Standing out

Sorry for the long absence, it’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, the end result is I passed my MPhil Viva (verbal defence of my thesis) with minor corrections. Now on with the toy talk (or something close anyway).

This one’s been brewing for a few weeks I just haven’t had the chance to sit down and write it. For a long time I thought it would be fun to do theme weekends in the shop, where I dress up as a character, we get lots of toys and/or books in to do with that character and I hang out in the window doing things in character. For example if we were to do a pirate weekend we’d buy in lots of pirate regalia (swords, eye patches etc.) maybe do face painting (to give kids pirate beards/scars/blacked out teeth) and I’d decorate the window to look like the captain’s quarters and sit there when there weren’t any customers in the store, waiving a sword at passers by. That kind of thing.

The problem is we’ve done events in the shop before with mixed to poor results: face painting days, rush hour challenges etc. It seems like most people just want to come in and shop, which I can understand. However there’s some fun to be had in breaking from routine/the expected, the problem is most of us consider ourselves to be ‘too busy’ for things to disrupt our plans. We may be on our way to a birthday party with the kids and so genuinely don’t have time to stop and enjoy a carefully put together activity. The problem is I’m not sure if this is really what stops people from participating.

We Brits (or Scots if you prefer, don’t want to start that discussion here) will only stand out in pre-defined ways. Yes we’re internationally recognised as eccentric but this only goes so far. For the most part people like to stick to what they know and this is passed on to our kids. When we walk into a shop we expect to find…well, a shop, we probably aren’t particularly well prepared to be challenged to a logic puzzle or be asked if we want our faces painted, let alone be accosted by a pirate and asked to join their crew. There is of course a chance that people expect to find a hidden cost in this, following the old ‘you don’t get something for nothing’ philosophy.

To an extent they’re right, these kind of things cost money and that money comes from the business running it, so even if you don’t pay at the time the business will probably recoup their losses through the price of stock. The thing to remember though is that a shop gets all their products in at cost and an event is supposed to be a form of advertising so often this cost is so minimal you won’t see any price hike just to pay for some new face paint every now and then. More importantly days like this spice up our work week, we enjoy them so we’re unlikely to make you pay for our fun.

Maybe people feel uncomfortable standing out from the crowd, dropping their plan for the day and just going with the flow. Maybe a guy dressed as a pirate would make people afraid that they too would have to do something silly (what a terrifying thought, being silly, in front of your kids no less). Sadly I can easily envisage this: a happy family approaches the shop then spots the pirate in the window… the parents instantly clam up, aware that they may have to do something that they hadn’t planned to do that day and promptly turn and walk away. Maybe this is unfair on our customers, I have to admit that I often react in a similar way to the unexpected, but if my kids are there I suck it up. Just like a fear of heights, wasps or clowns we shouldn’t show our children our true reaction to our fears as they’re likely to end up inheriting our fears too. Instead it’s our job to let them draw their own conclusions about these kinds of things. Though of course we shouldn’t shield them from the truth: people can fall and hurt themselves, wasps do sting and clowns can come into your dreams at night and torment you (OK maybe the last one isn’t entirely accurate).

I’d love to do more event type stuff in the shop but so long as people look unwilling (or even in some cases scared) of such events we’ll have to refrain from this kind of thing. This is sad because it’s a rare opportunity for us parents to teach our children something important that won’t necessarily come up in school: sometimes life offers up an opportunity for something new and if we’re too busy doing the same old thing we miss the chance. When they grow up and make goals for themselves as adults this will have an impact on what they try to do and who they try to become; more importantly if they don’t embrace opportunity when it comes along they won’t accomplish their goals. I remember a bit of pseudo-philosophy (think it’s a quote from Thomas Jefferson) that was getting passed around facebook a few months back that seems relevant and makes a whole lot of sense: “If you want something you’ve never had you’ll have to do something you’ve never done.”

As always I welcome feedback. Who knows, if enough people disagree about the likelihood of success you may see me screaming in the window waving a sword at you sometime soon (and I might rethink the pirate weekend too).


One comment on “Standing out

  1. […] work and how I fit into this. Also this excitement at something new is slightly relevant to my last blog post. Here is an example of being faced with something new, an opportunity for change and it’s […]


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