When I was a kid in the 1960s you could get anything and everything from your local shops, in our case a 20-minute walk away through Yorkshire suburbia. Nothing ever changed. There was Mr Blight the chemist and Mrs Dews who ran the post office plus umpteen other shop owners who were on first-name terms with my mum. Back home there was Mr Robinson who delivered fruit and veg on Friday evenings, Ben the milkman, ‘the whistling postman’, the Corona fizzy drinks man and the regular bakery van. On top of this was Willy, the small, thin man with learning difficulties, who delivered stuff for the local shops on his bicycle. Plus, we lived opposite Mr and Mrs Dunbar who ran the local newspaper shop and Mr and Mrs Plummer who owned the carpet store. Shopping was very much a social experience for my mum. The store owners couldn’t do enough to be friendly and helpful.
These days you’re lucky if you recognise a familiar face on the checkout in the local supermarket, let alone be on first name terms and – with a queue of strangers building up behind you – have time to stop for a chat.
But there are still echoes of the service-with-a-smile of yesteryear. For example earlier in the week I ordered some self-adhesive carpet protector film to protect our new stair carpet from the cat’s claws.
Impressed by the good reviews on their website and the fact that they obviously read them and responded, I ordered it from a firm in Lancashire: R & J Builders Hardware.
The next day it was delivered, not by some anonymous carrier but by a liveried van from the firm itself. As I opened the door, the smiling delivery man said “I’ve got some carpet protector film for you!” rather than simply handing me a parcel. And he stopped to chat about the beautiful weather. I pointed out the delivery van and remarked how impressed I was that the store made its own deliveries.
This friendly, personal experience left me with a smile on my face which brought back fond memories of childhood shopping-with-mother.
It also made me kind of sad realising that, these days, to be served in this first-rate way is the exception rather than the rule. It surprised me enough to blog about it here.
No doubt I will be using this firm again.