Dining At The Seniors Table

Having come to the conclusion that my spring chicken days are quite some little time ago, I can approach senior’s events with a little more equanimity. One week I attended one that seemed to be organised partially as a sales meeting and partially as an entertainment. I hasten to add, I was part of the sales and not the entertainment, though I did my best.

I do not begrudge the governmental agency nor the private telecommunications firm the opportunity they took to use a seniors recreation organisation to bring in potential customers – they also disseminated very useful information for the old folks and didn’t beat them on the head to get money out of them.

The venue was also well-chosen. A central point served by  buses as well as having extensive free parking and a large, warm meeting hall. With freebies, welcoming coffee and cupcakes, and a free lunch, it was as hospitable as you could ever ask for.

My part – table attendant and salesman for the old camera shop where I used to be employed – was easy work to do and I welcomed a chance to run some of the old communications skills up again. I can be very sympathetic to older folk and tailor the conversation to suit their ( our…) needs. I think I’d be a good senior salesman still if it did not involve standing for 8 hours and trying to deal with impossible computer programs.

Did the old folks get something out of the day? I like to think so – I’m sure we gained new customers for the shop and training facility if it can be made comfortable for them to come and visit. And I think I had a very good idea for the  Photo Live 2018 trade day later in the year – based upon dealing with seniors as a senior. Hope my voice holds up.

The Gumtree Experience

I have participated in the Gumtree* experience several times – bouts of advertisement for unwanted household goods and the subsequent responses. I have come to some conclusions:

a. Paid advertisement is fine if you can have any positive expectation of response. Household goods in a tough market do not provide this – therefore cheap or free advertisement is the wisest thing.

b. On-site advertisements, such as the garage sale posters, are pointless unless you live at the off ramp of the busiest street of the town. Otherwise no-one knows you have anything for sale.

c. Realistic pricing is the key to success. Allow for 10% haggling because there are people who would argue over the price of a new postage stamp with the Postmaster General.

d. You will meet time-wasters, chiselers, and tyre kickers. Hopefully all at once, so that you can set them upon each other. Otherwise just grip your underwear from the inside and usher them out.

e. You will also meet fair customers. Treat them fairly.

f. If you essay to sell something, ask yourself whether it is really worth buying. If not, bin it and regard the dignity that you save as your profit.

g. Regard everything that you do offer as merely trade goods – not mementos, dear possessions, or treasures. If the stuff was any of this, it would still be on your shelves. See it gone with the cheerfulness of a merchant – not the sadness of a collector.

h. Let no-one denigrate your goods. If they’ve come to see them, they are worth seeing.

i. Punctually update or remove old advertisements.

j. Deal only at the front of the house, and with the sound of hearty companionship heard from the back room.

k. No cheques. No promises. No PayPal or offers to transfer money on the mobile phone. Government money in hand. And count it.

l. ” Where did you get this? ” is a fair question…for a magistrate or police officer to ask. Answer them instantly and honestly. Everyone else must be contented with a smile and a blessing.

m. ” Can I bring it back if I don’t like it? ” is also a fair question, and you should give a polite answer. ” No ” is perfectly polite.

n. If something works, make it work before any money changes hands. If something doesn’t work, state that fact clearly in the hearing of witnesses. If it was never meant to work, make that perfectly clear to the buyer.

o. If there’s more than one person in a buying team, address yourself to one only – do all your dealings with that person. Do not let them split your attention.

If there are two or more buying teams, let them look at each other uneasily and offer higher prices. Do not declare the sale finished until you have actual money actually in your actual hand. And the hand has closed tightly.

p. Give gifts occasionally. You can shift a lot of appallingly awkward shit if you make a gift of it. Be kind and ruthless.

*  Free local online selling site.



The Little World – The New Shop

I visited the new hobby shop this week – it has moved a couple of miles closer to my house. Probably to be closer to my bank account…

The new premises are larger and more imposing than the last ones, and the highway that they sit beside is one of the busiest in the metro area. I was a little disconcerted to find that you can only approach the car park from one direction on that highway, and that getting there will require some degree of planning, but the work will be worth it – they have a very complete line of goods that the builder needs.

