Thursday, June 19, 2008

Customer Subservience

So I walk into my local shop, take up a paper and 1/2 Litre of milk to the short queue and pay my £1 with a nod and a smile to the same guy who's stood there and taken my money every day for the past 4 years. I don't know the mans name but we know each other, I'm a good customer, he's a good shopkeeper. The papers are always nicely arranged and belong to the current day, the milk is fresh and nowhere near its due date.

One day, waiting while he checks the age of some potential minor looking to buy a bottle of MD 20/20, a man walks up to the counter (he has the same paper and milk as I do), puts 90 pence on the counter and walks away. "Hang on a second!" cries the till attendant, you forgot this! The seemingly belligerent customer returns and instead of, as I suspected, being berated for his un-british queueing conduct, is handed a fresh pack of Hubba Bubba picked from the counter display. "You forgot your free bubble gum sir, or would you prefer chewing gum? We've got some nice cherry menthol airwaves here".

The surly man grunts his approval and stuffs the pink and lime green packet into his jacket pocket before marching off to his destination.

Bemused, I wait for the aforementioned (probable student) customer to prove he's the legal age for the purchase of toxic liquids, make his purchase and leave, putting me to the front of the line.

"Hi, so is the paper on a special offer today? 10p off and a free pack of gum - I'll take that cherry menthol thanks!"

"No sir, that'll be one pound, do you want some chewing gum, that'll be one pound 49 pence."

"Ahhh no - just that and that. But the guy before last, he got the same as I did except it cost less and he got the free gum?"

"New customer, just moved into the area."


"New customer, just moved here, from up the road. To make sure he buys his milk and newspaper from here rather than his old shop I offered him ten pence off, free gum and the right to just barge in front of other customers. He just had to agree to come in here every day for a year."

"And what if he doesn't?" I ask.

"Well we told him we'd sue his ass!", he laughs "but of course we wouldn't really, not worth it in the end, you seen how much a lawyer costs these days! License to print money so it is, wish I'd listened to my mother on that one!".

So I'm pretty puzzled by now. "Hang on, he's just come to the area and gets all these offers? I didn't get any of that stuff when I started coming here!"

"Welllll… there's more local shops now… more competition… we have to do something to make sure our customers are loyal."

"But I've been loyal!, heck I've spent a pound in here every day of the week for the past four years… that's… that's like… a LOT!"

"One thousand, five hundred, and twelve pounds - thirteen if you'd like to include todays purchase".

"Well there you go! Christ! you wouldn't HAVE a shop if it wasn't for customers like me!"

He pulls out a form from under the counter: "Well if you'd just like to sign here, I can offer you the same deal."

"Ohhh no" says I "What if I loose my job? What if I have to move, or I break my leg and can't make it down here every day?"

"Well sir" he says, putting the form back under the counter, "In that case we'd have to sue your ass."

Pissed off, I left the paper and milk on the counter and walked out, empty handed for the first time in what was apparently 1512, sorry 13 days. I might have been mistaken but I'm sure I heard his voice echoing into the street "Bye! My name is Kamal, this conversation may have been recorded!"

So now I'm looking for somewhere else to buy my paper and milk. I'm thinking of just going to the library, I'll read the papers there, it's free and you know what, coffee doesn't taste too bad without milk, think I prefer it really.

That's a true story, you just need to swap "Local Shop" for "British Telecom", paper and milk for "Broadband" and let your imagination do the rest.

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