Very Poor

I pressed the panic button that had gone unpressed for a few weeks. I had to, the guy was losing it big time. His face was reddening like a ripening tomato filmed on time lapse.

“It’s a pound!” The man was saying. He’d been saying that a lot.

“Nah, mate, it’s one pound five, the till says so,” I said for the penultimate time.

“That’s… you can’t do that.” He was saying.

“It’s one pound five pence.” I looked around the shop. I was enjoying jousting with this chap because he was old and probably couldn’t beat me up. He was also poor and from England. Old poor people come to Jersey from England on holiday because they can’t afford proper holidays to Mauritius.

“What does does that flipping well say?” He asked me pointing at the sticker on the front

“I’ll thank you not to use language like that if you don’t mind, there are ladies present,” I chided with mock horror.

“I’m sorry, but what does that say?” He was still pointing to the round yellow sticker on the front of his packet of Bernard Matthews turkey breast slices (5) he had very recently purchased. I looked at the sticker. “It says a pound on it!” He said pointing to the sticker that said £1.

“It does indeed,” I agreed.

“Well how is it… do you put the stickers on?”

“Do I put the stickers on?”

“Do you?”

“Oh no, sir, not I. I believe they are applied at the factory although I would have to check that for you. Would you like me to do that? To ascertain where exactly said decal was applied?” I was being a right dick but then the shop has been so fucking boring lately. I wished Paula was listening because I was running rings around this guy. Couldn’t believe I’d thought of the word ‘decal’. That was awesome of me. That’s what the stickers that come with model airplane kits are called.

“Would it not be easier to… to… to charge the price on the packet?” The man’s anger was waning, he was getting ready to just launch the turkey breast at me and walk out while muttering, I have a sixth sense for these things but I wanted to keep this one going. Had to get him angry again.

“At the end of the day it’s only five pence, perhaps not something to get so het up about?” I told him politely, but the implication was clear, I was calling him a gypsy.

“It’s not the point, the five pence isn’t point, it’s wrong.”

“I’m feeling threatened,” I told him with my palms raised. I wasn’t really. “I’m going to get the manager.” I backed up then walked sideways with my palms still raised. The man watched me. I went into Enrique’s office and he wasn’t in there which would explain him not answering my distress signal. I came out, smiled at the man and asked Paula where Enrique was. She suggested the toilet. I’d pressed the button some time before, a couple of minutes at least, plenty of time to go to the toilet and so I went to the toilet door and shouted Enrique.

“Wha?” He replied muffledly.

“Emergency!” I stood at the door and eventually heard the toilet flush and then the door opened.

“Wha?” He asked.

“Over there,” I told him pointing to the counter.

Enrique straightened his hat and muttered, “chu can’ h’even go for a she’ in dis place.”

“You can’t go for a shit? Like, you can’t? Like you, you physically…” I laughed but the joke I was laughing at was in my head, it needed much more talking to explain and it was apparent he was in no mood for my games. Fair enough, I’d interrupted his shit. I probably wouldn’t have done that had I known that’s what he was doing but when I’d gone to the office door I was committed to finding him come Hell or high-water. He squinted at me and then headed to the counter. Following him I looked at Paula but she was staring out of the window. She was missing it all!

“Yes sir?” Enrique said to the man who, fair play to him, was still at the counter although pacing back and forth and holding his turkey breast.

“Are you the manager,” he asked Enrique.

“I am the managhghhhhhher, how may I help chu?”

“This says it’s a pound but this guy-“

“Hello!” I said. The man looked at me serious.

“This guy charged me one pound five. Now, it’s not about the five pence, it’s the principle. If something says it’s a pound then… false advertising.”

“Dat five pee es jesty,” said Enrique calmly. The man just stared at Enrique and waited for him to say something else. “Jesty,” Enrique repeated leaning forward while saying the word for emphasis. I nearly cracked up laughing.

“Jesty?” The poor person from England asked.

Enrique nodded and smoothed down his moustache, “jesty.”

“What’s… what’s jesty?” The man asked.

“It’s jesty, isn’t it. That’s what it is. That extra five pence is jesty. Deal with it.” I said. I was going to high-five Enrique as soon as the man left, I knew it. The man searched for the words and failed to find them. He was going to throw the turkey breast. You could see it in his face as clear as day. I dived for cover behind the counter giggling. I heard the packet slap to the floor. When I stuck my head up the man was already out the door. Enrique picked up the turkey breast and was following him.

“Throw it!” I urged, but Enrique didn’t, he stopped in the doorway and watched the man stomp over to his hire car, the man was shaking his head. I went over to watch. “What a fucking nut case,” I said. The sun had come out for the first time in days. “High five,” I said to Enrique and he high-fived me but there was little passion in it. He looked bothered. “You can finish your shit, now,” I said thinking perhaps that was what was troubling him.

He looked at me, he was thinking. He sighed, “yes, well no, but s’okay.” He looked back outside. “That man, why he so h’angry?”

We both looked out of the window, the man was pulling angrily out onto the road.

“Don’t know, eh, maybe it’s just jesty,” I said, nudging Enrique in a friendly fashion. He again looked at me.

“Jesty?” He asked.

“Jesty,” I nodded.

“Jesty?” He asked.

“G.S.T you stupid fucking idiots!” Shouted Paula. “Enrique was saying, G.S.T.

“G.S.T?” I asked.

“Si, je-esty,” said Enrique.

“Oh,” I said. “I thought it was…” what the fuck did I think it was? “Never mind.”

I’ve since learnt that GST is a small sales tax. Jersey’s equivalent to VAT. I believe it stands for Goods and Services Tax. Often in shops items are stickered at the factory in the UK with a price exclusive of GST and the extra is added on at the till causing confusion and drama, particularly among holidaymakers not used to the nuances of Island life, much like what we witnessed today.