Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday 7 September 2011

The disservice sector

Faced with a recalcitrant mobile phone last week, I set off for the company's local shop - one of five phone shops in a single shopping centre. All the assistants were already occupied with customers so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The assistants - all three of them - eyes fixed on their computer screens, resisted all attempts to make eye contact; the customers fiddled silently with the mobiles they were buying or had brought in for repair. Nobody said a word.

With a bustling concourse a few feet away, six people stood facing each other across the counter in stony silence: I started wondering whether I had inadvertently intruded into a piece of experimental theatre.

Finally, after more than ten minute of trying unsuccessfully to catch someone's eye, I gave up and went home. Fortunately the Artful Dodger, being a child of the 1990s, understands these new-fangled things and has since managed to restore the phone to working order.

A ten-minute wait gives you plenty of time to study your surroundings. The piece of shop furnishing that struck me most was a large red sign prominently displayed on the counter, warning of dire consequences for anyone who physically or verbally assaults one of the shop's employees.

If what I experienced is a taste of standard high street practice these days, then no wonder Britain's service economy is in trouble - and no wonder they need that sign.


  1. I hate dealing with people like that. As for my phone, I buy a tatty one off ebay, run it until it breakes then do it again.

    They have one of those signs in our local post office too. That has an imense queue and only two staff who cant speak a word of the queens.

  2. Those signs are definitely on the increase - I'm not sure they aren't rather counter-productive. There's nothing like the suggestion that you might be aggressive to put the idea into your head.

    I still can't leave comments with you, Bucko (it is definitely me rather than you), but I did enjoy your piece on the over-sensitive tourist. Incidentally, are you going to proceed with the post that briefly appeared in the thumbnails this morning?

  3. Good job your name isn't Gordon.

  4. Yes I see how they could be counter productive. It also gives you the idea that so many people get violently pissed off with the service that it's definately going to happen to you.

    Have you tried using the name/URL to comment on mine? I have to do that a lot when commenting on other blogs when I'm at work. On my home PC I never have a problem. I think it's a Blogger issue.

    Ahh, the post I accidently publiched rather than saving as draft? No, I deleted it.

  5. I'm pretty sure someone (referring to LRT signs) said that a company's customer service quality was in inverse proportion to the number of such signs....

    All I can say is, you don't see these signs in Waitrose!

  6. AKH, wonder if they should have had signs like that up in No 10?

    Bucko, I've tried everything; the comment appears momentarily for word verification then vanishes forever into the ether.
    I was thinking of something on the same topic as your deleted post; not sure whether I'm brave enough to take on the working mother lobby, though.

    JuliaM, nice one! It certainly applies to the businesses in these parts.

    Your comment reminds me that the mother of a college friend once returned from a shopping trip and announced in horrified tones,
    "I couldn't believe my eyes! The girl on the checkout actually had a love-bite on her neck! I mean, one expects that sort of thing in Tesco's, of course, but Marks and Spencer, my dear!"

  7. Its called the communications industry.

  8. Communications industry - ah, yes, one of those things that means the opposite, like 'customer service' or 'for your convenience'.

  9. Having already destroyed manufacturing, now the service industry also goes down the gurgler.

  10. JH, you can add farming to that as well - and fishing, thanks to the EU.

    In fact, the service industry was pretty much all we had left; a whole economy depending on taking in each other's washing is a frighteningly vulnerable thing.


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