Robert Dyas again: BROKEN

I popped into the Witney branch of Robert Dyas today. Yeah, maybe I am a glutton for punishment. I found the can of WD40 I was looking for within minutes, so this isn’t another thrilling tale about my epic search for something-or-other.

I took it to the counter to pay and found both tills were abandoned. The counter was, however, stacked with containers of slug poison. We’ve all heard about the trick of putting sweets by the till to nudge people into impulse-buying, but that’s a new one on me. Maybe the idea is that after a hard afternoon’s fruitless shopping, you’ll decide to treat yourself by slaughtering a few invertebrates. Or maybe it’s a pester-power thing. “Daddy! Buy me some poison! Please please pretty please!”

I’ve never understood why poison manufacturers always put a picture of the creature to be killed on the container. If you find the picture cute, you’ll get a last-minute stab of guilt that can’t be good for sales. And if you find it repulsive, the whole buying process gets that bit more unpleasant. I do see the logic of having a picture to help you find what you’re looking for more quickly, but why show the problem rather than the solution? By that logic, boxes of sticking plasters should feature pictures of bleeding wounds.

As I said, the tills were abandoned. But the till on the left featured a helpful sign: “BROKEN”. So I waited at the till on the right. A second customer started waiting at the till on the left, but I pointed out the sign to her and she came to wait behind me at the right-hand till. Not that it really mattered which till, since the staff were all hiding. My fellow customer called out in a sing-song voice: “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” This produced a staff member I’ve written about before, the one I’ve mentally nicknamed Blondie. She appeared, looked at us, then turned her back on us. I chatted loudly with my fellow customer about the shop’s general uselessness.

Finally, Blondie slid behind the counter and started pressing buttons on the left-hand till. The one with the “BROKEN” sign on it. I said “But isn’t that till broken?” and she looked surprised until I pointed out the sign.

As it turns out, the “BROKEN” sign was just meant to signify that the till’s customer-facing display, the bit with green numbers that tells you how much to pay, was broken. The till itself wasn’t broken, and it clearly hadn’t occurred to any of the shop’s staff that the sign might have been misinterpreted in that way.

There should have been a second sign pointing to the “BROKEN” sign, saying “ALL-TOO-OBVIOUS VISUAL METAPHOR”, but I’m not sure what they would have hung it from. Maybe one of the towering stacks of slug poison.