Hen I was in my 20s, I worked spo­rad­i­cally in re­tail. My most in­ter­est­ing gig was at Har­rods’ per­fume hall, where I was tasked with spray­ing passers-by with var­i­ous scents.

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I wore a dowdy sailor-girl out­fit to pro­mote Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male and a crushed pur­ple sheath to sell what was billed as the most ex­pen­sive per­fume in the world. The Sa­cred Tears of Thebes came in a Bac­carat crys­tal pyra­mid-shaped bot­tle and smelled, to my fa­tigued nose, like rot­ten or­anges and cloves.

The pur­ple dress was the worst part – un­flat­ter­ing, itchy, de­mor­al­is­ing – al­though I counted my­self lucky. My friend Kate had to wear Ferrari gear and spurn ad­vances from mid­dle-aged men with car fetishes.

I was a lack­lus­tre sales­woman. I al­ways fig­ured if some­one wanted the prod­uct, they’d buy it. No amount of pes­ter­ing would make a dif­fer­ence. So I spent my time celebrity spot­ting (Tia Car­rere, Gary Rhodes, Re­becca De Mor­nay; hey, it was the 90s) and walk­ing cir­cles around my “Egyp­tian” dis­play like a zoo an­i­mal.

I was wrong about one thing. Ser­vice makes a huge dif­fer­ence. Peo­ple who are hav­ing a good time in a shop or restau­rant spend more money. The abil­ity to de­liver cus­tomers the ex­act thing they didn’t know they wanted is a valu­able skill, and novelist Kelly Ana Morey (‘Wait­ing around’, page 11) has it.

Book-writ­ing doesn’t pay that well in New Zealand, so in lean times, Morey re­turns to wait­ress­ing, to “carry fancy food, pour wine and put on a face and a lit­tle bit of a show”. And then, bank bal­ance sorted, she writes an­other won­der­ful book. Win-win.


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