Something very bizzare happened to me the other day. I went into a shop in a Barrow-in-Furness to buy some curtain clips and the conversation went like this:
Ben: do you have any of those clips that you hook onto curtain hooks and clip onto a piece of cloth?
Shop lady: no, sorry, we don’t
Ben: ok, thanks
Ben (thinks): What? Why’s she still talking to me? She doesn’t have what I want – I’m outta here…
Shop lady:… You could try James’s Hardware opposite, or Johnstons in the High Street. Or Joan in the market.
At the risk of chanelling my grandmother, it’s been years since I’ve had that sort of conversation without prompting, the sort where someone in a shop engages with your problem and tries to help you solve it, just because you are both human. So long that I’ve given up prompting it.
Earlier in the autumn I was getting prints of some wedding photographs from the photographer in Orkney and the conversation went like this:
Ben: I dropped by the website on Saturday and asked for some framed prints; I left my number but I’d not heard from you…?
Ken: Yes, we’re just framing them now.
Ben: Oh, er, that’s great. What about payment? I’ve got my card…
Ken: Don’t worry about that. We’ll get them in the post tonight and put an invoice in with them.
It’s got to be 10 years at least since someone offering their services online has done that for me, rather than demanding money up front.
- Is it that chains and franchises dehumanise the people who work for them while driving out the small traders like the curtain shop in Barrow and Orkney Photographic?
- Is it that encroaching urbanisation is speeding up the way of life in and destroying good manners in our county and market towns?
- Is it that web-based transactions are mechanising and anonymising how we buy things, and having a normative effect on how we behave when dealing with others?
- Is it that I am indeed turning into my grandmother?
- Is it all of the above?