Pick 'n' Mix
Imagine a row of small boxes, containers, shelves-with-containers, all containing a different kind of sweet. Aniseed Balls, Cough Candy, Eclairs, Love Hearts, Candy Peanuts, Mint Imperials, White Mice, Jazzies, Dolly Mixtures, Jelly Strawberries, Cola Bottles, Fizzy Bottles, Jelly Babies, Dummies... The list is endless.
As a child, I used to go from item to item, two of those, three of those, one of those - and put them all into a little bag. At the end, you got the bag weighed, and paid whatever it came to. Back then, it was fingers, but more modern times you have a small scoopy-thing to use.
Before they decided to lose all their money, the place everyone went for their pick n mix was Woolworths - a big chain of shops that sold everything from toys to clothes to sweets, CDs, Tapes, Videos, DVDs...
But they went bust a few years back now.
So - we have the basics of a Pick & Mix. It's not what you would call "Rocket Science"
Now, fast forward a few years. Dan is now a grown up pre My-Spine-Is-Fooked, I worked with some friends doing Shop Fitting. Fitting, not lifting.
This involved going to work in the early evening - usually travelling far and wide - arriving at a shop after it closed, where the staff had cleared all the shelves. We then waded in, and effectively smashed the place up. Everything had to be broken down, stripped out, floor lifted, walls cleared and ready to be rebuilt by the next crew.
And the main customer was Woolworths. Now, pulling down shelving that has been up for well over fifteen, twenty - even twenty five years in some cases - was always good for a laugh. We found everything, from clothing, money, rubbish, and dust. Dust bunnies the size of dogs. Spiders the size of big dogs. Rodents. Vile looking stains that had grown their own ecosystem of moulds, fungi and weather systems.
In short, underneath old, unmoved shelving was completely gross.
Slap bang in the middle of every shop, we invariably got to the pick and mix stand. After the first few times, we LOVED this, because every time, we were so grossed out it was hilarious.
And every time, the same shit happened.
Step one: we would heft the shelving out the way.
Step two: we would be greeted with a miasma of vileness.
Step three: the staff would swoop in before we cleared the crap out the way and collect all the sweets laying on the floor amongst the shit.
I kid you not, dear reader. Before we could start to shift out the disgusting mess, the staff had to collect every single item that was a sweetie underneath the shelves, and sift through them. Stuff that was no longer on sale was dropped back onto the floor. Stuff that was still "current" was blown off, and added BACK to the pile of stock.
Fill your mouth with air. Purse your lips. Blow. THAT is the limit of cleaning the sweets received before being placed back into active service.
Now, I need to elaborate on the levels of vileness that these sweets had spent an un-named amount of time sitting in. Aside from thick black dust, cobwebs like rugs, dead spiders and random fluff, we saw dead rodents, spillages that had not been cleaned, dirty rags, general rubbish that had blown under, dried out or even wiggling maggots, mold, damp, water damage...
The list goes on and on.
After calling the staff on it, we were told that it is common practise, not just among Woolworths, but LOTS of shops that sell pick and mix do the same thing as the sweets are sold per weight, so losing/throwing them away affects profits.
I am hoping with every fibre of my body that this "practise" no longer happens. I am hoping that as this was at least ten years ago, things have changed, and it no longer happens. BUT, I am not holding my breath - especially for the sole-traders and little shops out there that NEED to turn a profit.
So there we have it - when your favourite blogger is offered pick & mix sweets, he politely declines. Turkish Delight with hint of Rat Fur is not on my list of om-nom-nommy things to munch on.
And if you ever get a chance to see a shop-fitting happen, you should - just to see what accumulates underneath shelving after a few decades.