There was a time when the most advanced technology to be found in our shop was Velcro-backed shin-pads and they were reckoned a bit of a rip-off.
Now we’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into a world of customisable insoles, energyenhancing infrared clothing and tech-driven overlays, to name but a few, and to be perfectly honest, my faithful assistant Norman and I are increasingly finding ourselves out of our depth, particularly when things go wrong, as they tend to do in our neck of the woods (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphors).
For instance, we had the row of the year in the shop last week when a bloke came in and said that his brother-in-law had suffered a suspected heart-murmur while using one of our new heightadjustable aerobic step and balance boards and what were we going to do about it?
When Norman said that of course we were very sorry, but he couldn’t quite see how we could help, the chap said: “Well, we want our money back for a start. Then there’s the shock my sister had on finding him stretched out on the carpet. I was pretty upset myself, and so was the dog.”
He was relentless. “My brotherin- law had to miss his shift stacking shelves at Tesco and it’s doubletime on a Sunday.” He was getting himself in a right state so I thought the least I could do was to give Norman a bit of moral support but then Norman said something that made my blood run cold: “That’s our policy, I’m afraid. There’s nothing I can do.”
By now the bloke had backed Norman into the corner where we keep the hockey-sticks and was threatening to punch his lights out.
A cup of tea and some custard creams in the office calmed things down a bit and the chap said that they’d been to see one of those nowin- no-fee solicitors in an office behind the butchers.
Apparently he told them we had almost certainly contravened the sporting goods indemnity clause of the 1954 Revised Recreation Protection Act and could be taken to the cleaners, no problem at all.
“Then there’s post-traumatic stress, domestic disruption and economic hardship consequences to be taken into consideration,” the bloke said.
“We’re reasonable people, but quite frankly, this has turned our lives upside down and if my sister doesn’t deserve a little holiday out of it, who does? She’s always wanted to go to Las Vegas.” I could see where all this was leading and so I said it would perhaps be best if he came back next week when everyone had calmed down.
In the meantime, Norman has been rooting about in the stockroom looking at the small print on all the new state-ofthe- art equipment boxes and talking to a mate who used to be an occupational health and safety officer until he did his back in when falling off a youth-club climbingwall in Dewsbury.
So when the chap and his wife came back yesterday afternoon Norman had all these folders laid out on the desk and was pacing about like that nasty barrister in Law & Order.
Apparently the accident victim was still in no state to come to the meeting and was having a quiet game of pool in the British Legion for therapeutic purposes.
Norman said: “But he’s presumably aware that under the Sports Safety Act 1976 he’s obliged to complete a medical profile before using the equipment, fill out a risk management check list and create a maintenance log signed by a qualified fitness leader.”
“I don’t know about that,” said the chap. “I think he just put it up in the space between the telly and the fish tank and started bouncing about.”
It went without saying, Norman said, that any court would want to have sight of a completed physical activity readiness questionnaire, not to mention the register of exercise operations, a first-aid certificate and third-party risk assessment.
“Did you see that a bloke got 100 hours community service for not registering two toning-rings, a weight-disc and a set of solid dumbbells?” Norman said. “It’s a sport-retailing minefield out there.”
We’ve heard nothing since, but Norman saw the accident victim this afternoon rearranging the pressed meat in Tesco.