"I don't like to have to say this to you, lads," Mr Sissons said to the three women who worked for him at his scissor-sharpening stall on Bolton market, "but you've probably noticed that business has been a little slack recently. We live in an age when people just don't seem to need their scissors sharpened as much as they used to. I don't know why, I think it's something to do with the internet. And it doesn't help that those other two scissor-sharpening stalls opened up on either side of ours and started charging less than a quarter of what we charge for the same service. But the long and short of it is that we've only had one customer in the last eight years, and she only came here to ask if we'd seen her lost dog."
"What are you getting at, Mr Sissons?" asked Valerie.
"Well, I'm afraid that I simply can't afford to employ three full-time staff any more. Unless you can think of a better alternative, I shall have to sell the lot of you into slavery in order to pay the rent on the stall for another week."
Roberta, who had an NVQ in business administration, suggested "Perhaps we could diversify the business? Start selling scissors as well as sharpening them?"
"No, no, that wouldn't work at all," Mr Sissons said with a shake of the head. "I have a terrible fear of scissors, and while I can just about tolerate having them in close proximity to me for as long as it takes to sharpen them, I couldn't bear to have a stock of them on this market stall. It would drive me out of my mind!" He shuddered at the very thought.
"Maybe you could admit to that woman that you stole her dog, and you've still got it at your house now?" Dolores said. "She might pay a reward, and to be honest I've always been a little concerned about your habit of stealing people's pets. I think it might be illegal."
"Nonsense," said Mr Sissons with an impatient wave of the hand. "If people can't protect their pets from thieves, they don't deserve to own them. Likewise with televisions and jewellery. No, there's nothing else for it, the slave trader will be here in five minutes, put these manacles on and try to look like hard workers."
Just then, a man came up to the counter and asked "I say, do you sharpen scissors, by any chance? I have a rare pair of diamond-encrusted gold scissors which, being made of gold and thus hugely inferior to ordinary steel ones, need frequent sharpening. I'll pay a thousand pounds a week for you to keep them sharp."
"Eh? What? Scissors? No, we don't sharpen scissors," Mr Sissons said, distractedly. "No, wait! Yes, we do sharpen scissors! I got confused there for a moment..."
But the man had already left, with a disappointed look on his face. "Blast," Mr Sissons said. "I just don't understand why my business isn't more successful. It's the internet, I'm sure of it."