Customer Service Counter, FTBL-R-US Store. INT. Day.
A rather ruffled ARSÉNE WENGER pushes a large shopping cart packed with footballers up to the counter. He fumbles through his pockets, eventually producing a fistful of wrinkled receipts, which he places on the counter.
Welcome to FTBL-R-US, your 1-stop footballer discount store! How may I be of service to you this morning?
Actually, it's 12:03. So technically it's afternoon.
I apologize, sir. My bad! How may I be of service to you this afternoon?
Well, I have some items I need to return.
I can help you with that. I see you have the receipts. Would you be wanting a store credit or a refund?
Well, it depends what you have in stock…
Of course it does. Right now we have quite a few models on back-order. But let's deal with the returns first, OK?
Where would you like to start?
How about this one…
Wow! Is that a real SQUILLACI? They're vintage collector's items, aren't they?
I don't think so. I've been trying to sell this one for ages.
Anyway. It doesn't work. And apparently there are no new updates for it… I'd like a refund.
You're right about the updates, sir, but I'm afraid we can't take this model back – so we can't refund you.
We'd be happy to recycle it for you…
Or you can put it in that donation bin over there by the exit… All donated items are sent to our stores in third world countries, where they are freely distributed among local clubs.
This month it's Greece.
Your donation is tax-deductible…
OK. Give it to Greece. Just make sure to wipe its memory first.
Um… Sir, this model didn't come with memory…
WENGER shakes his head in disbelief. He reaches into the cart and tries to remove the ARSHAVIN.
I'll need some help with this…
Of course. I'd be happy to help.
The REP moves round to the front of the counter and helps WENGER lift the ARSHAVIN onto the counter.
And what seems to be the problem with this one? It looks happy enough…
That stupid smile is always there. I think it was broken when I bought it. That didn't bug me so much before... But now the whole thing's got … rounder… And slower. And it doesn't want to go backward anymore. Only forward. And it falls over a lot. And laughs.
OK. Let me just check something…
He looks inside the collar of the ARSHAVIN.
Ahhh. That explains it! You bought the Expanding Matryoshka Doll version. It's designed to get one size larger every season. And obviously, it becomes a little more, um, retarded as it expands.
Our salesman should have explained that to you…
He might have. But he was, I think, Russian. Not very good with English. Or French. Or Italian. Or German. Or Spanish. Or Japanese.
Come to think of it – he was a bit like this ARSHAVIN.
So can I get a refund?
No, sir. We don't issue refunds on Matryoshka models after the first year… But we can give you a store credit.
He examines the receipt.
Hmm. I see you paid full price for him… That's a pity. We can only give you 25% credit. Or if you shop online at our Russian store, we can give you 50%. We have limited stock available there, but longer shopping hours…
That's fine. I'll take the 25%.
Now, this one I've lost the receipt for. But I'm sure I bought it here…
Wenger hands over the PARK JU-YOUNG.
No, sir. I'm afraid this is a fake. It's a Korean knockoff of the GOMEZ. It's made of cheap, unreliable parts. I'm surprised you bought it in the first…
I didn't really want to buy it… I was just trying to piss off Lille because they screwed me around with the HAZARD deal. I barely had time to look at it…
Knock-off, you say..?
'Fraid so, sir. And we've been instructed to confiscate all counterfeit versions of FTBL-R-US models – so I'm going to have to take this and destroy it. I hope you understand.
The best you can do is write off what you paid as an impairment fee… Cut your losses.
OK. (He sighs.) Karma, I guess.
How about this one..? It's still under guarantee…
He lays the CHAMAKH on the counter.
It seemed to work pretty well in the beginning. Had a killer instinct. But then became more like a lamb. A licked lamb. Timid…
Also, smoke sometimes comes from its head…
And, I think it seems a little… er… fixated on my new GIROUD model. Let's just say it behaves a bit… how does one say… different?
