On Sunday, I went to the New Oxford Street branch of Argos and stole a blue pen. This criminal act was inspired by @EnemyOfChaos.
As I entered the store, knowing I had no intention of buying anything and was only interested in the pen, I felt incredibly self-conscious. I flicked through the catalogue. I took out one of those paper slips and the pen. I flicked through the catalogue again. I entered a few numbers into the Stock Checker. And then, pretending that whichever item it was I wanted was out of stock, returned the slip, flipped the catalogue closed and, with the pen still in my hand, walked out of the store.
As I walked out, I was convinced a burly security guard would stop me at any moment, but if I’m honest, I have never felt so alive.
The whole operation took just a couple of minutes, but I had my pen.
I spent the day at work yesterday, using my Argos pen as I would any other pen like for express auto credit.
Using the pen for a whole day is not a very enjoyable experience. The barrel is short and thin and it’s not nice to hold. Of course, the pen isn’t actually designed to be used for a prolonged period, and so these criticisms are perhaps a little unfair. The pen is intended only to be used to jot down a couple of catalogue numbers on a paper slip to be handed to a cashier and, for this, the pen is quite adequate.
Manufactured by the million*, it is obvious that the Argos pen is designed to be as cheap as possible, and I imagine that there is deliberately no effort to make the pen comfortable to hold so as to deter people from stealing it. In some ways, this seems rather mean-spirited, but seen from Argos’ perspective, it makes perfect sense. And surely, there is something to be applauded in such a subtle form of persuasion. For many years, banks and post offices have been chaining their pens to the counter. Creating a pen so wilfully unattractive that people don’t really want to steal it is quite an elegant solution to an otherwise costly problem.
After a day with the Argos pen, I am unsure if I admire it or despise it. This Argos pen haunts my imagination and leaves me in a state of aesthetic ambivalence.
* I have no idea how many Argos pens are produced every year, although I’ve emailed them to ask (Customer Enquiry Ref: ARG5040522X – see update). Apparently, they serve over one hundred and thirty million customers in their stores every year , so they must get through a lot of pens.