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Can you remember the last toy you ever bought?

We do. Here at the St. Abattoir, London's largest toy store, your childhood is our business. We think of ourselves not as merely customer service representatives but as consumer psychologists—-predicting the next toy-wunder. If you’re in a “gift sized fix” and in need of the latest razzler dazzler—-you call us. We want you to buy. Preferably now, but if not now, there’s a wonderful savings plan we will tailor to your needs. And we promise, that here at the St. Abattoir, during every phone call you’re guaranteed to hear: “Hi there, my name is Charlie King. Thank you for calling, and how may I help you?”

Thank you for any feedback, I hope this adheres to the community guidelines. If not, please let me know.

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...the toy store is named "abbatoir"? I don't think anything could induce me to purchase children's toys from F.A.O. Slaughterhouse. (Unless this is from a comedy-horror story.) –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 26 '11 at 11:41
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Thank you for your rather astute comment Lauren. It is a rather curious name isn't it? ;-) –  user2325 Jul 26 '11 at 13:33
    
If it's on purpose as a "Modest Proposal" kind of wink, it's perfect. :) –  Lauren Ipsum Jul 26 '11 at 15:28
    
FYI, this is an older question. It's been bumped by the system because it's been retagged, as per this. –  Neil Fein Jun 3 '12 at 21:12
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migrated from meta.writers.stackexchange.com Jul 26 '11 at 3:43

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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are two hooks here I find compelling:

  • The first two lines give this great, "Why, of course we remember every toy you've ever played with, Sir" vibe - it's like a toy store crossed with Wodehouse's Jeeves. That's both unusual and kinda creepy. The concept of a huge organization cataloging everybody's childhood in minute detail is bizarre and fantastical, and has this great "formality/whimsey" tension I really like.
  • The paragraph ends with a very odd boast - for some reason, it's important that all the receptionists introduce themselves as "Charles King." That's just weird, and obviously has a story behind it. My immediate thoughts are that this might be some kind of publicity thing, based on some kind of personality-based promotion - or, if this is in a science-fiction context, that there's some kind of cloning or personality duplication going on. All of these interest me.

So that's a great start :) But the middle hits what I'd consider a false note - the "consumer psychologists" lines. My instinct is that this mars the fantastical image I had from the first two lines - it seems to reduce a delightful impossibility to mere contemporary market research. The "gift size fix" and "razzler dazzler" phrases also don't fit with the proper, dignified facade I was imagining (perhaps entirely erroneously, of course).

I'd definitely read further, because this opening has at least the potential to lead to some things I'd consider a lot of fun. But the points I'd mentioned would have me worried I might be disappointed. At the very least, I'd read long enough to understand which of my interpretations are correct. I might read the whole thing even if they aren't, but I'd feel disappointed.

Best of luck :)

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Thank you for your feedback Standback. You definitely gave me some great twists in the story I can take. The contest didn't have a specific genre--free reign, really.It's the Sean O'Faolain Competition. The title is Thank You for Calling, How May I Help You? Charlie King is the main character, but your feedback has been substantial in this draft phase. The telesalesman who work at the St. Abbatoir do know quite a lot about toys. –  user2325 Jul 26 '11 at 13:52
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I like "We want you to buy. Preferably now, but if not now, there’s a wonderful savings plan we will tailor to your needs." It's perfect. You're honest, and willing to work with customers. I also agree with Standback about the oddness of the last line.

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The name of the toy store would keep me reading for a bit longer.

I had trouble with the "ever" in the first line. The last toy I ever bought as a child, for myself? The last toy I ever bought as an adult, because I didn't know any children to buy toys for?

This line: If you’re in a “gift sized fix” and in need of the latest razzler dazzler—-you call us. seems unnecessary, and I agree with Standback that it doesn't quite fit the tone.

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I agree about the oddness of "ever" in the first line. Either Can you remember the last toy you ever bought? or Can you remember the last toy you ever bought? would sound more natural to me. –  Mark Beadles Jan 31 '12 at 18:38
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