As far as jobs go, selling and demonstrating toys all day isn’t a bad one, especially if you’re juggling your university studies at the same time.
I remember being dragged away from Harrods, Toy Kingdom as a kid after hyperventilating in the Batman section for about two hours.
At that point in my life, I wanted nothing more than to spend every waking hour in the Toy Kingdom.
Fast-forward to 15 years later, and my dream was a reality.
And looking back, with my Peter Pan complex in full swing, it was a pretty great job.
But there are a few things I wasn’t quite prepared for before embarking on my Toy Kingdom journey.
Kids will go missing
Without fail, on almost every weekend shift, a child would go missing in the Toy Kingdom.
Thankfully, these ‘disappearances’ never lasted more than 10 minutes, but it was an emotional rollercoaster nonetheless.
If a child goes missing, you communicate via a Disney Princess walkie talkie to all your colleagues on the shop floor and describe the missing child with the help of a distraught parent by your side.
After a few months, I become quite blasé when a child went missing knowing they would turn up again shortly, which would infuriate parents and senior staff alike.
However, on really quiet days, when there was little else to do apart from rearranging Minecraft displays, I’d secretly hope for a child to go missing to liven up my shift a bit.
Never refer to yourself as a pleb in a green apron
The Toy Kingdom uniform is a white shirt with black trousers and a green apron.
At first, it was pretty difficult to tell everyone apart, and I’m pretty terrible at remembering names at the best of times.
There was this one time when I didn’t know someone’s name, but they were another sales rep like myself, and they asked me to pass a message onto another colleague, let’s call them Daisy.
When I passed on the message to Daisy, they asked me who the message came from, and I couldn’t remember their name, so I said: “Oh, just another pleb in a green apron like us”.
Four hours later, when my shift was finally over, my line manager, who was dressed as Tinkerbell at the time, summoned me to the stock cupboard to give me some feedback.
She started by saying: “So James, how’re you finding things?”
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I thought this was a nice thing to ask, and I said everyone had been welcoming and patient with me during my first few weeks.
Tinkerbell replied: “So you haven’t got an issue with anyone in particular?”
Utterly bemused, I said: “No, everyone has been great.”
To which Tinkerbell replied: “So you didn’t call Vin a pleb today then?”
It turned out Daisy told Tinkerbell that I called Vin a pleb, without revealing the full context.
As a result, I got a verbal warning, and Daisy got a promotion.
There will be celebs, lots of them
During your three days of training in the Harrods training centre, it is drilled into you from minute one that you cannot take selfies with celebrities under any circumstances.
I managed to adhere to this rule for my entire Harrods career.
However, there was one occasion where I couldn’t help but gasp.
It was a quiet day on the shop floor when Hollywood superstar Benicio del Toro suddenly walked in with his wife and kid.
His wife and child were preoccupied with the Minions display when Benicio picked up a large Superman doll that bore an uncanny resemblance to Henry Cavill and let out a little chuckle to himself.
I, in turn, let out a much larger chuckle and hid under the sales counter.
Other notable celebs I saw included Brian May, Rod Stewart, Anton Du Beke and the entire Chelsea squad.
You must be able to play with the toys
After a month or so, the senior team members decided my strengths were customer-facing rather than absent-mindedly scanning items.
I soon became an unofficial toy demonstrator – much to the annoyance of the toy demonstrators who weren’t official Harrods employees and worked on commission – and I had the pick of all the latest gadgets.
My go-to toy was a Sphero which I controlled with a company Ipad, a small wireless ball that could light up and dart across the floor.
I used a tried and tested formula – I would drive the Sphero into the child to get their attention, they would drag their parents over, I would let them control the toy, and their parents would spend between £80-£120 on a glorified pet’s toy.
You can be any character you want to be
In the Harrods stockroom, you will find more costumes than in a West End dressing room.
So, for May 4 (Star Wars Day), I dressed up as a Jedi and wielded a force effects lightsaber for the best part of eight hours on the shop floor.
I don’t think I sold a single toy that day, not least because the lightsaber I was demonstrating wasn’t available in-store.
From that day on, until my last day in the Toy Kingdom, I wore the same Jedi outfit every shift.
If you are reading this and working in the Toy Kingdom, the orange Rebel Alliance boiler suit needs a wash.
Take Christmas Eve off
Trust me. It’s chaos.
Beware the ‘secret shopper’
At Harrods, there is something called a ‘secret shopper’.
A random shopper will be chosen every once in a while and given some vouchers to spend on the condition that they approach a specific staff member and check their performance against a list of requirements.
During my whole time at Harrods, I assumed this was entirely made up and just a way to ensure employees were working to max capacity at all times.
But I was so wrong.
After I left Harrods, they emailed me to tell me I had received the only perfect score from a secret shopper during the autumn/winter period.
They were as surprised as I was.