Saturday, February 20, 2010

Should You Be Shopping Here?

The village where I work is rough around the edges. A told me that her friends from school call the village “chav city” (check out urban dictionary for the meaning of chav). I’ve witnessed hooligans pulling lead off of a building for profit; I’ve seen teenagers standing in the vacant high street in the evenings drinking cheap wine out of a bottle. I’ve seen the occasional serious drunk asleep outside of the grocery store in broad daylight. Yet, some of the most expensive English countryside surrounds us. There are also elements of traditional country living on the high street, especially in the saddler where we shopped for A’s horse gear. I’ve spent more time in there in the last three months than I have the whole time I’ve lived here. I wish I could take some pictures inside because I think you would rarely see a store like this in the U.S. Upon entry your are enveloped in the smell of leather. A commented on it on Saturday when we stood in line for about 20 minutes to buy a whip. I told her enjoy the smell because it might help her ignore the fact that we were being treated like second class citizens. You could be a perfectly acceptable person walking down the chavtastic high street, but as soon as you walk in this store, you’re judged by a very different standard. We waited and waited and waited while an elderly couple with very posh accents were being fawned over as the husband tried on slippers. Were they right? Would they still fit if he were wearing two pairs of socks? What size shopping bag would they be given when they bought the slippers? It went on and on.

Upstairs is where all of the riding gear is located. But downstairs there’s luggage, expensive leather handbags, a gun room, and all kinds of English country clothes from Hunter boots to Barbour’s “country sport collection”. A was telling me when we were standing in line that her friend and her mother had come into this very shop to get some riding gear and had about £100 worth of stuff gathered when they picked out a helmet to buy from the window which was marked £50. When it was rung up, it cost £60. The mother questioned it since in the window it was advertised at a lower price. She was told that the price had increased. She asked for a manager who then told her the only allowance they were willing to make was to split the difference. They instead left the shop without buying anything. That’s the kind of place it is, customer service is not a guarantee.

When we finally made our £5 purchase I had to laugh at the way we were treated. As much as I hate to admit it I’d go back if A needs additional gear because it’s convenient and it is a local business and I do try and support them. Also the smell and the atmosphere are free!

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