The grown-up kid who gets paid to play Lego all day
Saturday 19 December 1998
five days in the life of mark campbell, 34, a lego demonstrator at hamleys in london. This week, over 80,000 customers visit every day. mark, a design graduate, has worked there for seven years. he lives in forest hill, south london, with his wife monique
People say I've got Peter Pan syndrome - that I'm a boy who can't grow up. But this truly is the best job in the world. I get paid to play with toys all day. What could be better?
I wasn't even on the rota today, but I popped in to say hello and help out with some new Lego Mindstorm games which we've got in. I only meant to stay an hour, but as soon as I walked onto the shop floor I was mobbed. People realise you're a demonstrator and suddenly you're surrounded by customers with their questions.
I did some last-minute Christmas shopping in the afternoon, and went back home to put my feet up.
The day started just like it always does with a coffee at Charing Cross Station. The guy at the counter knows exactly how I like it - vanilla and sugar - and it sets me up for the morning until the tea break at 11.30.
Today was mayhem. Some days you understand what it must be like to work in MacDonalds: it's nine hours of constant noise, kids, pandemonium. I have this trick to keep me calm - I force myself to smile for 10 seconds, even if I'm feeling miserable or stressed. Those 10 seconds usually give me just enough time to mellow out again.
A sweet Oriental woman came in wanting to exchange some toys. She just kept saying "I no want", over and over again. It turned out the goods weren't even from Hamleys, they were from Harrods. I was shouting "Harrods" at her. She was shouting "Hamleys" at me. "You go Knightsbridge," I said. It went on for ages, but in the end we sorted it. Loads of the customers don't speak English. You get very good at miming what you're trying to say.
People ask the most daft questions. "Where's the fourth floor?" was today's classic.
I came in early at 8.30am to tidy up the floor after the hysteria from the day before. During the night, people come in to re-stock the shelves, but there's usually stuff that needs to be tidied up.
You'd be amazed at the mess people leave. They'll tear open a box, have a look at the toy and if they decide they don't want it, just leave it lying around.
I spent the rest of the day showing people how all the new Lego games work. I used to work in the skate department - my job was to skate around the store all day. When they put me on to Lego, I wasn't sure what I was in for. I thought Lego was just boring red and white bricks. But nowadays you can get amazing things - interactive Lego; Lego which links up to your computer. The next big thing is going to be Star Wars Lego to tie in with the prequel next year. We've already had people ringing up about it.
Anyway, today I was on my hands and knees showing people how all the stuff works. A seven-year-old kid came up to me and said, "I can do it better than you", which was a bit humiliating. We also had this Dutch guy who bought eight Lego Mindstorms for his staff. At pounds 160 each, it was the best sale of the day.
Loads of men in their thirties come in and ask about the Lego. I've even served men who look like 50-year-old bankers in suits. Sometimes, they pretend that their kids are the ones who are interested, but you can tell by the look on their faces that it's really them.
I went to see a heavy metal band called Rob Zombie in the evening. They were playing at the Astoria club and they were great. You can't turn up to a gig like that in your Lego T-shirt, so I got changed at work into "normal" clothes and went straight from the store.
Today was Furby day. We got a delivery, and by the time I was in at 8.30am there were already dozens of people queuing up outside. Some of them had actually stood out there all night.
We'd tried to keep everyone calm by handing out tickets, and explaining that customers were only allowed one Furby each, but when it came to it there was just over-the-top insanity wherever you looked. People running into the shop shouting "I need a Furby!". I was even offered money by one bloke who arrived after we'd sold out.
It amazes me how passionate people get. You'd think the world has gone mad. But, on the other hand, these people just want to buy their children exactly what they want. It's Christmas, and nothing else matters.
By the end of the day, my feet really ached. You're supposed to wear smart polished shoes but sometimes I'll wear Doc Martens instead. When you're standing up all day, your feet feel like murder by the time you get home. I was exhausted when I got in, so I watched an Eddie Izzard video on my new wide screen television. I'll always watch comedy if I'm feeling stressed out. It usually does the trick, and I'm in a good mood again.
We started getting calls for F117 fighter plans today, and B52 bombers. It took a few seconds to catch on to why, but kids had seen stuff on television about bombing in Iraq and suddenly they get it into their heads that they want to act out what's been happening.
It's been really busy over the last few days on the Lego floor. Last week we took pounds 46,000 in the Lego department alone, and it looks like we'll match that this week too.
In the evening, Monique and I went to see Boy George and Culture Club. I was a bit embarrassed to admit to people that I was going - "It was my wife's idea" I kept saying. But I was amazed. I had a really great time.
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