There was a batch of recent models that exhibited some… um… quirky behaviour. The TAARABT… The GOURCUFF… They all came from the same supplier. Perhaps it's a faulty sensor. Smoke damage. Or something.
This one I can certainly give you a refund.
Yes. I have this BENDTNER model. It's very curious: when other people use it it seems to work OK. But when I try, it behaves a little bit erratically…
Also I think the inflation sensor on its ego is miscalibrated…
As well, I hate the fact that it's constantly chewing gum. Reminds me of that red-nosed, blancmange-faced gum-chewing lout at Man U…
Additionally it has more accessories than my daughter's Barbie dolls!
Apart from that, it's fantastic…
He sees that his sarcasm is lost on the REP.
I'm joking. I don't know what the Danish word is for 'reject' but I'm guessing it might be 'bendtner'…
I don't know whether to keep it or toss it.
Hmm. Well it is a good design… And if it's working for other clubs, why not just loan it out for a while? It's got great underpants… The Italians like great underpants…
I did that already. The underpants fascination wore off. They don't want him any more.
OK. I'll take it off your hands.
I can give you credit, or I can offer you a discounted direct trade for the GIROUD… It was a very popular model in France last season…
Thanks, but I have one already.
Actually – it's lovely to look at, but it's not really performing too well. I was expecting it to do better…
Hmm. That's odd. It has a fantastic record…
May I ask what you're feeding it?
Through balls. Little touch-and-go's around the edge of the box. But mainly Hail Mary's from the goalkeeper…
Ahh. Well that explains it! The GIROUD needs to be fed lots of high crosses into the box. From open play and set-pieces. It's not like the VAN PERSIE: an opportunist…
An opportunist!? Is that what you call it?
I call it a traitorous, back-stabbing motherf…
OVER-EAGER REP (interrupting)
I'm sorry, sir, but this is a family
As I was saying… The GIROUD is great in the air, and has a head like an exquisite battering ram.
The REP leans conspiratorially in towards WENGER.
Excuse me saying so, sir… But you can't expect these models to perform if they aren't being operated correctly… They're pretty simple machines really…
There is a long and awkward pause. WENGER's face shifts through a number of expressions, as if his facial features were trying to morph from Harry Redknapp's to José Mourinho's via Roberto di Matteo's.
But when I need your opinion I'll give it to you, OK?
The REP backs off. He misread this jovial, twinkle-eyed old guy. There is something bitey inside him, lurking…
The older models weren't like this at all. The HENRY… The BERGKAMP… The VIEIRA… Classic.
Why did they stop making them that way?
WENGER's eyes glaze over as he stares into the middle-distance, as if trying to conjure up the days of glory past…
Firstly, let me apologize for my insolence…
It's the parts, sir. They're made in China. By children. Out of recycled Chinese gymnasts…
There are still models made by Invincibles Inc., but they're really expensive… The only people who can afford them are sheikhs and monsters.
I mean mobsters.
There is a long pause, as Wenger continues to stare dreamily into the past.
OVER-EAGER REP (Continues)
If that's everything, sir, I can take you to our showroom to look at replacements… We have plenty of models available for exchange…
And you have a lot of unused credit.
He looks at WENGER's account balance on the computer monitor in front of him.
A very lot….
WENGER shakes his head.
I have to go. I'm getting too old for this. It's depressing just being here.
I'll come back when I have the energy. If I have the energy.
Perhaps in January… More likely next August.
He picks up his receipts. Has one last look at the returned rejects. Shakes his head, cursing quietly under his breath.
Thanks for your help. Goodbye.
Goodbye, sir. Thank you for using FTBL-R-US.
And good luck!
WENGER turns to leave, absent-mindedly still pushing the now empty cart.
He stops at the donation box by the front door. Reaches in, pulls out an OWEN, examines it vacantly, tosses it back in.
He exits. The doors glide quietly closed behind him.
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