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Retail and the Living Debt

by Josh Watson, images by Luke Daniel / 28.07.2010

When money is tighter than a shark’s anus, the poor and desperate will wander the streets of Claremont.

If for some Christ forsaken reason you’re considering a career in retail, or you and your sparkly eyed retard friends have designed a range of T-shirts that are “bomb as fuck” then stop a second. Take a deep breath in. Reach over to the nearest sharp object; ram it into your neck. Repeat. This may seem harsh or at least overly dramatic, but I assure you that it is both cheaper and less soul crushing than working in retail.

To further cement the sharp-object-to-neck analogy, allow me to guide you through an average day in the gutter that is Claremont. I’ll try lay off the pretentious allegorical wankery but I promise nothing.

Typically I roll out of bed around 8am, try shrug off last nights hash induced hangover and head towards Claremont. I open Royal Vendetta’s doors and wait for the junkies and plastic milf’s to stumble in. Multiple species of personality seem to gather in this place, truly it is Mecca for the lost. The first junkie of the day stands outside the door, he tries to communicate that he wants to wash our windows so that he can feed his children, but all he can manage is to raise his bucket and offer a dead stare. I tell him to piss off and continue browsing hardcore porn on the computer.

Next a few schoolgirls race into the store. Schoolgirls don’t have any money so I stay seated and stare at the pussy getting railed on the computer screen. After a few years in retail it becomes pretty easy to separate the time-wasters from those who genuinely might purchase something. Eventually the schoolgirls tire of trying on clothes that they can’t pay for and leave.

After a few minutes, a coloured man in his early twenties walks in. I appraise his outfit: Evisu jeans, a Ben Sherman Shirt and Nike Jordan sneakers. I look at his hard and prematurely aged face. He reminds me of a shoplifter and quite possibly a meth-head. For some reason, shoplifters think that if they wear expensive clothes then they will magically blend into the upper class and be given the same level of trust. The bizarre truth is that most rich young coloured men prefer to wear suits (yes, this is a rash generalization, but if you expect to survive retail then best you embrace your inherent racism and polish your prejudices). So this idiot in my store is either an anomaly or has successfully managed to transform himself from a broke drug addled thief into a… broke drug addled thief in expensive stolen clothes. I stand next to him and start talking incessantly about the shirt he’s looking at. He looks around and realizes that with me in such close proximity, it leaves him little chance of stuffing anything in his underwear. He makes an excuse and bolts out the door. White shoplifters are the real danger as they don’t subscribe to a particular uniform or school of thought.

An attractive teen girl tentatively enters the store like a skittish deer. I greet her and offer my help but she ignores me and starts browsing through the skirts. She finds something she likes and comes to the till to pay for it. I greet her again and this time she’s forced to acknowledge my existence. We exchange awkward statements while the card goes through then she leaves.

Now thoroughly depressed by humanity, I step outside and light a smoke. For a while I just watch the ex-middleclass zombies walk around on stiff feet. The recession was like a viral outbreak that stripped the middleclass of its money and identity. The walking debt. Their brains seem to function on some sort of grey-matter-muscle memory causing them to wander in family hordes, browsing the same high-end boutiques that they used to buy from before the virus robbed them of their paper-thin personalities.

My sister, princess of darkness and co-owner of Royal Vendetta, arrives. While she is both the brains and the brawn of the business, I like to pretend that I’m the problem solver and head of the department of pseudo-creativity. We start talking about how dead retail is and how we should open a brothel with a meth-lab in the basement. While we’re discussing the practical aspects of prostitution, our friend Steve pulls up. I smoke another cigarette with him while my sister sells some jocks neon caps and deep V-neck shirts. Steve leaves and I’m about to head inside when I spot Him. Walking up Vineyard Road is an incredibly rare, potential, big spender. He looks like the offspring of Tom Ford and Mother Mary, his style more perfectly manicured than the pubic hair of Jenna Jameson. He eventually makes his way into our shop and I begin to verbally fellate him while he tries on a variety of items. He ends up buying much of what I recommend but I know that it’s owed more to the stock and his wealth than to my pathetic sales tactics. The current distribution of wealth is a bitch and I feel dirty after handling his platinum credit card.

It seems that most of the population has gone from poor to fucked before their sphincters had a chance to react. Massive corporate businesses are closing left, right and center, while those pig-headed enough to continue find themselves living off an unsteady diet of toast and dreams. I’m sure that, in time, things will return to normal and retail will recover – the milfs will be able to buy their hooker shoes and the junkies will score enough change for multiple fixes, but with the smoldering remains of the World Cup now upon us, I remain skeptical and stoned.

*All images © Luke Daniel.

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