can be found wandering round most of the floors like lost children. It can be very surreal.*

Now I am not going to name this celebrity because I am still going to be working at this place for a few more weeks, and I had the rather bizarre situation a few weeks ago of the author of a book I reviewed in a post on here leaving me a comment on my blog thanking me for doing so. See here.

I know the chances of this being read by the said celebrity are slim to anorexic, but if he googles his own name and my blog comes up, I could get into trouble. So nameless he shall be for now, until I leave in a few weeks and if anyone is still interested by then, I can name him (I hope that makes sense?).

So anyway, this celebrity. He is a fairly young comedic actor, quite portly, plays a cheeky chappy in a huge sitcom on TV.

He looks at me as he walks over, giving me the: I know you know who I am look. I give him the: I know you know I know who you are, but I’m going to act like I don’t know who you are look back. Now this is quite hard to pull off. I think it basically means I look constipated.

He has no basket, but just dumps a handful of stuff at my till.

“Just these please mate.” he said to me.

I had one of those moments. Slightly out of body and unreal. A person who I normally watched and enjoyed on TV was now talking with his mouth at me. With words.

“Can I get you a bag?” I squeaked back at him.

“Nah, your alright.” he replied.

So I slowly started to scan his stuff through the till. As each item went through, I became more and more confident. And then he threw a spanner in the works.

“Can I pay for my parking ticket please?” he said.

“Of course you…………”

Huh, what the hell? Parking ticket??????

“……….can.” I said with the voice of a man condemned to the gallows.

He handed his ticket to me and I stared at it dumbly. I then looked at him, sweat forming on my forehead, while he looked back at me, irritation growing in his eyes at the look of terror that passed on my face.

I tore my gaze away and placed it on the monitor of the till.

Parking ticket! Parking ticket! Where's the fucking button for parking tickets?

I randomly began stabbing at buttons hoping that the parking ticket section would magically appear. Whole sections on vegetables, root beer, transaction voids, emergency exits, all flashed before my eyes, but no sodding parking ticket section. After what felt like a million frantic button jabs, I half expected for the till to suddenly start reciting 16th century French poetry at my terrified face. "Nul ne porte pour moy le noir. On vent meilleur marchie drap gris; Or tiengne chascun, pour tout voir, Qu'encore est vive la souris."

The famous funny man in front of me began to tap his fingers impatiently on my cash register and muttered darkly “Come on.”

I was being abused by someone famous!!!

Now in my head, I am normally being abused by a celebrity, but that celebrity in question is always Holly Willoughby, and she is normally wearing a dominatrix outfit that spells out “I heart Dan” on the brassiere in tiny metal studs as she does the abusing. It has never been a very annoyed large comedic actor. That would just be weird.

Suddenly I must have pressed the correct buttons as the parking ticket section came up and I was able to ring it off. My relief was almost palpable and I began putting his goods in a bag.

“I said I didn’t want a bag.” he said, the sheer hatred for this cretin in front of him plain to see on his face and in his words.

“No, of course you didn’t, I’m sorry.” I replied, hastily shoving everything into his open hands.

“Cheers mate.” he said as he left, and then he winked.

I was winked at by someone off the telly!!!!!

I tried to calm down as he left, my heart slowing to normal levels, when suddenly a thought popped in my head.

Did I scan those last two items?

I mentally ran through the last five minutes.


I didn’t.


So what normally happens when you fail to do that? Well, as you leave this luxury department store with your non scanned goods, the alarms will go off and you will have about six burly security guards chasing after you of suspicion of theft.

I could just see the next day’s newspaper headlines.

It wasn’t me!” cried the portly chuckle maker as he was lead to the police van. “It was the twat with the beard!”

In a few years time I’m sure I will find it amusing……..

To be honest though, the customers are not the rudest people to serve in this place. That privilege belongs to the beautiful people.

You kind of expect the regular customers to be rude, it’s a given necessity. Most of them are obscenely rich, are used to people fawning over them at any given moment, and come from backgrounds so far removed from my own its unreal.

But the beautiful people? They are basically the same as me but with a shinier name badge. And yet nearly every encounter with them involves them looking down at us till monkeys with almost unbearable distain.

Take this encounter I had the other day.

A lady beautiful person comes walking over to me with a trolley full of shopping.

“Hello.” I say with a smile “How are you today?”

I get a half smile back and nothing more. I am nothing to her. I am till monkey.

Fair enough then, if that's how you want to play it darling, I thought.

I scan her French stick loaf through the till.

“Can I get you a bag with this?” I ask.

