I was raised in a time where the philosophy of the sole proprietorship — or any business, really — was “The Customer is Always Right.” My grandfather owned a pharmacy in a small town in Nebraska and when, as a young boy, I would visit him during the summer and “work” for him, I watched as each person walked into his pharmacy for service and grandfather would stop whatever he was doing and give the customer 100% of his time and attention. Sometimes they wouldn’t even ask him a question – they were there just to shoot the breeze. Sometimes he didn’t sell them anything.

Oftentimes he gave them more time than they bought in service. Today I wonder what happened to that Golden Rule of Business where “The Customer is Always Right.”

More and more I experience and learn of small, single-owner, businesses where the boss of the shop — the one person you expect to honor your presence in their store — is uninterested in customer service even to the point of ignoring or harassing the customer! The other day I was buying a newspaper and the owner behind the counter was on the phone.

He chattered away while I waited for him to ring up my 50-cent purchase. When, after a minute of watching him yabber into the phone I asked if he would please ring me up, the guy looked at me, narrowed his eyebrows, took the phone away from his ear and shook it at me and shouted, “This is long distance!” I turned around and left the store as his wife was coming in and she tried to stop me by saying, “Don’t worry. He’s always that way!”

I smiled at her and shook my head wondering to myself how such a person comes to own a store in the first place. A friend of mine in Texas told me a story about a new Laundromat where no one works there at all. The machines are not coin operated. You have to buy a card to do your wash. If the machines that distribute the cards are not working you can’t do your wash. There is no boss to cling to when the machines to awry so the customers are stuck trying to help each other by bargaining drying time for Tide laundry detergent or by sharing a load for a dollar with someone who has a filled wash card.

The person who owns the business has yet to set foot in the establishment. The man who fixes the card machine is a more familiar face than the owner for customers who are trying to be loyal. The final example comes from a friend of mine in Maine. My friend hires a guy every year who owns a “snow shoveling company” — the entire company is the guy’s Ford truck with a plough attached to the front of it during the Winter months.

My friend relies on this guy to shovel his parking lot for the customers who visit my friend’s store. When it snows, my friend is always last on the list to get his lot plowed. The guy who runs the one-man snowplough business is always overwhelmed and slow and many times his truck doesn’t work. If the snowplough guy doesn’t show up before my friend opens his business, my friend has to hire another company at treble the cost to come in and do an emergency plough job.

My friend, who likes the snowplough guy as a person, wonders why the plough guy can’t see the chain effect he has on creating a bad experience for customers on down the line. The snowplough guy is always apologetic but the behavior never changes. Sometimes I feel the big mega-corporations like Wal-Mart and Target do a better job of serving the idea of “The Customer is Always Right” than a sole proprietorship because at least in a big corporation there is a chain of people that can ultimately be held responsible for the lack of service and then provide a remedy.

When you’re dealing with a sole-proprietorship the buck starts and stops with one person and if the business owner doesn’t care about your 50-cents or your laundry card or the three-foot snow drifts blocking your handicapped parking spaces — how can you begin to ever make them care? You can vote against them with your pocketbook but that only leaves you with more cash and the same level of lousy service.

