|Our Oxfam shop|
I usually end my shift with a couple of hours on the shop floor sitting behind the till. You never know who will walk through the door. I must have seen hundreds of customers. We get our regulars. Little old ladies checking the clothing racks or brusque old men heading straight for the crime and thrillers section. E-bay sellers come in looking for bargains they can list at much higher prices. A secondhand jeweller comes in to see if he can find new stock.
Last week a family of dwarves came in - mum, dad and two dwarfish children. They were all very nice but small. Are the terms "dwarf", "dwarves" and "dwarfish" acceptable any more? I haven't checked my dictionary of political correctness recently. Perhaps the family was simply "vertically challenged" - yes that's it. They weren't dwarves at all.
In my estimation, 99.9% of the people who have entered the shop while I have been behind the till have been pleasant and well-mannered. They perhaps represent a cross section of English humanity in a northern English city. However, I realise that not everyone would choose to spend money in a charity shop so the sample may be somewhat skewed.
I have served Chinese people, black Africans, disabled people, people with learning difficulties, mothers with babies, fathers with babies, homeless people, tall men, cyclists, teenagers, students, professors, cleaners, ugly people, beautiful people, fat people, thin people. I have even served Australian and Welsh people! I swear that most of humanity has walked through that door.
Compared with London or Birmingham, Sheffield is not a very ethnically diverse city. I would estimate that 85% of our customers belong to what you might call the host community - white Anglo Saxons and mostly Yorkshire born and bred just like me.
They are decent people - not loud and boisterous but rather humble and thoughtful - aware of others around them. Slightly reticent. At Oxfam I am just a shopworker but they show me respect. They say "please" and "thank you" and they ask if they can use the changing room. I welcome them and thank them for visiting us. If they buy something, I often say, "Thank you for your support".
Only once in the last three and a half years have I experienced unpleasantness from a customer when a known drug addict/shoplifter came in. I watched him like a hawk, not saying a word to this skeletal individual in a baseball cap. He knew I was watching and finally he decided to leave, shouting at me "What ye ****ing looking at me for ye ****ing ***tard? I'm not nicking owt am I?". And then he walked out. I had still not said a word to him but if I had said a word it would have been "funeral".