One dung Beetle
This story is based on an interesting premise: a retail store that will acquire anything a customer desires. Unfortunately, beyond that concept, there’s nothing worth reading. The story is also another example of a “sci-fi” story without any “sci” in it.
There are some sentences that seem odd if you’re not British; are you familiar with the verb “to donkey stone”? When is the last time you insulted someone by calling them a “peasant”?
The first problem with the story is that the things the customers want are just dumb. The author obviously thinks these things are funny, but they aren’t. (I know British people have a different sense of humor, but I watched Monty Python when I was younger, and I think I’d be amused if the story were actually funny.) One customer wants a candelabra because his light bulb has burned out; another wants a hygrometer because he thinks humidity is contributing to his wife’s bad breath. The idea of an “anything store” could have worked if there had been interesting stories about why the customers needed things, or if there’d been interesting stories about acquiring those things, but both are missing here.
There is also a strange sub-plot: every customer ends up purchasing the previous customer’s requested item, and not returning for his own item. I have no idea why this might be considered interesting or significant.
The ending is just complete nonsense. Two characters get into a recursive conversation, repeating the same sentences back to each other; it’s like an even less funny version of “who’s on first”. This conversation causes a “black whole” (I’m not sure if that’s a mistake or intentional) to form on the site of the store. I don’t understand why two people who are smart enough to speak a language couldn’t just stop themselves if they were caught in a recursive situation; I also don’t know of any astronomical theory which indicates their failure to do so would cause a black hole to form. The story’s black hole/whole does not expand or pull anything in, and the police block off the area.
The author says that his original idea for ending the story was just to repeat the same two lines of conversation for hundreds of pages. I suppose the ending he chose was a slight improvement.