the forum

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

Q When I'm single-handedly running the shop and need a toilet break, is it OK to ask a trusted customer to guard the till in my absence or does this transgress licensing law? I would not expect the customer to deal with any sales.

A I'm not sure about transgressing any laws, but how are you going to react if a Trading Standards hit squad wanders in, or an armed robber, or a shoplifter? The best advice is to close the shop for a couple of minutes. Don't ask a member of the public to take responsibility for your livelihood and your reputation.

James, Chorley

A I have done this a couple of times but it invariably coincides with the arrival of an awkward customer or some troublemakers. Now I simply close the shop and customers don't seem to mind.

FG, Harrow

Q One of my customers tends to lurk in the shop for ages. We have started timing him and the longest "visit" we have recorded is 36 minutes and eight seconds. Can anyone beat that?

A I understand your problem, unfortunately. I have three customers who each come in alone and can spend up to three hours in the shop. I've even had the pleasure of them all visiting in one day, one by one.

Laura, by e-mail

A We have a regular customer that comes into our shop who once stayed for an hour. 

Nicola, Somerset

Q I seem to have over-ordered on the rosé wine - does anyone know if you can mull it? Yes, I am desperate for a marketing hook for unsold stock!

Claire, Tunbridge Wells

Q If I refuse to sell the bland, mass-produced ciders that dominate the market and only offer authentic, decent-tasting stuff from the best producers in England and France, will my sales and/or profitability increase or will I be cutting off my nose to spite my face?

Harry, Northants