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Shopping in Britain: Where the Customer is Never Right
How to grow old and wrinkled Fast!
The British Don't Take Well to Service
One of the nastiest thing that can happen to you in most British shops is a salesperson slinking up to you undetected and asking if you need any help. In the US, when I lived there, such cooperation by those whose wages, indirectly, you were paying, was a given. "Good morning, sir, how are you today, can we help you with anything?" The day was suffused with a rosy hue as you felt as if the whole staff of J.C. Penney was actually listening and enquiring as to your welfare.
But, brother, not the British. We must be the people least suited to service in the world if not the Universe. Which is why it is so unpleasant here actually having one of these shelf-stackers, money-takers and take-a-break fag-puffers actually offer to help...it's so unexpected it scares the bejaysus out of you! "No...I'mmm fine," you stammer, "Just looking...just filling the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run, you know, hahahaha" They give you that pitying yet PC look reserved for small, yelling kids and the doddering old, which seem to be most of those shopping these days. The one spending the social children's allowance and the other, the OAP.
I can't remember if it was always like this or Britain, having adopted the US model of huge department stores and the like, thought the merchandise deserved no more attention by staff from the factory to the cash point. And, by Christo, try and catch one as it flits around the display shelves and aisles coming and going from its fag break. If, by a dint of athleticism and cunning, you do manage to corner one, it changes immediately into a real salesperson before your eyes. "Can I help you," it mouths prettily. And then, "Oh, that's Elsie's section, hang on a minute..." and it's gone forever, perhaps tracking Elsie down just as she's off for her fag break.
And while we're on the subject, what do you think of the smoking ban for staff in shops? I never saw them smoking before, did you? They had there own tea room where they could go and light up. Now, they are clustered in every niche and doorway all down the High Street. It's like running the gauntlet in the final minutes of some huge fire! There are so many dog ends on the street, you could make a good living collecting them every half hour or so and rolling some for sale. Those trying to quit and those who get easy satisfaction for their tobacco jones leave half a fag or more. And the price of smoking these days! With every pack telling them they are about to die! Why on earth do they do it?
What got me on this subject today is something that also pisses me off big time. That's these shops and stores which put a limit - varying from £5 to about£10 - which you have to spend before you can pay with your debit or credit card.
I parted company with my favourite charity book shop today over this mindless nonsense.
I found two books I wanted (one was the latest Lehane), handed them over with my Nationwide debit card as usual only to be told I "hadn't spent enough for Mr bearded, metal studded hipster to accept it."
I asked him why: I had always used my debit card here in the past 3 years.
"S'rules," he indicated a sign on the wall that indeed stated this. "We 'ave to pay 'em, see?"
I said, "But you are a charity shop, you get given everything free, why should you care if you have to pay a small commission?"
"You wanna keep the books aside or put 'em back," he asked me.
"You can shove the bloomin books," I said, storming off, "and you've just lost a good customer with this stupid crap!" I can storm off or cut off my own nose to spite my face for England!
But how inane is that! What has happened to the customer is always right?
I mean, I don't like it, but I am more sympathetic if a retail shop asks for a reasonable minimum. And, after all, how can you spend less that a tenner in Debenhams's, for example. But they do it everywhere in Blighty: coffee shops and pubs, I mean, come on! How much profit is there in coffee - 300%? It's just the mean minded greed that permeates every facet of life here. All the way to the criminal 20% VAT we now suffer with under this government. We used to complain when it was 3%! I suggest you refuse to give’em your business; we can form a club of folks without noses.
Finally. Do you know that British councils are actually evicting whole families from council housing if one of the kids was involved in the riots and looting; even if he or she has not been found guilty yet! They are really doing this. It’s getting to be as if we are living in Russia of many years ago. Where are these poor parents - completely innocent themselves - going to live?
It stinks and I detest Cameron and his privileged gang for doing it, instead of apportioning the blame where it truly lies, at the door of number 10 Downing Street,