And they are well-placed to serve a section of our city that has no other outlet. All the other shops are way away out in other quarters of the town – a cut lunch and water bag trip in some cases. This one is 4 miles from my door and I love it.

I took them a bottle of port wine to celebrate the opening. I daresay by the end of the first rainy Saturday, if the customers had been cranky and the computers stopped working, they cracked the bottle and drowned their sorrows.

Only one awkward thing for the workers – the cabinets full of goodies have a key lock at the bottom of the glass. Every time you ask to get an accessory out of them the staff member serving you has to get down on the floor to open it. This will tell on their clothing, backs, and knees. It was the same for the Camera Electronic store for the first 6 years of my job there – we fought with the keylocks every day. Once the new cabinets with invisible electronic locks were installed, the task was much lighter.

Too often the design of retail premises is not thought through – the goods are either left unprotected or locked up so tightly that the natural flow of sales is checked. It really is a geometric and operational jigsaw puzzle. As one of the salespeople I found that there were some items that were impossible to display and sell at the same time, and some concepts – like on-counter impulse bins – were so penny-catching as to degrade the whole sales floor. The one thing that I was able to do in my time that smartened up the mess was to institute a system of standardised signage for different divisions. We used Gill Sans for the typeface and A4 for the standardised size. It all worked well.


Cut-Price Serendipity

I am not given to mystical feelings or premonitions. I regularly stub my mind and toes in the dark, and most of my spirituality is kept in the liquor cabinet…But Saturday I must have known something good was afoot even in the midst of being frustrated.

Our local big shopping centre is a good one serving affluent suburbs and has the sort of up-market shops that cater to the entitled. Not quite as entitled as the older suburbs north of the river, but sufficiently up themselves to sometimes require a stepladder. I don’t mind the slightly higher prices as the mall is clean and smells nice. Plus it has underground parking with an escalator that debouches near the shops I patronise. Not, however, on the Saturday morning of a long weekend…it may have an underground but no chance of parking anywhere.

I dutifully did my round of the carpark aisles with my lights on to fend off the 4 WD tractors from the surrounding suburbs, and then had to give it up and drive away. Normally upset by this, I was quite calm about it and was prepared to drive a further 3 miles to the next shop likely to have the things I wanted.

Imagine my delight to discover that the second shop had not only parking, and the batteries I needed, but also a 50%-off carpark sale. Never let a chance pass you by. I found the last two kits of LED domed accessory lights that people use to jazz up their cars ( I use them to light up my miniature buildings. ) that normally sell for $ 19 being discounted to $ 2.50 each. Yes, thank you very much, and the next two or three dioramas thank you as well.

Had I got parking in the first place, I would have missed out. I shall try to be cheerful and philosophical in the future to see if it leads to equal success.

Red Sales In The Sunset

skya022We have just gone through the pre-Christmas, Boxing Day, and Post-Christmas sales. A few days will bring us to the New Year’s sales followed by the Summer sales and the Back-To-School sales. The cynical amongst us may be forgiven for thinking that the whole of business is one discount sale after another…and we would be right. The rhythm of regular business has given way to this.

The catch cry is always that the internet is the driving force for this change in marketing. I’m not so sure about it. On-line browsing has increased but we still do most of our final negotiation and purchase – the actual handing over of virtual cash – in a shop with an actual sales person. Web and catalogue illustrations only go so far in letting us decide about a purchase – we still have to heft whatever it is we want in the hand.

How about the on-line grocery shopping and delivery, I hear you ask. Good idea, works sometimes, is woefully short of merit at others. And the pipeline delivery of commodities that we were all looking at in the 1948 POPULAR MECHANICS magazine is really only applicable to crude oil or fresh water. Very few items of clothing or cooked chickens are delivered in pipes to our suburb, I can tell you.

On-line car shopping is fruitful if it narrows opportunities down. The chief criteria for most of this is the money figure they attach to the car. Even with bargaining and argument room you can tell if you have a hoot in hell of achieving the purchase price. No, and you might as well return to Facebook.

