by Andrew Shoben
I grew up in South London, and like many teenagers, I got a job in the local Tesco supermarket. For the first few months there, I was a Trolley Boy, collecting the metal trollies that piled up in the car park, where shoppers left them after unloading. Occasionally, I’d get lucky, and find a pound coin or two wedged in the little metal box that unlocked them from the Trolley Park. This was a moment of excitement in an otherwise dull, dull job.
So when one evening there happened to be a shortage of Checkout staff, and they asked me if I would help out, I jumped at the chance. They quickly trained me on a spare till and there I was, passing customers stuff over that little glass scanning window. Making the beeping noise.
And there I stayed. No more trollies for me – whenever I turned up now, they put me straight on those tills. If being a Trolley Boy was dull, being a Checkout was like torture. Nowhere to hide. No place to sneak off at the back of the car park for a minute or two. No movement at all! Just beep beep beep beep. Under the bright lights of the store, and the watchful gaze of customers and staff. It was hell. For a teenager with energy, and some attitude, it had no breaks at all. Actually, it had one. Lots and lots of time to think. That’s all you could do. And so, a month or so in to my new role, I hatched a plan to relieve the boredom.
After work one night, back in my bedroom, I wrote a letter. Addressed to the supermarket Store Manager, it read something like this:
Dear Sir or Madam,
Upon my recent visit to your store I was delighted to be served by a most generous and polite young man. At the best of times, shopping in a supermarket can be a little tedious, but this member of staff was exemplary. He chatted politely to those in the queue in front of me that wished to talk, and asked how they were. Evidently, he knew a few of them by sight. His light and gentle humour was a really first grade thing to behold, and I wanted to let you know what a jewel on your staff you have there!
I believe his name was Andrew Showbern. I should very much wish to pass on my thanks, and let you know that I for one will most certainly be queuing at his till again soon!
Janet Cornwell (Ms)
It took me hours to write those lines. It needed to be just the right tone. Then I signed it and stuck it in an envelope and posted it off.
Next week, I was back at the supermarket, trembling inside with nervous excitement. Had they received the letter? Was it obviously from me? I started to regret sending it.
Beep beep beep went the till, and hours and hours went by. I slowly forgot about the letter. My mind wandered to other things. Working here was dull. Dull dull dull.
“Andrew Shoben to the Checkout Office please. Andrew Shoben to Checkout Office please,” came the announcement over the in store speakers.
My heart went in to my mouth. This has got to be about the letter. I’m dead.
Apologising to the customers in my queue, I slowly closed the Till, and walked along the store shelves until the office was in front of me. I gently knocked. “Come in please” said the voice from within. I entered. Sitting behind the desk was Irene Ballard, the friendly and gentle Store Manager I had known since I started here. Beside her was the Head of Security, a burly man whose name I can’t remember. Their faces were thunderous. They were staring at me. In Irene’s hand was a letter.
“We have received this, Andrew. It’s a letter about your conduct.” The security man frowned. They have rumbled me. I’m done for. Maybe I signed it with my own name? What did I do wrong? And then, after briefly looking at each other, they exploded in to laughter.
“We are just mucking about, Andrew! The letter is from a lady who says you’re amazing. We couldn’t resist playing a joke on you. We know you love a little practical joke. Well done Andrew. We know you’re amazing!”
And so they made me Employee of the Month.