The setting is a small grocer's shop in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster in South Yorkshire. The owner, Arkwright (Ronnie Barker), is a middle-aged miser with a stammer and a knack for selling. His nephew Granville (David Jason) is his put-upon errand boy, who blames his work schedule for his lacklustre social life.

Across the road lives Nurse Gladys Emmanuel (Lynda Baron), occupied by her professional rounds, and her elderly mother. Arkwright longs to marry Gladys, but she resists his persistent pressures. In later episodes, it is explained that the two have been engaged for many years but have been unable to go through with a wedding due to the advanced age of her mother, for whom she cares at home. Though short-tempered with Arkwright, she is concerned for his and Granville's welfare.

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