Some middle class kids spend their gap years learning to cope without Sainsbury's and Urban Outfitters amid the impoverished and diseased in places like Ethiopia and Cambodia. This, to me, is a waste of time. I suggest they spend the year working in their local (Gap? No, that would be too obvious) Primark. Not only will they earn money, they will also encounter pretty much the same conditions as they would in these less developed countries.
I am a regular visitor to Primark's flagship store at Marble Arch. The conditions I encounter there are akin to anything you would find on a 'no frills' holidaying experience. Let me count the ways:
Disease - A few months ago I happened to pass a mother in the Lingerie section holding a woven basket out in front of her son while he spewed chunks of McDonalds into it. The vomit oozed through the mesh and spilled onto the floor. This happened while her other FOUR children swung like apes from the shop fittings and ran around with bras on their heads.
Dictatorship - I stopped for a short while in the quieter 'Homeware' section of the store today to review the contents of my shopping basket. I was immediately collared by a bulky store assistant and told that I was not allowed to 'review my purchases in the store' and could only go through the contents of my basket in the designated seating area on the right. I searched the whole floor. There was no designated seating area. Was she messing with my mind or my freedom?
Poor Hygiene - In December I witnessed a woman changing her child's nappy in the store. Not such a problem, nappies need to be changed, I GET that. But she had obviously just stopped mid-purchase and changed it where she stood, which just HAPPENED to be slap bang in the middle of the walkway from Knitwear to Dresses. This forced customers to dance a figure-8 around her with their shopping, the reek of green baby shit stuck firmly in their nostrils for the rest of their shopping experience.
Violence - I once saw a woman twat another woman full on in the face for taking the only size 16-18 swirly tunic on the rack. Do I really need to say more?
Intimidation - You are only allowed to hover in front of a rack or item for a MAXIMUM of 10 seconds. If you overstay your welcome you will be tutted at, abused or even pushed out of the way so that another customer can briefly appraise and seize the vast amounts of STUFF that just cry out to be bought.
Over-crowding - At 9am on a weekday you will not need to worry about this problem. But I imagine that even Bombay has it's quiet times. From 10 until closing expect vast amounts of TRAFFIC. Don't even bother trying to cover your mouth with your hand when you sneeze, you won't be able to raise your elbow. Just let the droplets settle on a nearby garment, which already harbours the germs of the 8 MILLION or so people that file past the racks every 5 MINUTES. I suggest store bosses take inspiration from China and implement a one-child policy to keep the population down. In fact, I think they should do that for all shops. And cafes. And cinemas. Especially cinemas.
Poverty - "Toe protectors for 68p? What are they exactly? FUCK IT, I'LL HAVE THEM ANYWAY!" What can I say? Cheap produces attracts people with little or no money. I reckon you could find some of the UK's poorest people in Primark at any one time. I have even seen homeless people in there buying blankets for £2.
So you say you want to experience 'realness' and really 'get your hands dirty'? Well I say don't bother flying to Bangalore, just get yourself down to your nearest Primark and spend a few hours among the old and the pitiful.