Long hours, faulty power tools, and an extra helping hand – though not from one of Santa’s elves. Our independent hardwareman takes a step back in time with part 33 of his stories from the shop floor

by preparing our own pre-packs. But, with the shop itself becoming busier, we needed extra time to make up the packs to save time, just maybe not as much. The boss and I took home kits of components, so we could get some done in the evening but that didn’t last long. I mean, who wants to be still playing shop pushing midnight?

S I had racked a complete wall of

the office with Contiplas shelves; white and gleaming like a clinical science facility, each marked into bays containing the components for each pack. During quiet moments we’d simply grab whatever we fancied bagging and stack up the fresh packets and get them slung on the extra long display hooks I’d sourced. We joked about hiring Santa’s elves – you know, the ones who were ripe for summer work. We didn’t find any.

Not jigging along

I needn’t have worried about being left with the Christmas gift stock; what didn’t sell by Christmas went during January, when people who’d been gifted money descended on us for a spending spree and, before long, there wasn’t a power tool left in the place. We needed the specialist wholesaler to be as ‘on the ball’ with supplying

22 DIY WEEK 22 MARCH 2019

o, armed with stacks of attractive, yellow card headers bearing our shop name, we were all set to save time and boost sales

stock as we were in ordering it… but this wasn’t the case, and we were back to receiving dribs and drabs, leaving me as frustrated as a hosepipe in a drought.

And then, the first faulty Black &

Decker item, a jigsaw, was returned as DiD (dead in box)… and we didn’t have another one in stock. I knew Woolworths had some, and the thought of losing a chink of our hard-earned reputation whilst giving a chink of profit to the multi- store pirate was more than my gut could stand. The customer gave me ‘til tea-time to get him another one. There was no chance of that. This is what I did. I unscrewed

the clam casing and, being careful not to allow all the bits and pieces to fly out, laid the power tool on the desk. What could I see? Some gear stuff at the blade end and, working towards the rear, “O” level Physics began to kick in. Pressing against the commutator were two carbon brushes – one of which was not connected to the thin wire coming from the

field coil, unlike with

the other brush. Closer inspection showed that it hadn’t simply dropped away, which would have been bad enough; it had never been connected in the first place. Black & Decker had let me down. I asked the boss if we had a soldering iron, ‘cos if not I meant to buy one from stock, get it plugged in and finish what the boys at Black & Decker hadn’t. Can you guess what he came up with? Probably not: it was like a mini wooden-handled fire

“My boss came up with a pre-historic soldering iron that you heated in a fire, rather like a blacksmith would, and used it to solder electrical connections.”

poker with a pointed end made from copper. The idea was to heat it in a fire, rather like a blacksmith, and use it to solder electrical connections. Pre-historic or what? You will be relieved to learn that I replaced the jigsaw’s clamshell, packed it up and refunded the customer. As a gesture of goodwill, to try and rescue even the slightest morsel of dignity from this situation, I told him he’d get one at Woolworths. Whilst I was on the phone learning the bad news about the wholesaler’s lack of service regarding faulty power tools, the customer returned, wanting us to get him another jigsaw by the end of the week. Why? Because we were £3 cheaper!

Warning whispers

For some time now we’d been hearing whispers of Black & Decker horror stories regarding faulty and unreliable products. At first I had ignored them, assuming that, being

manufactured in County Durham – where, incidentally, the company had never suffered an industrial dispute – the products must be top quality and (using a more modern phrase) fit for purpose. Not only had this particular example missed a vital part of the assembly process, it had not even been tested and I was left wondering how many of the dozens of power tools we had shifted over the past few weeks might eventually end up costing us our cash and reputation.

A brilliant save I was never any good at sports when I was at school. The other lads were always going on about “soccer” (as in Association Football, and not the same as in America); this was their sole topic of conversation, leaving me to wonder if I’d been denied some essential genetic ingredient that would forever blight my life. What cruel twist of fate had made me such an outcast? Of course I wasn’t the only abnormal specimen, and one day another such reject schoolboy walked into the shop offering his services free of charge for some Monday morning work experience. The arrangement with his school was that if he wasn’t interested in playing football, then he’d better

find some poor,

unsuspecting firm to keep him off the streets. So, one morning per week for the following five or six months, we settled ourselves in the office, happily packing, folding and stapling. Happy days!

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