Wednesday, 24 November 2010

'Tis The Season To Be Merry (As Long As You're Not In Primark)

Forget road rage – as Christmas draws near Primani rage increases. I am not sure there is any other shop that can cause such extreme irritation. The branch in the centre of Leeds is unbearable at the weekend – early in the morning shortly after opening or half an hour before closing are the only times there's a chance of leaving with sanity in tact. And if you think that particular shop's bad try visiting any London branch.

When I first visited the Oxford Street Primark, I vowed to never return – the shop was so vast it felt daunting and queues for changing room and tills were like nothing I'd ever seen. Frequenting the smaller more manageable Wood Green branch is relatively painless but as soon as Christmas draws near queues weave through the shop and everything is in disarray. Of course these days retailers deem Christmas to be near months before the actual date and many shoppers follow suit believing it's better to get in there early.

This week I rather unfortunately had to make an exchange and re-visiting the dreaded Oxford Street shop was unavoidable. Not only was I visiting my most hated branch but also at the worst possible time – 6pm when the workers are out in force and seeking retail therapy. And of course in London there is also the added annoyance of a huge array of tourists to worsen the already burgeoning shop's footfall.

I marched in purposefully desperately trying to get the whole inconvenience over with as quickly as possible. It wasn't the Saturday sea of heads you despairingly overlook when entering the Leeds city centre branch so with optimism I briskly located the escalators and ascended to the men's department, quickly locating the desired exchange item and seeking out the customer services till. Much to my dismay a somewhat discouraging queue snaked around the ladies shoes out of the queuing barriers and to add to this, three diligent Primark employees were standing around chatting, watching the ever-growing human reptile. As I slowly edged forward, I could hear their trivial chat - all complaining they didn't want to “do customer services”. Far too much time passed and eventually the eldest of the three gave orders so that two started to work the queue, wheedling out customers exchanging “like for like”.

I had made it to the barriers when the woman in front abandoned her suitcase and went off to have a little shop. We were finally making headway moving forward and looking back, I could see the deserted suitcase was some way off. As we crept forward there was a disruption in the queue behind and the woman having a “little shop” had decided perhaps she had better rejoin the queue so wheeled past me to several places ahead, clearly beyond her original position. The man behind her said nothing – I was internally saying it all for him and more!

Having been panicking for some time, fearing I may be late for the theatre, I was now about eight customers away from a till and starting to relax. That is until a woman at a till started having doubts and decided to get the cashier's advice. Despite the enormous queue of waiting people, she rather frustratingly started to alternate trying on her original purchase and the potential replacement, all the while “umming” and “ahhing”.

I finally reach the till and within moments I'm headed once again towards escalators and the safety of the outside world. As I walked towards the tube station, I couldn't help but wonder how long people actually shopping spend in there. I try not to imagine the pain of rooting through the messy racks of this vast shop, queuing for the changing rooms and then joining an equally alarming line to pay. Surely a few hours or more would have to be pencilled in?

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