She laughs at me and says in a voice that implies I am an idiot. “Well how else am I going to carry it home?”

The urge to mention that most people bring their own shopping bags nowadays sits behind my lips, and then decides that as I have been on my feet for seven hours without a break, it’s too bloody knackered to travel any further out into the world and just stays there, lying stupidly on my tongue.

“Of course. You’re so right. Is there anything else I can do for you?” I reply with a heavy sigh.

She gives a little shake of the head. Not a thank you from her. Nothing. It was at this point that I had the urge to snap her French stick loaf in half, ram each end into her eye sockets, and shove her into her trolley and send her careening across the store, scattering shoppers out the way while she clings on to the front of the trolley, screaming with her protruding French stick antennae like some Daliesque hood ornament.

As I watch her totter away on high heels that make her resemble a new born baby giraffe taking its first steps, the only sign of the little fantasy that is playing out in my mind is a small twitch under my right eye.

I now know why people snap and start shooting co-workers.

I have another few weeks of this. I don’t know how I am going to do it. And whoever thought it was a good idea to ask a man with OCD to pack shopping bags must surely have the sickest sense of humour. It takes me ages. Admittedly each bag is a work of art. Everything coordinated in size, colour and shape, but when it takes me about 25 minutes to do it, that's hardly pleasing for the poor sod who just wants to take their shopping and go home.

So I’ll say it again. Retail workers, you have my awe, you really do. And the next time I am being served by someone, I will look them straight in the eye afterwards and say “Thank you.” And then I will probably go round behind the counter and just hold them in my arms as they weep furiously into my shoulder while I stroke their hair and whisper “It’s OK. I understand. I’ve been there.”

I am till monkey.


Anonymous said...

Years ago, when I first moved to New York, I worked in the phone operator's room at Saks Fifth Avenue at Christmas. I had to call high end customers all day telling them about special discounts available to them as our most valued customers, i.e. those with a Centurion Amex card or a Platinum card. It was illuminating, seeing how people of that stature can be. Rude, dismissive, downright abusive. I am now full of admiration for the ladies who worked that job for real, having to put up with that crap daily with a smile on their faces. I did my week's assignment and got the hell out.

I've been a till monkey too. So many stories. So many weirdos. :)

Allegria said...

*wipes tears from eyes* You are so funny. I'm still giggling. Thanks for that!

I've been a till monkey, too. I'd play a game where I would choose a word (like pineapple--but it can be whatever you want), and I would either try to include that word in the interaction with the customer (5 points) or somehow make the customer use said work (10 points).

Give it a shot! I dare you!

JenJen said...

Oh. Mygod.

This was too fucking funny.

can I say fuck?


Can I say shit?

Is this blog too posh?

This was a real crack up, love. WITH HIS MOUTH.

Love it.

Midnitefyrfly said...

I definitely feel your pain. As a nail technician that has worked in a couple of well-to-do spas in my day, I cannot tell you the things I have envisioned doing to a rather snotty, rich lady's unsuspecting feet, free of charge!

The service industry as a whole is full of some amazing yet unappreciated people.

I know you will make it through and look~ you are already able to share some of your horror stories and make us laugh ;)

More good reading material to come I'm sure.

hope said...

Ah, please take a seat next to me on the sympathy bandwagon. Really, it'll be good for your feet.

I am a public servant in local government. Unfortunately the public confuses that term with "public slave". I'm pretty sure Lincoln freed the slaves...but my employer did not get the memo. Neither did the public, which has me confused with highly paid, non-functioning politicians.

So I go out of my way to thank till monkeys...with a genuine smile. I just left a shop and without thinking, said to the girl, "Have a good weekend." To which she replied, eyebrows raised in shock, "Why....thank you. You too."

Come here....have a sympathy hug. I'll try to find an award worthy of placing next to your register to show the beautiful people that snobby doesn't mean anything. ;)

Eva Gallant said...

Been there, done that. You have my simpathy!

JennyMac said...

hahahahaha....this was such an ringing up the french bread and sweating over the parking ticket button. HAHAHA..sorry, only laughing with you.

And the photo of that monkey? Blog post perfect.

WhisperingWriter said...

Now I'm wondering who the celebrity is.

You wrote this so well. And you reminded me why I could never be a cashier. I'd go into a panic.

f8hasit said...

...till monkeys of the world-
This Bud's for you.

Great post! Hope you make it through the rest of the holidays!

Anonymous said...

So you post once a week and then you come up with something THIS good?

You're going to have to have a big fight with Mo Stoneskin if you keep this up.....

Saskia said...

