I Survived The M&S Sale

Queueing at Marks and Spencers

This long snaking line of people is the queue I had to wait in this morning. I stupidly/bravely/blindly (pick your own adverb!) decided to go to Marks and Spencers on the first day of their Xmas sales today, in order to spend some Xmas gift vouchers. I can’t actually remember the last time that I went to the sales directly after Xmas, as I normally wait till everyone’s back at work and then I go trawling for bargains. I did, however, get some great buys including a pair of boots reduced from £80 to £35. It was totally packed, though, with people barging their way past with overloaded trolleys spilling discounted clothing left and right. But what shocked me wasn’t the manic buying or the consumer panic – it was the sheer misery of those engaged in the process. I was standing in the queue for around 25 minutes waiting to work our way towards the cash desk, and I was laughing and joking with my youngest son, discussing what shop he would have when he was a grown-up, and what were the differences between the male and female dummies displaying the clothes (fuller lips and slimmer fingers, according to him), while all around us were people moaning and complaining.
“I wish I’d never come here today.”
“Why aren’t there more people serving?”
“Look at those people in front of us with the fully loaded trolley. They’re going to take forever to get through the till!”
At one point, I actually felt like turning round to them and saying, “It’s the first day of the Xmas sales! What did you expect? The store to yourself? A special cash desk reserved only for you?” It just really struck me how your enjoyment of life is all in the way you approach it. While my little boy and I were giggling and having a good blether, others were engrossed in making themselves as miserable as possible. I imagine if they were to write this blog post they would tell you how busy the shops were, and how awfully slow the servers were, and how obnoxious the other shoppers were. And you know, it was busy, and the service was slow because folk were buying so much, but they were going as fast as they could, and the other shoppers were obnoxious due in part to their single-minded focus on getting the best bargain before anyone else, and in part due to their decision to be as miserable as possible during the process. But that’s not what I took away from the experience. I got some fab bargains, and I had a laugh with my family while squeezing past all the moaning minnies blocking the aisles with their trollies. I know who had the better day!


December 27, 2007. Environment, Inspiration.


  1. Penelope Anne replied:

    I am so glad that you survived the sales. Had I any reason to be out, and any funds left to spend I would have been out shopping today myself….sadly our car has decided to be stubborn and not work so well, and thankfully my father-in-law is fixing it while hubby used his car for work.
    I like to see what I can find, and don’t mind the crowds they are to be expected. So far all clothing we bought the children fits, so we need not do any exchanges either.

  2. September Blue replied:

    Having been on the other side of the till during the sales, I can speak to this! I remember hearing one man complaining about the queues and saying loudly to his wife, “I suppose I’ll have to e-mail Stuart Rose [the M&S CEO] again.” And the woman who responded to me apologising about the length of the queues by saying “You’re not sorry! You’re not really sorry! You’re just saying that because they tell you to!” It’s only a queue… why is it worth getting so worked up about?

  3. nengaku replied:

    Your snowflakes just freaked me out. We’re having a very heavy snowfall at the moment and when I clicked to your page I suddenly had the sensation that my roof was leaking! Snow coming right in across my computer screen! Yikes!
    When people get like that (in the queue) I just tell myself “It takes all kinds of monkeys to make a zoo.”

  4. amypalko replied:

    It sounds as though you need to stay in, wrap up warm, and demand some TLC from the family, Penelope. It was actually mostly clothes for the kids that I was getting as they’ve all been showing too much ankle and wrist recently. Hopefully these latest additions to the wardrobe will last them till the summer sales 😉

    I forgot you used to work in M&S, September Blue. People get so stressed by the queues, and I don’t really understand why. Very strange…

    Sorry my snow freaked you out, Nengaku. Just a little seasonal fun! Those of us who don’t get a lot (or any, as the case seems to be this year!) have to make do with the computer generated sort. One of the reasons why I so love your photos is that I can vicariously enjoy the snow. As for the queue – it truly does take all sorts, doesn’t it!

  5. tobeme replied:

    You had the better day, because you choice to. You were realistic with your expectations of lines and crowds and you made the best of it. Bravo!
    Been a long time since I have been in a Marks & Spencers! Don’t have them here in the US. Great post!

  6. Graham replied:

    Firstly I would like to congratulate you on surviving the sales. Your account of it was most enjoyable and quite amusing. I too get frustrated with people that moan in queues. I tend to “people watch” when I am stuck in a queue, it seems to make time go quicker. Having been stuck behind a checkout till in my student years, I know how horrible it is to hear customers cussing about their wait. So I always try to make light of it too. And as always, your photograph captures the moment perfectly.

    Happy New Year to you and your family! ~ Graham x

  7. nicholas replied:

    You are braver than I am! I’d never go to a sale.

    I’m a bit out of touch over here — do people still sleep on the pavement outside Harrods for days in order to be first in the queue when they open the doors on the first sale day?

  8. amypalko replied:

    M&S is such a British institution, Tobeme – it’s right up there with fish and chips, double-decker buses and bright red pillar boxes. In fact, they only started advertising a couple of years ago, because up until then they depended solely on their place within the British identity. The ads are great actually – Dervla Kerwin huskily intoning ‘This isn’t Christmas pudding. This is M&S Christmas pudding.’ Well, it wasn’t just any queue I was stuck in for 25 mins – It was an M&S queue!

    People-watching is a wonderful activity for any of those moments of ‘lost time’ isn’t it, Graham! A great distraction. Happy New Year to you and yours too 🙂

    I did think as I walked towards the shop that I was perhaps a little foolhardy, Nicholas, but like I said, it wasn’t too terrible actually. I’m not sure about Harrods, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I think the pop star Lily Allen was opening the sale for them this year…

  9. SurfaceEarth replied:

    Thank you for the laugh. This is lovely. I felt myself there, looking around, putting a hand over my mouth to not laugh out loud.

  10. amypalko replied:

    You are most welcome, SurfaceEarth! I am so glad the post gave you a giggle 🙂

  11. Penelope Anne replied:

    Amy I now have a craving for some fish and chips….though I know I have only had s simple imitation of the real thing here in the states. I have my kids hooked on Malt vinegar on their fries and fish though.

    Feeling a tad better, I plan to take the Zen test soon.
    Playing around with all of my blogs as part of my 2008 goals.

  12. amypalko replied:

    I do love a fish supper every now and then, served up with a nice cold can of Irn Bru. Mmmm… I’m making myself hungry now!
    Glad you’re feeling a bit better, Penelope. Good luck with your 2008 goals. I look forward to reading about them 🙂

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