antulpo t1_iu8fj32 wrote

What happens when you have a bored billionaire, who has an unhealthy interest in gameshows, with a penchant for being an utter troll, and has too much spare time on his hands? You get the Inconvenience Store. From the day it opened its doors (assuming you could even find the doors in the first place), the challenge was simple: buy an item, and win a cool million dollars.

Sure, it was fun for the first year it opened. It attracted a good share of puzzle solving enthusiasts and the occasional unfortunate tourist. I had my share of attempts too, making it further and further through the maze of inconveniences, but each time, I had to bow out, and drop my items before exiting at the infuriatingly accessible doors marked "EXIT". There was no point stealing the merchandise either. It was all worthless junk, inconveniently packaged to be bulky and difficult to carry. There were no trolleys, carts, baskets or any of that either. But this year, I had a plan. And, I came prepared. Ten years had since elapsed, and this was probably my four hundred and fourth attempt overall.

First, the entrance to the store. It changed every day, and it was typically located on the second floor. You needed to climb dumpsters and other debris outside to even reach the door. Or you could come with a ladder. Carrying my pack of carefully prepared items, I opened the door and stepped into the store, leaving the ladder behind.

The next part of the challenge was simply to find an item to buy. Because, there were empty shelves everywhere, the items all "sold out". Misleading signs hung from the ceiling, and you couldn't look down through aisles (as there weren't any). The shelves were arranged in a maze-like manner, and the floor was wet with spilled... milk. Hopefully. But I had faced these challenges before, and I was prepared. I had identified a blind spot away from all the security cameras, and clambered up a shelf, looking for inconvenient items to buy. Each time was different. This time, it was an entire shelf of bulky, heavy driftwood.

Moving through the shelf maze to the merchandise, I took note of all the money I had. I could only carry so much into the store, and I couldn't just buy anything at my convenience. True enough, when I reached the shelves of driftwood, various price tags were plastered over the pieces of wood. Things like:




There was no time to think nor calculate precisely. I grabbed a piece of long, bulky driftwood from the shelf... for around fifty pounds? It definitely weighed more than fifty pounds, though, and for that, I had come prepared with a foldable luggage cart in my pack. Securing the driftwood to the cart, I began looking for the cashier counter.

Again, signs everywhere on the walls, the shelves, the ceiling: "SCAN QR CODE TO GET LOCATION OF CASHIER COUNTER". Most of the QR codes were just rickrolls. I had learnt to recognise the typical rickroll-looking QR code, and thankfully, there were adequate signs with legitimate locations in the Inconvenience Store. The trouble is, most of the counters would be closed, and there was no way to figure this out beforehand. I walked through the maze of shelves, my notebook in hand, checking off the counter locations, munching on an energy bar for lunch, pushing the trolley of driftwood.

Finally, I arrived at an open counter, slightly after 3PM. There was a sign.


I must have waited for another hour, but better to wait, than to take my chances with another potentially closed counter. My patience paid off, as a uniformed lady appeared. Her nametag: "Karen". To date, I had only made it this far a handful of times, and the nametag was always the same, though I had met three different ladies and one guy. All named "Karen".

"Sir, that would be a total of seventy-six pounds ninety-two. How would you like to pay, in Surinamese dollars, or Kazakhstani tenge? Also, we don't have spare change, so exact change will be required..."

Yes! Kazakhstani tenge! I came prepared! "I'll pay in tenge please," I replied, sounding a little more smug than usual.

"Alright sir, after conversion costs, that would be forty-one thousand, six hundred and sixty seven tenge, eighty-seven tiyin".

I opened my bag, stuffed full of world currencies, in various denominations, including coins, valuing up to perhaps a hundred dollars in each currency. I knew I had this. It took me several minutes to count out the cash and hand it to the cashier. I'd never gotten this far before.

What I did not expect, is for the cashier to painstakingly inspect every note and coin I gave her, occasionally giving me the stink-eye as she did. I checked my watch. Time was running out. The store would soon close. Surely this couldn't be a deliberate delay tactic to end my attempt? The nervousness must have shown on my face, as "Karen" seemed to be working slower, enjoying my discomfort. But eventually, she finished the count!

"Alright, do you want a bag for your driftwood?" she asked, after closing the cash register.

"No thanks!" I replied hastily, grabbing the piece of driftwood I bought, hurriedly making my way past the cashier. I had done it! I had bought something from the Inconvenience Store! I wondered what would be next?

"Sir, please pick up your prize money, for successfully buying an item from our store!" the cashier's voice quickly snaps me back to the task at hand. She gestures at the million-dollar cheque, near the exit door. Except, the cheque is made of rigid metal, and is easily around eight feet tall and twenty feet long. The exit door looks like it belongs to a dollhouse in comparison. If I tilt this diagonally I might have a chance..... But then, a familiar chime sounds.

"The Inconvenience Store is now closed. We do not apologise for any inconvenience caused." I am quickly ushered outdoors, without a chance to do anything more than protest.

At least, I got a nice piece of driftwood for my effort.