Issue 226 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published January 1999 Copyright Socialist Review

Stack on the back

Everything must go

'Feeling guilty about buying that gun? Then pop into Short's and ease your conscience by giving to charity while purchasing nicknacks.'

Each year millions of pounds are spent in the January sales but up to now there has been no decent consumer guide advising where the best bargains can be found and which shops to avoid like the plague. 'Stack on the Back' is delighted to present you with such a guide.

Blair Price Records
Although all the CDs are sold as new, you find most of them seem old and rather worn out. The quality was thought to be superior to Major Records but it's hard to tell the difference, indeed much of the material sounds as if it was bought straight from the bankrupt stock of Maggie's Megastore. The location of the shop on Third Way means it is situated behind the stink of the rotting produce of Brown's Free Market.

Straw and Son General Store
Straw's has always been a mixed bag, and the danger is that if you buy a substandard product you never quite know whether to send it back or not. Take for example his Pinochet Tin Pot, with a handle that melts. Whether he'll allow you to send it back with a legal claim, or quietly give it back to the manufacturers hoping no one will notice, is anyone's guess. But once in a blue moon he gets it right.

The tobacco counter run by Straw junior is, however, highly recommended and the home made product Straw's Draw is particularly popular.

Guns, Ammo and Ethics Ltd (prop: Robin Cook)
This store has undergone an amazing transformation. Once a popular meeting point for peaceniks and anti-nuke types, it is now a genuinely exciting place to cater for the Rambo in all of us. The great advantage of Cook's is that it has developed a nice blind eye. Although there is a big sign saying 'No guns sold to anyone without a licence or anyone with a criminal record', in reality anyone can get a gun there. Get into the backroom Suharto chamber and you can buy the deadliest weapons. This popular shop has driven Aitken, Mellor and Thatcher Ltd out of business. Free ethics given away with every purchase.

Short's Charity Shop
Feeling guilty about buying that gun? Then pop into Short's and ease your conscience by giving to charity while purchasing nicknacks. Clare the proprietor is, however, somewhat eccentric and it's not quite clear what charity she gives the proceeds to as there are big signs saying 'None of the Proceeds of this Shop Will End Up in the Hands of Victims of Famine, Flood or Earthquake: Please Don't Cause Embarrassment by Requesting Otherwise'.

Incidentally the lovely golden elephants at the back of the shop are not for sale at any price.

Geoffrey Robinson Coffee Store
Some of the richest coffees in the world are to be found here. A surprisingly good choice is the upmarket product from the people who brought you Maxwell House. Their Maxwell Grand is a beautifully dark and seasoned coffee, although in short supply - there are only 200,000 packets left. Also you have to be very insistent when purchasing them as the proprietor has an odd habit of forgetting he's got them. Make sure you get the coffee though - it's worth blowing your pension on.

Books from Blunkett
This used to be an interesting, fairly independent little store, but now it offers little that you wouldn't find in the drab and old fashioned Boyson's Books. The manager, a Mr Woodhead, acts like he owns the place and is vindictive and unpleasant to staff and customers alike. He also clearly knows little about books. The shop doesn't pass the test and the standard will continue to fall unless Blunkett invests some serious money and gets rid of his pompous oaf of a manager.

The Murdoch/McDonald's Pleasure Dome (former prop: P Mandelson)
This arcade has been built with the help and generosity of big business, hence the corporate logo everywhere. Yet for all the money it doesn't quite make the grade. The rides are disappointing. The Spin Doctor, or the Great Lie as it's popularly known, doesn't thrill or fool many any more. The chance to play Bert Weedon's old guitar didn't appeal to anyone under 70. The 'Room of the Future' proved to be a grandiose corporate tent while the placing of an exhibition about trade unions in the 'Room of the Past' proved to be a little unwise as strike action has kept it closed for weeks.

How to get there
All these stores are situated in the West End of London and the journey is rather difficult. The multi-structured fares system means it's impossible to predict the cost. You have to get a Prescott Sidewinder to outer London, where you pick up a Stagecoach bus to the outer circle. From there you get the Branson Boneshaker to Oxford Street and finally the Sinclair C6 shop buzzer to the arcade. Such are the joys of the new integrated traffic system.

All in all, not a great year for the sales, which is all the more disappointing when you consider all the promises made when 'New Shopping' was introduced at the beginning of May 97. The best hope for shopping in 1999 rests with us taking over the whole bloody department store ourselves.
Pat Stack

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