Dude I feel your pain. I've been a till monkey, deli bird and waitress extrordinaire. I met some wonderful customers and some that were just so unbelievably rude. Now I always smile, say please and thank you and tip... anything to lighten the day of someone serving the public!

Was the famous someone's initials JC?

Loved this post!

jules said...

"Slim to anorexic" HA HA HA HA. I'm telling you now, I'll be using this and I LOVE it! So poetic.

I'm with you though. I was at the register last night and this crazy bitch in front of me was trying to ague with the very polite cashier. At one point she said, "Who you gett'n smart wit?" I wanted to chime in and say, "First of all, she's being polite to your rude ass and secondly, she's looking at you, so clearly if she was being 'smart' it's directed at you." But I could tell this was the kind of crazy who would come at me swinging so I waited until she left and shared my thoughts with the nice lady at the till. I think she enjoyed my sentiment and I hope calmed her nerves a little.

Good luck! Maybe there will be more celebs!

UberGrumpy said...

Great post Dan! I'm trying to guess who the celebrity is - I'm thinking toilet brush...

Susan at Stony River said...

I spent one Christmas working a till in a toy store. Oh boy....NEVER again. It didn't seem half so funny back then, but maybe that was because it was happening to *me* at the time...

Rich and/or famous people, GAH!!

Hang in there!

Doctor FTSE said...

Hi Dan

Wonderful post! Surely you could find a magazine editor who would love to publish work like this? You're a WRITER, man . . .! Hope you survive the Xmas rush.

Oh BTW . . how about "Slim to Anorexic" for the blogname you were looking for a while back?

Or "The Till Monkey"

Doctor FTSE said...

Dan . . .

Do you ever look at

Australian Blogger. Some gorgeous visual jokes.
Worth a visit to the Antipodes.

Dan said...

The Veggie Assassin- Amazing, ain't it? The more money you seem to have, the more your social skills diminish.

Allegria- That sounds like a brilliant game! I am definitely going to give it a go this week. Can I try and include the word "Die"?

JenJen- You can say what you want Jen, you normally do. Glad you liked this one chum.

MFF- Man, I thought I had it bad. Feet! How the hell did you deal with that? You are made of much stronger stuff than me matey. I would have been freaking out.

Hope- Thank you for the hug and feeling my pain. At least I am safe in the knowledge this is only for a few weeks. Some people will never leave. Those poor, poor bastards.....

Eva- I bet you have the scars (and some tales) to prove it?

JM- The little fella in the photo is perfect, isn't he? His face sums up my first 20 minutes in the job.

WW- You have to juggle to lovely little ones and a Call Of Duty obsessed hubby WW. I'm sure you would be able to cope with being a till monkey?

f8hasit- I'm sure I will. I'm probably just being a big Jessy about it all. Cheers to you as well my chum.

Matt- It was purely my subconscious writing it. I had nothing to do with it really. And Mo would probably have me in a fight. I sense a latent nutter in between the words he writes....

Saskia- With your guess? You are bang on the money. It was him. Surreal huh?

Jules- You are more than welcome to use that phrase matey, but as long as you whisper "Copy write Dan." after every time you do.

UG- Good guess again. You are right matey. One for the UK readers I guess?

Susan- I'm sure in about 40 years I will look back on this time with a wry smile.......... Probably.

Doc- I dunno if it’s good enough for that, but I'm glad you liked it buddy. And I checked out that blog. Some brilliant sight gags on there mate. Signed up. Thanks for the heads up!

Miss OverThinker said...

I finally made it to your post.. now that I've found time from all the tea drinking in the car ;)

Loved this post - I was laughing my butt off even though I didn't want to.. I am looking forward to more till monkey stories..

BTW, I hugged a till monkey today and stroked his hair and told him I understood what he was going thru; I was escorted out of the store - any ideas why?

mo.stoneskin said...

Very rarely do such heel-wearers not resemble newborn giraffes. But what I want to know is, did the alarms sound when that chap left? Or did you not know because you were cowering in the toilets?

Fe said...

Retail is hard work.. I always feel sorry for them, especially during the holidays. Great entry!

jules said...

"Copy write Dan" HA HA HA HA HA HA! Will do!

Kate said...

Brilliant post - so so true.
I worked in debenhams one year when i was a student around the christmas period and the amount of abose you got from some people was crazy. Generally from people rich enough to afford manners. Stay sane!

Kate x

Linda Medrano said...

Brilliant! I too have been a "monkey" way to often for my taste in fact. The thing is, most of us have been. We either come out of it realizing it's a tough job and being a nicer person, or turn into a total arse wipe! Thank God most people are nice!