I may have commented on this topic before, but that’s okay because you know that old people often repeat themselves.
In 1927 a new type of store opened in Caddo. It was Stevens’ Self Service. Owned by W. H. Stevens, it offered something new to the residents of Caddo- the opportunity to select their own groceries from the shelves. Prices were marked directly on the items and they didn’t have to ask a clerk for assistance. Sure seemed like progress at the time!
However, when I saw their grand opening ad sitting on my desk yesterday I recalled with fondness and regret the number of services we have lost over the years. “Self-service” did not become the all encompassing standard of retail until I was well into adulthood, so I have experienced true customer service and sometimes I miss it.
I miss those guys who worked at the filling station. As many as three of them would hurry out to fill the gas tank, wash the windows, and check the oil. They would even check the air in your tires if you asked them to! You didn’t have to get your hands dirty or even get out of the car to pay.
I miss shoe clerks. When we went to the shoe store a guy measured our feet, asked what we wanted, brought out a selection of styles and stayed with us until we chose our favorite. Sometimes we tried on a dozen pairs before we decided!
I miss the butcher. A trip to the meat market meant telling the man behind the counter what you wanted, how much you wanted, and exactly how you wanted it cut. If you wanted a half pound or ten pounds it was okay. If you wanted one pork chop it was okay. If you wanted your bologna sliced extra thick it was okay.
I miss the pharmacist who inquired about my mother and asked if she was feeling better. He told me all about my new medicine and made suggestions about getting the best results from it. He also remembered little things like my fondness for chocolate and offered me a sample from the new Valentine candy. His clerk made fountain drinks and shared the local gossip.
I miss department store clerks who noticed that you were in their department. They inquired about your needs, offered real assistance and even remembered you the next time you shopped. They wrote down your size and style preferences and called you if something new arrived in the store.
Oh, I know you can still get most of these services if you stay away from the big box stores. I know that upscale shops still treat customers with some modicum of respect. I just don’t happen to have that many choices where we live. I tend to do most of my shopping in places where I am just part of the crowd and I’m expected to feel lucky if I find everything I need on the shelf. The clerk checking me out even inquires dutifully, “Did you find everything you need?”, but I know if I reply in the negative she isn’t going to rush out into the aisles to find what I couldn’t!
(The photo is Maurine Craighead and Ben Siegel in his store in Caddo.)