Back on track

Whatever the weather, never have a bad day. Stand and smile, even when people hurry past you wearing coats and apologetic grimaces. They might return later, or on another day; a frown could cost you £2.50 a week, or £3 at Christmas.

There will always be more people who ignore you than don’t. At first this is disheartening, but later you’ll learn not to mind. You can almost hear the justifications they recite in their heads: the issue bought two months ago, the standing orders and direct debits, the spare change dropped into stickered buckets at checkouts (never polystyrene cups, because, well, you never know, do you?).

Some people will become your regulars – be particularly sure not to upset them. This is not unusual: in this way you’re like the barmaid who has to giggle at the men propping up the bar, no matter how leery they get. Except unlike the barmaid you get paid per sale, and there is no manager you can appeal to.

If conversation starts, keep it general: the weather, the time of year, the name and age of your dog. Opinions are for people who can afford to offend.

Sometimes you’ll recognise someone who bought a copy last week on the far side of the pavement. Never call to them; if they come back next week, never contradict their claims to have been away, or ask how they spent the money.

Never ask a customer if they will come back, even though the uncertainty scratches at you daily. Never make them feel uncomfortable.

Tell people to enjoy the magazine, although you know they’re not really buying it. They’re buying a little peace of mind, a warm glow, a quiet pride in themselves.

It’s amazing what you can buy, but you’d start with a good pair of shoes.

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