the forum

28 August, 2008

To respond to the unanswered questions below, or to ask a reader's advice, simply e mail:


Q I want to buy a parrot and keep it in the shop. Is there any hope of me training it to say things like "Château Lafite" or "Parker gave it 96"?

A There certainly is - buy a young parrot and reward it with little treats when it mimics you. Hold it directly in front of you when you say the words you want it to learn, and don't let training sessions drift on for longer than 10 minutes or so.

June, Haywards Heath

A It's probably more appropriate to train it to say "have you got ID?", "we don't sell white cider", or "we don't accept debit cards for under £5". They're the phrases I find myself repeating every day ... no doubt a trained bird could do the job as well as me.

Steve, Barnes

Q If I send unsolicited bottles of cheap wine to various celebrities, am I legally allowed to put pictures of them on my wall and claim they are my customers?

A If you're using the image of ­someone to endorse a particular product or establishment without their consent, there are various examples of legal cases which prove that this practice is actionable. You would need to take into account how likely it was that the celebrities concerned would actually get to hear about these pictures - and how much time they had on their hands to complain about it. But even if the personalities did not cause you problems, you're still effectively misleading your customers, so your plan seems both ­morally and legally suspect.

Robert, London

A There's nothing wrong with asking a bona fide celebrity customer to sign a photo for you to frame and put on your wall, but your proposal is just dishonest.

KI, Dundee

Q I'm considering abandoning my temperamental electronic till and investing in a really old cash register. Am I being too sentimental?

Tony, Leeds

Q Anyone want to join the advocaat revival?

Francesca, Harrogate

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I were to sum up alcohol sales over Christmas 2017 in one word, it would be “gin”. At Nielsen, we define the Christmas period as the 12 weeks to December 30 and in that time gin sales were £199.4 million, which means they increased by £55.4 million compared with Christmas 2016. There’s no sign the bubble is about to burst either. Growth at Christmas 2016 was £22.4 million, so gin has increased its value growth nearly two-and-a-half times in a year. The spirit added more value to
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