Stories from Skate Shops
Words by Max Olijnyk.
I look back on the time I spent working in a skate shop as some of the most enjoyable years of my life. As well as paying the bills and keeping me stocked with cheap boards, working in a skate shop was a great middle ground between being completely immersed in the strange world of skateboarding and being a normal person. It’s good to have a bit of responsibility – to hustle sales, balance the till, look for the right size – and it’s healthy to engage with members of the general public, rather than just look at them as people who make it difficult for you to skate a spot. Having said that, working in a skate shop teaches you that all people are crazy. Everyone’s nuts!
Ex-PSC (now Fast Times) legend Ben Hoban sums up the vibe of an inner-city skate shop well: “It’s a magnet for the lost, depraved and lonely. Compulsive liars, amateur conmen, junkies and skateboarders.” I asked my friends to share their funniest stories from working in a skate shop. As well as making for an entertaining evening on Facebook, it gave me more than enough material for a book, let alone this article. Disclaimer: I edited these for spelling, grammar, punctuation, tense – you name it. Second disclaimer: I recognise these anecdotes are mainly from Fast Times (formerly PSC), and I advise anyone who objects to shop elsewhere if they have a problem.
A shop without customers is like a pub with no ... customers. Customers are great because they buy stuff, but also, they never fail to make you feel better about yourself.
Aaron Coping: Having a very irate parent/customer come in and shout at me because her son’s new board wouldn’t turn. I discovered an incredibly hungover co-worker had put one of the trucks on back to front.
Ryan Grant: We had a middle-aged lady crawl into the store to steal a setup. She was on her way to beat up her ex-boyfriend with a baseball bat. I think she needed a getaway vehicle.
Ben Hoban: A staff member had to wake up a junkie who fell asleep while trying to rip a security tag off a jacket he was trying on.
Joey Dodd: We caught a dude jacking off into shoes. He was in the corner, dick out, wanking off into a pair of new shoes.
Ben Hoban: We once busted two customers trying to have sex in the change room. Then one threw up in there.
Richard Flude: I was denied exit by the Southland Boyz after closing one night at the Blindside Southland store. Their joke got old after 15 minutes of holding down the roller door. Many of them became Westfield security guards.
Mugagga Kaggwa: A friend of mine worked in Slam City Skates in London when they had one of Europe’s only Nike SB accounts. They used to sell them to people on the proviso they kickflipped in them before leaving.
“In an insane world, the sane man must appear insane.” This quote has always made a lot of sense to me, but working in a skate shop made me question it occasionally. Sure, we were bored out of our brains, but some of the stuff we got up to was far from sane.
Ben Hoban: One day Dave Snow played Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” on repeat. All day. Eight hours of the one song. The first staff member to break had to buy the beer. Todd Webster used to put a fart machine near the change rooms. He would wait for customers to go in and then let rip.
Andy Murphy: One time Sam Morgan cut out all the photos in mags of Darren Kirby doing 50-50s and pasted them all together in one big sequence behind the counter [Darren used to do a lot of 50-50s].
Polly Smyth: Sam Morgan standing at the front of the shop watching skate videos. You’d have to wave your hands in front of his face to snap him out of his trance.
Shane Carter: Hiring someone that said they had experience, then watching him grip the bottom of a deck in front of a customer.
Pete Boulis: Anthony Mapstone telling co-workers to check out the new poster in the toilet, minutes after taking his morning shit.
I put ‘other skaters’ in a separate category to ‘customers’, because a lot of skaters don’t actually spend any money, ever. A good skate shop is a welcoming haven for skaters, whether they’re buying or not. But man, sometimes you guys are as frustrating as shit.
Polly Smyth: I often came across really rude, sexist customers who refused to let me grip their boards because I was a girl. Some kids were really rude about it. I took great pleasure in yelling: “You’re banned!” to the ones who were just flat-out dicks.
Josh Feggans: One private school kid came in with a thrashed setup and rudely threw it on the counter and demanded I set it up. I offered to teach him, but he just hand gestured to me that he would be back in an hour. I set up his trucks backwards. He skated out of the shop, leaned and ate shit. He came in with an entourage and threw it on the counter, saying, “You put my trucks on backwards,” and I let him know it was deliberate because he needed some manners.
Ben Hoban: Nothing was more difficult than telling a seasoned pro that you can’t really trade some of his boards in because you know they won’t sell. But even worse than pros on the way down were some of the ams on the way up. Nothing was worse than a cocky 16-year-old kid who just got on the shop team asking you to set his board up for him.
Anthony Mapstone: What about this one: “Mappy said it was cool for me to come in and grab a deck with grip and some wheels.”... Never met the person before in my life. Do you have a spare three months for me to tell you only a fraction of the weird and funny things that have happened?
Yes, Anthony, I do. Stay tuned readers.
Illustration by Pigeonboy. This article was printed in issue 209, which you can buy here.