In days gone by people had one day off a week. Sunday was for Church, and for rest, and the remaining six days were (supposed to be) spend industriously. Business owners worked hard, to build up their client base, to encourage regulars and newcomers alike to purchase their wares. A shop was a huge commitment, taken seriously. A business, run well, could provide for a family for generations, and proprietors were very sensible of the fact. I have witnessed, firsthand, this level of common sense and responsibility. My mum's craft supplies shop was beautiful. She opened on time - or early - every single morning, six days a week. She turned up for work in the rain, shine, snow. She stayed open late if a customer arrived five minutes before closing time. She welcomed everyone with open arms, and she was a natural businesswoman, but that quality was matched with an easy and open manner that customers warmed to.
Okay, so the business did not work out. But my mum could not have done more to make it successful - businesses are closing at a staggering rate in our town, just as in every other at the moment. My favourite bookshop, Waterstones, is to lose twenty stores across the UK this year. Sometimes outside economic forces are just too strong.
Which is why I am incensed - incensed, I tell you! - when I pop into town after taking the boys to school, and find that the shops I need to go to are closed. Incensed. What can be their possible reason for not being open by a quarter past nine in the morning? I can only assume, as a willing customer, that the shop owner is lazy and lacking in commitment. Perhaps they imagine that getting up an hour early is not worth their while, that to open at 10a.m. is perfectly acceptable since they barely see any custom before that hour. Well, I am a customer, and I choose to shop early in the day - but if your shop is closed, you have lost a sale. To borrow an American phrase, go figure! And very often I will rather go without the item that I wanted to purchase from said lazy shopowner's establishment, choosing instead to go home cross and empty handed.
Another thing that I find infuriating is when I am standing outside a shop, trying to work out whether or not it is open, and an employee opens the door and comes out on a coffee run. They close the door behind themselves, and say to me, without apology, that 'we're not open yet' (that is if they deign to speak to me at all: very often they do not). What kind of society are we living in that the customer comes last, after a nice lie-in, after coffee, and quite often after a cheeky social network update on the laptop hidden under the counter?
All I ask is for a shop to be open at 9a.m., six days a week. I ask that I am greeted with a smile, and possibly a friendly 'hello' if that can be managed. I ask that I am made to feel appreciated and important. I ask that I not be made to feel like a nuisance and an interruption. And I ask for thanks, for making my purchase and for parting with my hard earned money. Am I asking too much? I think not. Respect is essentially all I ask.