When I first heard about SOPX – the Stationery and Office Products Show, I was very excited. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was very excited.

The show is for people in the trade only, as this sign makes clear:

Fortunately, I don’t think they were really expecting anyone to attempt to cheat their way into the show, so they didn’t really check very thoroughly. I filled out the registration form:

Title: MR
Name: JAMES WARD
Job Title: EVENTS ORGANISER
Company: STATIONERY CLUB

When I arrived, I gave my registration number and they handed me a badge:

I didn’t really know what I was expecting. I think I was hoping there would be some sort of exciting product launch. A man on stage saying “Introducing, a revolution in ballpoint technology” and unveiling a new type of pen in a special glass case to an awed audience. A moment of silence followed by rapturous applause. Perhaps there would be some sort of laser light show. Paperclip shaped confetti raining down on the delighted crowd. Women in bikinis handing out highlighter pens. People in giant pencil costumes.

There wasn’t anything like that.

It was almost completely silent. Middle-aged men wandered around and quietly spoke to other middle-aged men about how if they agreed to feature their display stand prominently in store, they could get a discount from the wholesale price listed in the catalogue.

I headed over to the Stabilo stand. I was pleased to see my old friend, the Bionic Worker, on display.

The man from the Stabilo stand came over to me. I asked if he had a catalogue I could take away with me. “Do you know, this is my very last one. Give me your address and I’ll get one sent out to you”. I wrote down my address. “So are you from a shop or…?” I told him I ran a website. This seemed to satisfy him and he started talking to someone else. For all I know, he probably tore my address in half and threw it in the bin as soon as my back was turned.

I considered going to the SOPX debate.

It was only 2.30pm. I would have had to hang around for another hour. I doubted the debate would have been as passionate as the one at the last Stationery Club, so decided to give it a miss.

I wandered around a bit more. Collected a couple of catalogues from different stands and left. I didn’t belong here.

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