When I recounted the story of the diseased and visibly rotting man who had been menacing Subhash Patel’s store in Chessington, Surrey, in our last issue, I really didn’t expect to hear of anything similar from other readers.
But it prompted a call from high-profile retailer John Maxwell Jones, who runs Burgess Stores in Goudhurst, Kent. He rang to say that he had faced a less serious, but nonetheless unpleasant experience lately.
A regular customer, usually well-presented, had gone from a smartish suit and combed hair to an unkempt, decidedly whiffy state. John doesn’t know whether the fellow has fallen upon hard times (he is still spending but is very careful about it) or is ill. “Yesterday it was appalling,” he says. “He looked really bad and smelled awful. We had to get the spray out.”
John explained that, as the business had stopped selling tobacco over a decade ago, he and his staff can immediately detect tobacco smells and keep an aerosol under the counter to refresh the place - as a member of the West Kent Retailers’ Forum he is keen to promote his fragrant beers and jams so the last thing he wants are unpleasant odours hanging around the place.
“I did think of displaying your story,” he adds, “but I don’t think subtleties will work.”
Just before I spoke to John, I had been in my creaking old local Sainsbury’s. A big bloke was stocking up the ambient soft drinks aisle - heavy work on a hot day and the whole aisle reeked of body odour.
A little bit of spraying from the aerosols department, either to armpits or aisles, wouldn’t have gone amiss.