Belfast Telegraph

These pound shops just make me want to spend a penny

By Robert McNeill

Pound shops and cheap stores such as Lidl and Albrecht Discount are prospering like never before. There you are: every cloud has an imitation silver lining.

Albrecht Discount, by the way, is Aldi and, if you haven't travelled furth of yonder to find one, let me say you ain't missing much. Oh, I know it has its devotees.

Middle class persons will often serve you up something and, out of politeness, you praise it.

Then they titter: "Actually, it's from Aldi." And you say: "Yes, I thought there was something peculiar about it."

It's trendy to leap on the cheap shops bandwagon out of inverted snootery. But I ain't going there.

I did go to Aldi and Lidl for a bit, when I feared penury was around the corner and felt I'd better make an effort to economise.

But, even though penury still waits to mug me, I soon returned to the welcoming arms of Lord Sainsbury the grocer, though I resent his passing on much of my cash to those reactionary enemies of the people, the Labour Party.

The trouble with Lidl and whatnot is they're so plain and basic.

I know that's supposed to be the point, but I like a bit of pizzazz, some ooh-la-la, in my supermarket. I don't think these places even had that happy-melancholic muzak that the big proper chains play.

You know, the tear-jerking tunes that make you want to buy chocolate and romantic DVDs.

Hang on a second. Just check my trousers. Jeez, thought I was turning into a girl for a minute there.

The cheaper stores are how I imagine post-capitalist eastern Europe to be. They're just so, well, cheap. With their garish lighting and grim functionality, they're worse than a country dance hall.

I must say, though, that I do frequent pound stores once a month.

There are three in a row in the little town where I get my hair cut (it's just 320 miles away but, as you can tell from the picture byline, it's worth it) and I set myself the challenge of trying to buy something in each one.

Usually, I just get bird food (so that when my feathered guests say, "Hmm, this is nice", I titter and say, "It's from Poundfondler"). Sometimes, though, I also buy suspiciously cheap coffee by well known brands.

For a while, the only things I could find to buy were stick-on house numbers but, soon, I had to stop that after plastering them on my bins, front and back door, trees, garden shed, internal doors and the back of my suit jacket.

Imagine my embarrassment when one of the neighbours said: "Why have you put the number 27 all over your property?"

"Oh, you know, to help the postman," I replied.

And he said: "But this property - your house - is number 28."

No wonder I never got on the electoral roll.

Still, easy mistake to make, particularly if maths has never been your strong suit.

I don't value my eyesight so I buy reading glasses from discount stores, picking up a dozen pairs at a time, knowing that at least eight will have disappeared before I've even got home.

Even so, I still don't count such stores a Good Thing. They're turning us into the Third World and making us feel penny wise, pound store foolish.

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