Mother Hubbard's bargain

I'm not mean, I'm careful....

I've been known to go miles in hunt of the elusive deal that will save me 10%.  That is - 10% on the price of something that I didn't even know I wanted until I saw that four letter word … 'SALE'.

The best fun is taking a coupon into the shop and finding an assistant who had no idea that the promotion was running in the first place. This is especially good if you time your appearance with the supervisor's lunch break.

When you hand the voucher across the counter, you see the sales assistant having to rouse themselves from their apathy to actually read it.  As you watch, you see the slow realisation dawn that they may actually have to think about what they are doing. The shock as this registers is wonderful to behold.

This may be the start of a chain of events that will eventually bring the shop to a standstill! The assistant is confused by this slip of paper that is neither coin of the realm nor drastic plastic.  He or she will take on the appearance of a startled koala bear, and will need to confer with an equally catatonic co-worker.

More puzzled looks will follow. Stage-whispered conversations and much lip-moving will ensue as both now attempt to read the item before them. This is accompanied by furtive looks at you, the potential customer, the item to which the alleged discount refers, and the paper in their hands.

As you watch, the second assistant will rock on their back foot, scratch their chin and possibly, if you're really lucky, either pull on the end of their nose, rub their ear or fidget with their hair (this last usually if they are under about 25 years old).

Your anticipation grows.  You begin the slow progression from feeling slightly warm to the gradual meandering of perspiration down your spine.  The second assistant takes the plunge and leans in your direction. The original assistant, hoping to absolve themselves of all responsibility, will take up a place of safety just behind their fellow co-worker, and proceed, for the rest of the next instalment to peer over a shoulder like a flamingo, adding nothing but the occasional nod, grunt and point of the finger.

The brave one will then look at the cash register, pressing a button that will spew forth a length of paper that would reach through the Blackwall Tunnel, and inspect it while still continuing with the hair-rearrangement, nose- pulling and ear-scratching. You can then expect to be interrogated as to where you got the voucher, and whether the item you are attempting to buy corresponds to the items mentioned on it.

At this point, you now bear more resemblance to a radish than a human being.  The river of sweat that is moistening your coat is becoming a source of embarrassment.  Others in the queue are looking pointedly at their watches and 'harumphing' like a herd of elephants.

This procedure may well be repeated with the arrival of a third assistant. In this case, the second player will take up a position just to the side of the cash register, and will add their own nods and finger pointing, and possibly even some paper spewing to the ballet conducted by the original employee.

Meanwhile, you are beginning to suffer the effects of dehydration caused by the excessive perspiration.  The harumphing elephants have been joined by a screech of baboons who are now shuffling in bags, delving into pocket and gibbering to the elephants about parking meters and kids needing food.

At some point the supervisor will reappear, brushing crumbs from a baguette from their chin, and looking in horror at the snake of customers that clog up the entire shop.  The supervisor will take in the situation at a glance and glide effortlessly to the cash register and complete the purchase!

As you leave the shop, it crosses your mind that the parking fee will probably be more than the £2.50 you just saved on that pink lurex top that you'll never wear anyway, and that maybe there really is no such thing as something for nothing.