Donald MacInnes: The shop where spending pennies is bog-standard


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The Independent Online

In the past few days, much of the talk among my uniformed, uninformed entourage of somewhat diminutive, wholly deluded morons has centred on the possible purchase of the 99p Stores group by Poundland.

Oh, how we have discussed into the wee small hours the complexities of the move. Mind you, if you are being totally honest with yourselves, who among us hasn't spent at least four or five hours wondering what will become of our favourite 99p Stores when they take that mammoth step up to becoming Poundlands? Well, I say "mammoth". Admittedly, it's only a penny more, but as we all know, a penny can be a fortune, depending on the circumstances of the prospective purchase.

If you want to buy a lotto ticket and only have 99p, that missing penny becomes an enormous stumbling block. And non-negotiable. No way is your local corner shop letting you off. How ironic, then, that the possibility of winning a golden jackpot of £20m can be scuppered by the tiniest bit of tender in Her Majesty's coffers. Ironic, but not worth devoting any more time to.

So back we slide towards the prospective Poundland takeover. Personally, I shop at this kind of store quite a lot. Especially at Christmas. But before you ridicule my tight-waddedness, I should clarify that I don't do the bulk of my shopping here. My wife and I actually have a little Yuley tradition whereby, in the lead-up to Christmas, we both go into separate pound shops (I use the generic term) and are allowed to buy 10 things for the other person, as a sort of mad stocking filler. We then open these sometimes useful/often useless items as our first presents on Christmas morning. I suppose the thinking is that, having been presented with a packet of multi-coloured plastic coat hangers, a four-pack of Odour Eaters, 100 clothes pegs, a DVD history of the Mini and six other items which redefine the words "random tat", anything we get after that is going to seem like a ruby-encrusted widescreen telly or a mansion made of Jaffa Cakes.

But I don't want to give the impression of being so ruinously middle class that I only ever shop in pound stores ironically. There have been many, many occasions when I have spent upwards of, ooh, £20 in there. The last time I bought anything was a few days ago when, having been asked by my wife to get a new toilet brush, I figured that 99p was all I really was prepared to spend on an item which, well, would be spending its working life in an environment where you would expect to find toilet brushes.

My wife may have wanted something chic from Habitat; all sleek lines and walnut inlay, but as far as I was concerned, all we needed was something absolutely bog-standard. And I genuinely didn't make up that anecdote just to utilise that punchline. It just happened. Honest.

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