A tale of two vendors

Posted on March 15, 2012

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Supermarket giant Tesco’s is to create 20,000 jobs in the UK, as part of a  two-year drive to improve services and open new shops. While this may seem like good news for the unemployed youth of our wilting island, the relentless growth of these corporate chain stores always spells trouble for locally-owned retailers.

Such was the story for Tony Vincent, who recently had to close his Manchester-based stationary shop after a Sainsbury’s supermarket opened up across the road. As one of the last independent shops in the area, it’s closure marks a sad indictment of current shopping trends.

The arguments for supporting your local grocers over your local supermarket, or any independent business over a chain for that matter, are many. Sustaining local character and prosperity, community well-being, protecting the environment, encouraging product diversity…I could go on forever.

But not so long ago something happened to me that, in the space of twenty little minutes, clarified why local vendors will always spank the corporate, soulless, flabby backsides of big chain stores.

My story begins in a well known high street chemist, and with a crisp ten pound note. After making my purchase and skipping gleefully to the nearby food market to eat my body mass in freshly made spaghetti carbonara, I hit a road block. I didn’t have enough change to pay for my £3.50 portion. How could this be?

As the realisation – that the chemist must have given me change for £5, rather than £10 – dawned, I resigned myself to a pasta-free lunch break. It was devastating. That is until the lovely Italian man behind the stall snorted with laughter at my doleful face, insisted I just pay him tomorrow, and sent me on my way with a steaming polystyrene box of tagliatelle goodness.

Of course I did return the next day to pay my debt, and I also bought more lunch – proof that basic kindness and placing trust in your customers aren’t just good tenets for better social cohesion, they make good business sense too.

Sadly I didn’t have such luck with the high street chemist. My request for the shop to check their tills at the end of the day, as I thought I had been short-changed, was met with hostility and reluctance. I never got any money back, nor the faintest glimmer of a smile or a shred of politeness from anyone that I spoke to.

Whether or not I was in the right here, or having a senior moment, remains to be seen. What I do know for sure is that the polarised attitudes I dealt with that day are what now remind me, every day, to shop locally, support the smaller, more colourful businesses and keep some semblance of community spirit alive.

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Posted in: Society