Well, let’s sup­port the small busi­ness, not these giants of cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism which have spread like bindweed and trans­formed the myth­i­cal high-street into iden­tikit Any­where Road. So yeah, let’s stick it to The Man and sup­port the small retailer. She’s got an idio­syn­cratic col­lec­tion of stock, she’s put her have-a-go heart and soul into the design. It’s bet­ter to buy local, buy small – you get to meet the seller, she meets you, the quality’s just bet­ter and you’re help­ing her bring up her fam­ily. This is what you ought to do.

cash registers for sale by Lynne Pettinger

cash reg­is­ters by Lynne Pettinger

Though they don’t half make it hard. I’ve been look­ing in all sorts of fancy-pants shops for door han­dles, one’s that don’t even have to turn: the sim­plest of tech­nolo­gies, and fun­da­men­tal to the effec­tive­ness of a door. One shop­keeper promises to call once they’ve checked stock, but never does. One looks at me in shock, “we do not DO doorhan­dles” he booms, for­bid­dingly and indeed fore­bod­ingly for the future of his empty shop. In the next shop, she’s on the phone. The one after used to sell door han­dles but doesn’t any­more, the next might sell them in the future as quite a few peo­ple have been ask­ing. I end up on Ebay.

There’s a lit­tle more to this post than just a rant about bad cus­tomer ser­vice. It’s not insight­ful to say that to ‘sur­vive’ the reces­sion, a busi­ness must deliver on cus­tomer ser­vice, espe­cially when it is sell­ing lux­ury. It makes me sound like a cheap con­sul­tant. Why the fail­ure to serve then, in a month where fear of busi­ness fail­ure must be present in all these traders minds? Well, to some extent its about class; there’s a dif­fi­culty in deliv­er­ing ser­vice when you’re the boss and when cus­tomer ser­vice is coded as low sta­tus. It is also about the greater demands for emo­tional labour pro­duced by the reces­sion: pretty pink presents for women don’t sell them­selves in a reces­sion; this makes it hard for ephemera shops to sur­vive. And for the shop­keeper to put on a friendly face now involves for­get­ting cred­i­tors press­ing, it demands not think­ing about the newly empty shop next door, not read­ing news­pa­per advice columns telling cus­tomers how to cut back spend­ing by not buy­ing the very things your shop sells. It’s harder emo­tional labour. And if you never needed cus­tomer ser­vice skills pre-recession, you’ve a whole lot more to learn now even as you’ve a lot more to for­get about. So if a small trader in a frip­peries shop tries to smile at you; be nice back – it’s harder for her than you imagine.