Hobby items show up frequently on my computer, but then I daresay that is the result of my searches. But I rarely buy the big bits and the small bits are available in a local shop. Perhaps the only thing that I get from the screen is ideas, and some of them are bad.

But Heigh-Ho…at least I do not have to find a car park space when I am browsing, so let the sales begin.


Acting And Re-enacting – Part Four – The Sutlers


” What is a sutler? ” I hear you innocently ask.

A sutler, child, is an opportunity to lose your soul, bank account, and toes. A sutler is the authentically recreated, 100% accurate Whore Of Babylon – made from original sealed patterns stored in the Tower. The Tower of Babel. A sutler’s tent is the closest thing to an opium den full of brass buttons that you will ever see.

A sutler is a storekeeper who offers modern reproductions of goods and garments that have long been found wanting by our ancestors and which are now wanted by us. Whether our descendants will also clamour for hoodies and track suit pants, for thongs and nylon jackets, for half worn-out ripped jeans, and overblown running shoes will remain to be seen. I am hoping not. I hope that the modern fashions sold at Target, Walmart, Big W and The Gap prove to be just a brief bubble of visual horror in the stream of consciousness. When the volcano erupts over the shopping mall I hope the archeologists never dig it out.

Where were we? Oh, yes, the sutler. They sell edged weapons made in Pakistan and India and antique firearms made in Italy. There are Chinese wind-up watches and gew gaws produced in Southeast Asia and South America. And craft items made in Britain, Europe, and North America that can be adapted to the hobby. It is possible to be clothed and accoutred entirely in a selected period – in some cases elegantly. In all cases you will look glossier than most people of the original period ever did for a couple of years as the goods you inhabit wear in. Then there will be a period when you look exactly like an Osprey or Dover illustration. Thereafter you will look shabby.

THAT is the point at which your appearance will be in tune with the clothing. If you can have brought your mind and your knowledge into focus on the time period and have found your own place in it, you will start to have a real personality of the time. You will be an asset to your group or acquaintances. You will also be broke.

Sutlers. That’s the reason.

Selling The Truth Part Four: After Sales Service


It is an uncomfortable fact of legal life here in Western Australia that anything we sell has a one-year warranty. Even if the manufacturer of something has just dumped a shipping container of it at low tide on Coogee Beach and headed out to sea again, the retailer who sells it has to stand by it for 12 months.

This does not make goods better, or best, but it does tend to keep the retailers from latching onto the worst of the rubbish that flows out of Asia with the view to dumping it on the mouth breathers of Perth. It can go to the mouth breathers of country areas…

If truth is a product that can be bought and sold, it too will come under this legislation. Whatever idea someone pays for has to function adequately for 365 days. Adequately…not necessarily well. Adequately as in not bursting into flames or eating through the glass bottle. And here lies a difficult situation; how many things are true a year after they are written, heard, or seen? How many ideas can stand the test of even a little bit of time?

The spectacle of the digital camera trade is enough to give the truth-seller a somber moment. New digital cameras are marvellous for a week, great for another 5 days, interesting until Sunday night about 9:30, and dead fish for ever after. It is fortunate that the better Japanese makers can make cameras that last for several years…escaping the state strictures. They sometimes get caught by dodgy quality control that allows shutters or mirrors to fail very quickly but if they are smart they whisk the defectives away and slaughter them out of the sight of the populace. The cameras I mean. Goodness, what minds you all have…

For the Truth Store ™ the problem will be to select things for sale that are going to work past the one-year mark. Not so much as a matter of honour and decency and beauty – we are talking about the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia after all – but as a way of limiting legal troubles.

We will have to concentrate on easy things at first, that may not have a big margin. Things like  ” Gravity makes things fall down. ” or ” Egg salad sandwiches from the servo in summer are a bad idea.” to get us going. Ah, I didn’t actually mean to make a joke about the egg salad and going but we’ll let that one pass. Frequently. Oh, dear…

Right. When people have come to trust us we can put out the more delicate truths about sex and politics and religion and with a bit of luck most of these will still be in operation by 2017. After that we will be providing a pre-paid transport service to a warm destination for anyone who complains. It’s a secret exactly where, but we can give you a hint; the vehicles are hand baskets…