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Paying through the schnozzel
By Jeff Dell
The Tisco boys waited in the concourse of the shopping mall for their supermarket to open. They had a passing interest in food but their allegiance was to Tisco and they'd eat shite rather than go to Sinsburys. This was well known to the Tisco management who made sure that that was exactly what they got. The Tisco boys hated the Sinsbury boys and, in part, defined their love of Tisco in terms of their hatred for other supermarket chains rather than in terms of what Tisco offered them. They knew that the food in other supermarkets could be better - more nutritious, a far greater variety and cheaper too - but this was not as important as the allegiance to Tiscos, their supermarket. They were supporters first and consumers second. The Directors knew this too.

Among the waiting Tisco boys there was a small argument about Tisco levels of saturated fats and additives and it was generally agreed that Tisco could do better by them. For example, loyal shoppers might be offered a priority in the check out queue or a year's supply of monosodium glutamate at discount prices. Some concern was expressed about the performance of one of their star products, an orange from the Gaza Strip, which was attracting the shoppers of other supermarkets. There'd been a few scuffles around the fruit section one afternoon and this had led to the Tisco Directors segregating opposition shoppers in their own supermarket queues. One afternoon the Tisco boys had infiltrated the away shoppers'queue and put unwanted purchases into their shopping baskets. There had been more scuffles and the police had been called.

The Tisco supermarket store did its best to attract customers for life and, once attracted, to keep them. It sold crap but, in a cunning psychological ruse, charged top whack for it, making the customers think that they must be getting top quality grub if they were paying this sort of money for it. If ever the poor quality of the food were questioned, the supermarket Directors would call into doubt the loyalty of the shopper and, indirectly, suggest he could shop elsewhere. This normally did the trick. "We are the Sinsbury 'aters" they'd sing. The shoppers were not unaware of the paradox of their situation and protests would occasionally manifest themselves in the form of self-parody: "If we shop here we've gotta be barmy, if we shop here we've gotta be barmy", they'd sing. In a Pavlovian sort of way, singing was therapeutic, a laddish act of collective self-mockery that raised the spirits - well, actually it raised the price of spirits. But then they weren't to know that.

The Directors had a box, out of gobbing distance, overlooking the tills. Tisco shirts, 45 quid a throw, were neatly placed at the check out. Next to them was a sign saying "If you don't buy a Tisco shirt it means you must be a totally disloyal bastard and you don't care if we get beaten by Simmerfield". This stroke of advertising genius had been dreamed up by Malarky and Malarky, a sophisticated West End advertising firm, and had cost so much that the price of milk had had to double overnight. This didn't worry the Tisco boys; it's true they weren't aware that cows hadn't doubled in price but they trusted their Directors not to burden the average shopper with difficult explanations.

In the Director's box not all was well. There had been a rumour that some Directors bought their food elsewhere and that some weren't that interested in food at all. Word had it that one Director had been seen in Sinsbury's and viewed food as a vehicle for other, more important things. The Directors of other shoppers' stores were in on the act, one describing his product as 'crap'. This didn't bother the Tisco boys; after all they were 'loyal supporters' and no supermarket chain that wanted to stay in business would sell crap to them! However, mud stuck. Supermarket chains were beginning to get a bad reputation: an absurd story did the rounds suggesting that the Board of Wimblegrub, another rival chain, had plans to move their shops to another city, hundreds of miles from 'home' and out of shopping distance of their 'loyal shoppers'. Not that this could happen to the Tisco boys. Still, an explanation of sorts was needed and a meeting was called in the supermarket.

The following Saturday the Tisco boys spilled into the supermarket from the concourse. There was a new advertising slogan by the check out counters: 'Up until now, our product has been utter crap. You know as much because you are intelligent. Because we value your loyalty and your intelligence we're going to sell only top notch grub in the future. This is gonna cost you - you've gotta pay through the shnozzel.' There was a roar. Of cheering. "Loyal supporters, loyal supporters, loyal supporters". The crowd cheered the Directors in their box overlooking the tills and Tisco shirts. Which were now 60 quid each. Malarky and Marlarky had proved their worth again - and doubled their fees. Which would mean the 'loyal supporter' would be forking out 100 quid for his shirt next year. There was some crackling over the tannoy system. The new club song was being played. To the tune of 'There's only one Gazan orange, there's only one Gazan orange' came:

"Pay through the schnozzel, we're gonna pay through the schnozzel, pay through the schnnoooozzzell, we're gonna pay through the schnozzell. Pay through the schnozzell....' The shoppers bought it: it was all going to be okay.