ELLE Talent Contest 2014: Finalist #1

Read Emma Stevens' entry


Back in August, we asked all wordsmiths to dust down their laptops and send us 'The Letter I Wish I'd Written.' Hundreds of incredibly emotive entries poured forth, and after much deliberating from the ELLE panel, we chose a winner, as well as four finalists. Read finalist Emma Stevens' letter below.

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Dear general public of Britain,


        I in no way intended to ruin your day. When the till decided to unexpectedly close without giving me a chance to snatch your change out of it, surprisingly there was no warning. When the Christmas music came on too early for you, I can assure you that I was in no way involved in this decision; and I definitely did not decide to crank the central heating up to one hundred degrees in the middle of summer, despite the comments I received from many of you.

Am I being too harsh? Don’t get me wrong some of you are more than pleasant. I long to hear the words ‘I’m in no rush’ every day, but the reality is that for some unknown reason here in Britain, we are always in a constant state of haste. Why is this? Where are we going that is so important that we must make sales assistants feel as if they are holding us up? If I’m being honest, as a nation we could stand to be a little more patient sometimes.

We, The Great British public, are an interesting species. There are those who are polite, happy and on the whole very courteous people. Let me inform you that your shopping experience will be a much more pleasant and civil affair. Both parties will go away feeling satisfied. If however you are the particular variety that has the patience of a five-year-old and the manners of...well...a five-year-old also actually – you will be met with a lack of enthusiasm to say the least. You may be surprised that I have to state this, but haggling? Not a viable option. I work for a large corporation. I cannot give you discount because you don’t want to pay the full price.

A word also needs to be said about some of your shopping ‘styles’. Although it looks like I’m having lots of fun picking piles of clothes and shoes off of the floor, I can assure you this is not the case. I probably spend more time crawling around on my hands and knees than I do standing if I’m honest. But it’s not like I can say anything. I’m not really sure why but I deduced that there must have been some microscopic sentence in our contracts that stated that we must ‘tolerate all unacceptable behaviour bar physical abuse’.  It is the only reason I can think of that ensures we keep our silence on such matters.


Just to add, when the voiceover lady announces ten minutes from closing time that you should start paying for your items, there is no subtext to this. She does not mean ‘carry on shopping until we close and almost shut you inside the store’ and she certainly does not intend for you to ‘run back and get all those items you thought you didn’t want, but now it’s closing time you suddenly do’.  And yet I have seen many of you browse the shop for hours, only to conveniently wait until the last five minutes to actually start picking what to buy. Saying this, most of you are very good at making sure this does not happen; however to those that realise this sounds familiar, you’ll know that being escorted out of the building by a security guard while you clasp a bag of hot-cross buns was not your most dignified of exits. Not that these customers care of course, but the reason you’re getting those icy stares from members of staff is because like most people, we don’t particularly find staying after working hours, when we are no longer being paid, an efficient use of our time. Shocking, I know.

But to those few of you who treat us like human beings and not multi-tasking super-humans. We thank you. My sanity thanks you. I think without your sense and understanding, the regular shop assistant would have an average working life of about six months before they descended into complete madness. I still hear the recurring words, ‘would you like the receipt in the bag?’ on the odd occasion when I go to sleep, and I have ingrained in my head the directions to the nearest toilets – but your presence makes the day that little bit more bearable.

I sincerely hope this doesn’t come across as some bitter letter of complaint; my moaning only serves as a little outlet of frustration to those of you in the know and can sympathise and to those who may now think twice before releasing their rage at an innocent shop assistant.

Yours Faithfully,

Emma Stevens

Read finalist Tamar Hodes' entry

Read finalist Liz Gwinnell's entry

Read finalist Sonny Marr's entry

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