Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Perils of Buying a Sandwich

Everyone says that's better to shop a local, independent stores, rather than faceless conglomerates, and for the most part they're correct, but sometimes I find the personal element of these stores – something that is part of their charm – the thing I enjoy least.

If you go in to Pret to buy a sandwich they act all matey, and it's very friendly but it's a façade, one we are all happy to buy in to. We say hi, smile at the cashier, complete a transaction in 30 seconds maximum and leave again with our food. Yes, we're just in-out numbers to be processed, but I am sort of fine with that.

Head into a local place and the same basic thing happens but because it's small, because it's a 'real' person behind the till, you are thrust in a 'genuine' customer-seller situation, and I seem to struggle with those.

Example: In Soho there is a nice little café that does good, tasty, reasonably priced sandwiches, yet I always approach its door with trepidation. Every time I go in I am treated like a stranger, while everyone else, without fail, gets a big hello, and a "how are you?" and a chat about the weather or football.

Today, I ordered a BLT. This costs £2.80 (40p for the special focaccia bread). Yet when I went to the pay the man behind the counter had to get his own menu to look it up – despite it being on the board behind him. Then I said, helpfully, casually, "It's £2.40." (referring to the sandwich alone of course, assuming he'd know to add the bread price on) and he immediately replied, deadpan, "It costs more than that mate", as if was trying to short change him or something.

The whole thing was almost excruciating. Except it wasn't. Not really. But it was enough social exhaustion to probably send me back to Pret the next nine times out of ten I venture out to buy lunch. Most days I make it myself though. More straightforward for all involved.

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