Brian is, rightly, baffled by the British public. I am just as baffled, though for slightly different reasons. My bafflement has been occasioned by a specific segment of the British Public, namely, some of our local shopkeepers.
Even at the best of times, the economies of small seaside towns such as Cromer are hanging on by their fingernails. At the moment, quite a few businesses have gone to the wall and empty shops in the town centre are, sadly, rather common. Local traders are the first to complain when a large store such as Tesco threatens to set up on the edge of town – the ongoing conflict between Tesco and the burghers of the neighbouring town of Sheringham is now the stuff of legend.
This is why Mrs Crox and I like to patronize our local shops whenever we can, but some shopkeepers seem curiously reluctant to accept our business. On two occasions recently, shopkeepers told me they’d let me know when they’d checked the availability of items they didn’t stock … but haven’t got back to me. What’s stopping me trekking to Norwich or even London to shopkeepers who are bit keener to earn a dollar?
On another occasion, Mrs Crox went into a shop to say that the particular photocopying service she required couldn’t be provided without the manager being present – and the manager was away for a month. Mrs Crox came home and said (puts on drippy accent) ‘Computer Says No‘. In a nearby shop, Mrs Crox was told that she shouldn’t buy the item she wanted to buy (which was in stock, and in Mrs Crox’s hand) because it was ‘far too expensive…’
I should say that this attitude isn’t universally present – many shopkeepers and traders are splendidly helpful in the way that only small-town traders can be. But, in some cases, it’s easy to see why local traders don’t want the competition.