the forum
Published:  30 May, 2008

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


Q Is a sign saying "sorry, closed while I have a toilet break" really less professional than "back in five minutes"? I only ask as I've been told to remove mine .

A Is it really necessary to advertise your bodily excretions to the public? Surely you can come up with a sign that's a little less graphic?

Wendy, Hounslow

A The alternative would seem to be keeping an empty 2-litre bottle of Frosty Jack's under the counter ...

Dave, Coventry

Q I've been roped into giving a tutored tasting for the local Rotary Club and they want me to give a talk about wine. I'm terrified of public speaking. How can I get through this without looking like an†idiot or having a panic attack?

A As someone who works in retail, you're already a "performer" of sorts. Just remember that the people in the room are interested in what you have to say and don't really care if you're not

slick and polished. Just be yourself and if you get tongue-tied, laugh it off. In my experience of these events, everyone in the room is pretty self-conscious anyway because they're terrified you are going to ask them to describe the wine .

Frank, Surrey

A Keep your talk informal and spontaneous, but make some cue cards reminding you of the key points you want to cover and then practise, practise, practise. Don't try to write down everything you want to say because you'll just end up reading. The more you're comfortable with the message you want to convey, the more engaging your talk will be - and you may even enjoy it .

Mary, Cumbria

Q I'm building up quite a collection of old corks. What's the best, and†most environmentally friendly, use for them?

Gary, Portsmouth

Q Instead of hiding spirits bottles away behind the counter, wouldn't it be better to put empty gift packs on the shelves so customers can browse? Has anyone tried?

Michael, Cambridge

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Is blended Scotch overshadowed by single malt in retailers?

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