GRACE Payne didn’t know what hit her when she turned up for her first day at Home Bargains in 2016.
The shop, a Fabulous favourite, was to be the now-20-year-old’s workplace for the next two years.
We love it for its brilliant bargains including unicorn dust disinfectant and its famous Christmas bath bomb calendar.
But what Grace, from Cardiff, wasn’t expecting was customers POOING in store and shoplifters pilfering condoms every Saturday.
She knew something was up on her very first day at the shop when she was shown a film of banned customers – including a woman known only as ‘flower lady’ – in grainy CCTV footage.
“Tell us immediately if you spot these lot,” then 16-year-old Grace was told.
“I was stunned,” Grace admitted. “I was sitting down in a room and was watching a slideshow of all sorts from mums to teens and even grannies.
“If we spotted them we had to run to the front of the story and press a button.
“They included ‘flower lady’ who always had massive flowers in her hair, a mum who would sneakily put things in her basket and other people as well – all nicking things.
“I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for.”
And the shoplifting didn’t let up for the entire two years she was there.
“On Saturdays the bell would ring around six times a day signifying a shoplifter,” said aspiring air stewardess Grace.
“You would see all the managers legging it towards the entrance to the store, trying to get them as they raced into the street.”
Condoms were the most common thing people nicked – but chocolate and clothes were popular too.
“It was mainly teens who nicked condoms,” said Grace. “They weren’t even that expensive.”
Grace’s top Home Bargain tips
- All the shop’s ‘star buys’ – discounted products – are located at the front of the store so you can’t miss them.
- Newly-opened shops will often have better star buys to draw customers in.
- Fresh produce is delivered early, so they will cut the price in the morning to restock.
- The larger stores have a much bigger variety than in the smaller stores.
- If stock has been in the shop for a while it will often get discounted because they might be trying to discontinue it.
- If you think something isn’t up to scratch tell the manager – they’ll take you seriously and often offer a discount.
And it wasn’t just thieves Grace had to contend with while working there. “Once I walked into the staff toilet and there was poo absolutely everywhere,” said Grace. “It was smeared all over the walls. It was so vile.
“I have no idea who did it. Not a staff member – I think a customer had let themselves in.
“Thankfully I didn’t have to clean it up, someone else did.”
Grace said she was hit with abuse from unpleasant customers daily. “It was cheap and people were in a rush, so you would get people really, really frustrated with you,” she said.
“I would get yelled at quite regularly.”
There were also always people trying to get things for free. They would come up to the till and say, ‘Um, this is a bit broken’ when they had clearly just broken it themselves.
One of the worst things was screaming children, she said. “Saturdays, when I was on the till, was relentless.
“There was constant yelling. I would hear mums saying ‘F**k off and be quiet’ all the time to their kids.
“It made me cringe but what could I say?”
Still, Grace said she was never put in any danger at work – and added the shop’s bargains were brilliant.
I would hear mums saying ‘F**k off and be quiet’ all the time to their kids.
“To this day I use the shop’s washing up liquid. It is great” she said.
“And Home Bargains does have loads of good deals and products – you can get loads of money off things that cost double the price in Tesco.
“They will always have certain deals on – including the penny sale which is fantastic.
“If stock has been in the shop for a while it will often get discounted because they might be trying to discontinue it.
“So it is sometimes worth waiting to see if something has the price knocked down – you could even get it for a penny.
“Meanwhile, if you think something isn’t up to scratch tell the manager – they’ll take you seriously and often offer a discount."
Grace told how all the shop’s ‘star buys’ – discounted products – were located at the front of the store so you can’t miss them. They can vary from boxes to sweets to cakes and cleaning products.
Newly-opened shops will often have better star buys to draw customers in, she said.
Meanwhile fresh produce is delivered early, so they will cut the price in the morning to restock.
Also, the larger stores have a much bigger variety than in the smaller stores.
“Even though it was a dramatic two years and I learnt a lot about shoplifting and people I don’t regret it,” laughed Grace.
Home Bargains declined to comment.
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