Friendly Fresh Fun
GS 25 is my local store and is a mere 60 paces from my front door. It opened only a few months ago after replacing a small business which I passed for 18 months but cannot recall. The GS 25, which I assume means ‘general store,’ opens 24 hours day though equally, it could be the abbreviation for, ‘Get Some.’ The ’25?’ That’s the ’25’ the usual Korean ‘term’ for ’24/7. With its blue and white neon lighting, the GS 25 has brightened up a formerly dull corner which opens onto the main road.
Recently the store has made some new innovations: with summer here, chairs and tables have been placed on the pavement and yesterday I was given a loyalty card. The GS25 company however, truly like to service their customers and this evening when I pop in to buy my bedtime beverage, a cup of milky coffee, I notice the student working within, at 8.30 in the evening it’s always the same boy, has a GS25 jacket on the back of which is emblazoned, in large yellow letters, ‘Friendly, fresh and fun!’
There are a couple of places on my walk home in which I could buy a cup of milky coffee but over the last few months what has attracted me to this small shop is the boy. He’s a university student, studying English at the local university and though I’ve spoken to him in English on one occasion, a sort of invite for him to try out his English on me, I always have to speak to him in my poor Korean. He probably 24 and at my age, 54, I don’t have the slightest anticipation of anything developing beyond a customer-employee relationship but after a day’s teaching checking out the front his jeans as he correspondingly checks my small change, provides a little light entertainment.
Tonight I’d had a few sojus and the world always looks better when you’re mildly tipsy. The jacket, in particular, grabs my attention. It’s not really a jacket, it’s more like a light vest made of some mesh material and today, he also has a new baseball cap. The three ‘F’s’ are going through my mind as I stare at the arsenal of coffee in the cool cabinet. I always buy the same one, ‘Mild Caffe Latte,’ but not an evening goes buy when I don’t glare at the other 20 or so different types before making my regular selection. ‘Friendly,’ the jacket reminds me, so I smile as I hand him my the money, always the same 1200 Won but tonight it’s in loose change. He returns my smile but it’s nothing overtly friendly, more like averagely ‘friendly, the standard ‘friendly’ I’d could expect in E-Marte, or Paris Baguette. Then I get a little fresh; ‘You’ve got a new hat?’ He raises his eyes from the change in his hand, smiles and lifts the cap off of his head. ‘Oh, and a new haircut! Very handsome!’ He thanks me but has no idea I’m being ‘fresh.’ He understands ‘fresh’ only within the context of sell-by dates. You can’t really get to the ‘fun’ level without a little more ‘freshness’ and as he almost finishes counting my change, I have a fleeting urge to have some ‘fun’ and fondle the front of his jeans. I don’t bother, it’s the soju effect and besides, ‘fondle,’ despite the alliteration, isn’t on his jacket.
Disappointed? Of course I am! Whats the point in advertising to customers that you are ‘friendly fresh and fun’ when you are no more of any of them than any other store. And to be honest, I expect ‘friendly’ service wherever I spend my money as well as fresh items. As for fun? How can shopping for a bar of chocolate, a packet of batteries or a smoked boiled egg be ‘fun?’ If it’s ‘fun’ shopping in a pokey little convenience store with a small range of products it must be ecstatic shopping in a place like E-Marte or Tesco’s Home Plus – which of course it never is. And to make matters worse, next morning, when I pop in to buy breakfast, another member of staff is wearing the same jacket. However, when he turns around he’s a granddad who apart from being very friendly, is neither ‘fresh’ nor ‘fun’ and personally, spots are preferable to crinkles any day!
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