The day started well, the weather was dry and it being a Monday I thought I’d do a few long overdue errands in the town. Not that it’s that bustling these days. The last few weeks have seen the disappearance of two more retail opportunities, Millets has closed down and gone, and Monsoon – which along with New Look and Dorothy Perkins used to constitute the Aberystwyth window on current high street fashion, has quietly transformed itself into an Accessorize. Presumably the depleted town is more likely to buy scarves and earrings than to actually choose an entire outfit.
First stop was the bank (funnily enough we still have lots of those). I pulled into part of the extensive empty space in Stryd y Popty to run down to the cashpoint. The parking sign allowed 30 minutes parking after 1pm. The time was 12.35pm. And the 60 seconds I was away was sufficient time for one of the numerous traffic wardens to appear. I suppose it was really nice of him to just give me a polite telling off for infringing the law so briefly in an empty road. But my morning dis-improved. I confessed to him that, having got the money, it was my ambition to take a bundle of curtains from my car into the dry cleaners 30 yards away before driving off. But no, he wasn’t as nice as to allow that.
I eventually walked from a legitimate spot to the drycleaners, bearing a pair of heavy cotton William Morris print curtains. I knew they were the real deal. I bought the material myself nearly 30 years ago in a very upmarket curtain shop and sewed them, fully lined, myself. But what was I thinking of all those years ago? No fabric care label!
I had gone hoping to be advised by the professionals – wash or dry clean? What would they recommend for traditional cotton? What do other people do? (obviously they clean their curtains more often than I do for a start!) But the young assistant only wanted to know whether I had an International Care Label, and it not being present recited a warning that my curtains might shrink, run, or stain during cleaning. Not only did I have to pay in advance but sign a disclaimer taking full responsibility for any such disaster. What was missing though, and would have been welcome, was the professional opinion of someone in the dry cleaning trade. But he wasn’t as forthcoming as that.
So after spending a good four minutes in my legal one hour parking spot under they eye of the roaming wardens I set off for Morrisons supermarket. Here one can park without hindrance. I completed my shopping and queued at the till behind a newly delivered mother and her 10 day old baby. The child was sleeping determinedly in a bucket shaped car seat balanced at the top of a huge supermarket trolley. Mother had come prepared, her body wrapped in a baby sling into which she could transfer the child if it fretted. She looked as if she was laying in supplies for a fortnight. Quite possibly it was some considerable distance to her rural home. She also looked tired.
Any woman who can shop with such efficiency with her new baby gets my respect. And everything went fine until the check out operator reached her two little packets of 16 paracetamol and two little packets of 16 ibuprufen. And here the operator nicely explained to the the purchaser of some £200 worth of food and household necessities that she wasn’t allowed to buy more than one packet, worth just pence, of each!
There is many a newly delivered mother who is advised by her midwife to take these two medicines while she recovers from the birth and its attendant aches and pains. But store policy takes precedence over customer convenience. The young woman accepted the confiscation without argument and departed with her meagre supply. She will have to go out shopping again sooner than she planned.
In each of these interactions a politely robotic employee has been trained to thwart the customer by performing their duties without a trace of helpfulness or empathy. Not a heart warming experience.