What’s your favourite kind of store? Fashion, shoes, homewares? Books, antiques, op-shops? Hobbies, crafts, textiles? Food?
Is everything covered in that lot? No. My favourite shop is ... Officeworks. I don’t know who has the Officeworks account, but they should bring back the old McEwens jingle, McEwens means a million things. (Do advertising jingles revert to the public domain when a company goes out of business; or after 50 years, like music?)
It’s not just that Officeworks has a million things, it’s that they are interesting. Hardware stores have hammers, nails and planks of wood. These are all important items, but they are just not as fascinating as stationery. Bunnings customers are always in a hurry, and frowning. It is impossible to frown when you fondle a Parker fountain pen, and you can’t fondle anything in a hurry.
Remember those Oxford mathematical instrument sets in old-fashioned tins? They still exist on Officeworks shelves. For a ridiculous (in the good sense) $6.50, you can also buy a retro design German-made Staedtler tin of 12 pencils. It is possibly the last product still manufactured in Germany. Even some Mercedes-Benz models are no longer made in Germany.
When you’re finished with the pens and pencils, there are small electronic devices, paper, cameras, picture frames, paint (art, not house) brushes, and coffee. Coffee! Not just any coffee. Officeworks’ coffee range includes Nescafe, Robert Timms, Vittoria and Moccona for ordinary people like me, but if you like to wear your social conscience on your sleeve you can buy Jasper premium Arabica fair trade certified organic 100% carbon neutral coffee. Three causes in every cup. Just make sure you go outside and plant a tree while the kettle boils or you’ll spoil the whole effect. On the other hand, those Nescafe 43 blend drinkers are pillaging the earth.
Now here’s a trick if you have an Officeworks nearby. Recently I ran out of milk. Couldn’t face a trip to the supermarket. So I went to Officeworks, walked to the catering section, picked up some UHT milk and was out in two minutes. UHT is fine at a pinch. There is also sugar, tea, wipes, snacks, confectionery, biscuits, and many other after hours essentials.
On Tuesday night the work printer broke down, and the IT guy had gone for the day. They’re never around when you need them. I got off the train on the way home. It was about 7.30, and it was pouring. I got drenched. I melted into Officeworks, poked a USB stick at the desk attendant (I’d kept it in an inner pocket to keep it dry, like gunpowder), and asked him to print me documents A, B and C. When he was finished, I asked him to sell me a plastic sleeve to keep the documents dry on the rest of the walk home. He pulled one from under the desk. "You can have it for nothing," he said. "Have a good night." Is that service? And the documents were 50 cents. That’s cheaper than investing in printers and ink. I’ve thrown out my deskjet, fax and printer and stacks of copy paper and reduced my home office floorspace by half. Officeworks is my new home office. Plus, I need the space. The children need room to throw pencils around.
This is the Staedtler pencil tin, containing 12 HB pencils.
Disclaimer: I do not work for Officeworks, nor on the Officeworks advertising account. I just like pens.