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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 11-Jan-08


Friday 11-January-08

Retail experiences 2

I recently wrote about a slick experience in a shoe shop, where selling on of complementary products was done with skilful panache. I had a very different experience a couple of days later, which I enjoyed for different reasons.

It was a rainy day in sleepy Llanrwst and I ducked into a second-hand bookshop, where the owner and a friend were deep in conversation. Not having any particular need, I ignored them and started meandering around the dusty, home-made shelves, looking for whatever.

Bookshops often have what author Terry Pratchett calls 'L-space', which involves endless little rooms going backwards and around corners so you soon get lost in mustiness. According to Pratchett, you may just enter another dimension around the seemingly-endless shelves and re-emerge from another bookshop half-way around the world. But it didn't happen to me. Instead, the owner popped his head around a corner and cheerily asked if I was ok. I mumbled an affirmative and he disappeared.

Then, as I reached what seemed like the furthest reaches of the L-space, in a little room where there was, inexplicably, what appeared to be a fully-functioning kitchen sink, the lights went out. 'Damn' said a voice out of the gloom, 'I've turned on too many things.'

I wondered in the darkness about how old the the power system was, imagining crumbling rubber insulation around thin, weak wires. 'Won't be a minute' said a voice, followed by an ominous creaking. I fumbled my way to the front of the shop where the fading daylight showed a section of bookshelf swung outward, behind which was a small door, out of which protruded a pair of legs. The lights came on and a grinning face appeared. 'Must get that fixed' he said, unconvincingly.

I resumed my browsing and was delighted to find a copy of 'Limits to Growth', a famous systemic study that gloomily predicted a global population of 2 billion people by the year 2000 (it's 6.6 billion now). I also found an interesting old book on advertising for 10p and another more modern book without a price. I took it to the owner who frowned and said 'Two pounds?' more as a question than a statement. I was so charmed I agreed and handed over the money. The owner punched a couple of buttons on the till and frowned again. 'Hmm. Stuck again' he said, reached for a screwdriver and levered the drawer open.

I took my change and books and left, smiling. It wasn't a normal retail experience but it is sometimes nice to know that some places don't change. It's a mark of the friendly nature of the Welsh village that I found my shopping companions outside, chatting with a aged stranger. As we moved on, it was casually mentioned 'Oh, that's Lord Roberts. He lives around here somewhere.'

Somehow, in Llanrwst, this all seemed completely natural..

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