Friday, 5 August 2011

Taxing shoppers for shopping online

is one of the latest ideas for trying to "save the retail industry". It may work but it may not too.
I am old enough to be able to remember shopping without the convenience of the internet. I am also old enough to be able to remember another sort of shopping as well. It was called "being served".
You went into the shop and someone asked you, usually very politely, what you wanted. Actually I think they asked the adult with me. I was very small at the time.
I wonder about this now. The person I would be shopping with was my paternal grandmother. She would do most of her household shopping in "Jetty Road" which was within walking distance of her home.
There was a butcher, a baker, a greengrocer, a bank and a dairy. There was also, at the far end, a fish and chip shop and the hotel on the sea front. At the other end there was a church and, across the way, the doctor's surgery. It was all very civilised.
Everyone knew my grandmother. The butcher would allow her to inspect the meat before she bought it. As a farm girl she knew what she was looking at and he knew that. I heard him advise her, "I would not recommend that today."
The greengrocer would take a list and "the boy" would deliver later. Peas came in their pods.
The bakery did not sell the huge variety they do now but they baked on the premises. Most of the bread was white and you could have "sandwich" which was square or "high top" which had risen to a more natural shape. My grandmother would buy "granary" and the baker would have a loaf set aside for her.
The general grocery store was next door to my grandparents' home. My grandmother would provide a list and "Hazel" the assistant or "the boy" would bring the order to the back door - never the front door.
Further down the road there was a drapery store which sold some clothing. You could still buy men's shirts with detachable collars there. It sold fabric, haberdashery, manchester and a small quantity of crockery. (It was the shop where my grandfather would buy new "cup, saucer and plate" sets when he broke the handle on the cup of my grandmother's "breakfast in bed" teacup.)
You had to go further afield for shoes or other clothing but everywhere you went you were "served" by someone. They would know the stock. My grandmother commanded great respect so she would often be served by the most senior person available. Nevertheless everyone was served.
Now you have to help yourself. It is often hard to find anyone to answer a question. The variety has grown in some ways but reduced in others. The "Jetty Road" shops are no longer there. You need to travel some distance to a supermarket where, while you can find most things, the greengroceries are not particularly fresh and often come from another country. You need not say anything to anyone except the check out person - and soon that will come to an end with the new self-service checkouts.
Is it any wonder people shop on line? It gets delivered to the door and you might be lucky enough to have a friendly delivery person who actually says "Hello".


Rachel Fenton said...

But I like not being "harrassed" when I'm shopping, Cat! I like to have the option to ask for help, and usually a chirpy yet insistent offer to assist is all it takes to make me forget what I was in theat particular store for in the first place! But yes, bring back politeness, and stores which are easy to navigate with wheels of any kind will always be a hit with me.

Miriam Drori said...

I remember Harry the milkman, whose cart was pulled by a horse. I remember the dairy on the corner, where my mother often sent me to buy things, and the nice, friendly lady who served me there. Times change, some for better, some for worse.

JO said...

Oh yes, I remember those shops. And I wouldn't go back - the service was wonderful, but everything was so heavy! My mother would send me to the shops most days (about a mile away) - partly to get me out from under her feet, I suspect, but also because it was too far to lug more than one day's worth of food.

And now - yes, I have the best of both worlds. Supermarket to shop on line for the tedious stuff, and a wonderful local market where I can still sift through the apples to find the sweetest, with a tradesman who calls me darling. (If anyone else did that I'd probably have a hissy fit, but it sounds just fine at the market!)

Anonymous said...


Sometimes a little bit of service would be so nice! It would seem that the majority of the shops in my area have never even thought about offering any service!

Judy B