There is a stereotype about mildly panicking male shoppers wandering around shops at the last minute on Christmas Eve, not quite knowing what to buy. I learnt that such people were not always male, and some of them were rather old enough to know better than to leave things at the last minute.
10 years ago today, I was working in Woolworths while it was closing down. I wrote a lot about it in the aftermath of the closure. But there is one thing I didn’t write about, though its memory lingers on in my mind.
Most years, going into Woolworths on Christmas Eve might have been a safe bet. But not in 2008, when Woolworths was in the middle of its huge closing down sale.
By Christmas, the shelves were largely bare. The most appealing merchandise had already gone. And almost all the confectionery was gone — and no more would come in. Woolies Winter Wonderland was a distant memory.
The time was approaching 6pm, when the shop would close. Almost every other shop in town was already closed, and only one or two customers were left in the shop.
One of them was a woman who looked like she was a grandmother. She had made a beeline for the confectionery department, only to discover its almost-bare shelves. There were only two different products left. One of them was a special sour packet of something like Chewits, which were proving unpopular.
I don’t remember what the other item was. But it was clearly equally unappealing. Because this customer kept looking at each of the items in turn, unwilling to commit to purchasing either of them.
And yet, these were her only choices. And she clearly needed to buy something. But there was nothing to buy. And all the shops were shut.
I’d heard of last-minute shopping. But I did wonder why someone would leave it quite as last-minute as 6pm. And why they would choose a shop that was in the middle of a highly-publicised meltdown. When all the other shops were closed.
I have always wondered what Christmas Day was like for that person, who turned up to Christmas with sour sweets that the kids hate.