90 Comments

  1. Amen brother!
    I was thinking the same thing. The local “hometown” places usually have poor selections, a “take-it-or-leave-it” mentality, and surly customer service.
    These same places complain about the big chain stores coming in and taking all of their business.
    I remember in law school going to a pizza joint that opened up right down the street from the school. My friends and I were excited. We could study a little, then take a short walk to get pizzas by the slice! Excellent!
    But, the owner of the pizza place made everyone who came in miserable because of his poor attitude toward customers. “Do I Have To Help You?” could have been his motto because it seemed like anyone wanting to order anything was getting in the way of something more important.
    The pizza guy yelled at a friend of mine who asked him about free refills one day when ordering lunch.
    My classmate got a lecture about how “this wasn’t Taco Bell” and he didn’t provide free refills to people too cheap to support his business. The guy basically told my friend to “get the hell out” if he didn’t like it and never come back.
    My friend was offended because he felt the owner was calling students too cheap to be good patrons of his business.
    He has a friendly personality and isn’t the type of person who would start an argument just to argue. In school, he always looked for bargains and was a loyal customer at any business that gave him some sort of student discount or frequent buyer card. What student doesn’t look for a way to save a little money.
    My friend didn’t just let the comment slide and his defacto being banned from the pizza joint. He wasn’t going to take it.
    The pizza place wasn’t the only restaurant in town.
    The “Big Chain Pizza” places routinely offered cheap but tasty pizzas available for delivery in less than 1/2 hour. Other “Ma and Pa” places were friendlier and offered good customer service. Around this time, some smaller places were offering all-you-can-eat pizza buffets that were popular with students.
    My friend became an evangelist of the kind that businesses don’t want — one who spreads the negative news about a business.
    There’s something dangerous about offending a law student who feels that it is his job to change the world — even if it is to make sure people avoid bad service.
    It’s a lesson that needs to be taught to business owners.
    I remember older students telling incoming 1Ls to avoid a certain place because one of the students had been mistreated years in the past in what was either bad service or some sort of racial harrassment. The story wasn’t really clear because the original participants were long gone, but the bad service was still generating bad word of mouth years after it occurred.
    Word of mouth can make or break any business.
    My friend decided to start speading the word about his mistreatment among his fellow classmates. He went to his fraternity brothers on the undergraduate side and told them about the poor customer service.
    He also went out of his way to dissaude people from ordering pizzas there — if anyone in earshot suggested ordering a pizza from the “old bastard” as my friend called the owner, they’d get the tale of how poor the customer service was and how nobody should go there. Although we could walk and get a pizza, if my friend was around, we’d either get one delivered or drive to pick one up at another establishment.
    The place ended up going under and a new Italian restaurant with new owners is there today.
    “Big Pizza” didn’t put “the old bastard” out of business because “Big Pizza” is evil and out to kill the small town proprietors. It was “the old bastard’s” poor interpersonal skills that turned off all of his customers and killed his fledgling business.

  2. Great article. There are also times that it seems stores will “Customer Service” people they think might steal or damage their merchandise.
    I notice this because I have seen people being followed very closely by employees of certain stores asking them if they needed help finding something in particular but seeming to check the customer to make sure no merchandise is hanging out of a big pocket or a purse or whatever. And if they say they do not need assistance the staff member seems to hover around the person still, pretending to rearrange the merchandise.
    The customers who the store deems acceptable get no service at all by comparison. While it is conceivable that sole proprietorships have been hurt in the past by customers who take advantage of their good nature and are therefore reacting to it, I think that it is rather ridiculous to stray so far from service.

  3. Right, Chris! There’s an old saying in business that an unhappy customer costs you future customers while a happy customer doesn’t hurt you. It’s better to spend time making an unhappy customer a happy one but they don’t seem to teach that lesson any longer in business school.
    I find the sole proprietorships that are family owned and have been for a generation or two get this vital customer service angle. They won’t argue with you. They’ll “eat” a penny or a nickel in returning change if it gives you less change to carry and gives you the edge in the transaction. When they do that for me I find myself doing it back to them in the future: “Keep the change” and they are happy and I am happy that I have a relationship with a business that understands the value of the customer because, after all, we are the ones who pay their long-distance bill, right?
    In many urban communities, though, you are bound by those who choose to serve you. You’re lucky to have one corner grocery store and since there’s no competition because no one else wants to move into that business district, you’re stuck with the owner’s choice to poorly treat their customers.
    Pizza places seem to be infamous for being hateful of customers. You remember my “Nigger Tax” story here:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/09/06/nigger-tax/
    Janna has her own horror story about a pizza place near Columbia that I think I’ve told here before.
    The pizza may be great, but if it’s a hassle to purchase, why bother? I can get yelled at anywhere and I certainly don’t want to pay for the experience.
    “The Soup Nazi” on “Seinfeld” is another real life example of a horrible man in New York who feels he can treat his customers in a nasty way because he makes a good soup. Imagine how popular his stuff would be if he were able to be even slightly kind!
    In the NYU area you can get a 10% discount with your NYU ID. Most places in Greenwich Village offer that discount but few of them advertise that fact in their windows or in print. It’s like they are forced to offer the discount because of business pressures and student expectation and those stores are ones to avoid. Some restaurants that offer the discount only offer if you ask for it before you order but they don’t tell you that and they don’t ask you before you order if you have an NYU ID.
    If your bill happens to hit the table before you mention the discount they won’t give it to you because you were “too late” in notifying them.
    Many restaurants in NYC bring a bill without being asked because they want to turn over your table faster. I always wonder why those restaurants even bother with offering the discount when they obviously don’t intend to ever come through on the offer in the end.

  4. You make an excellent point, A S and the “follow you” philosophy of harassing customers was going to be my fourth example!
    You used to be able to push away owners who insisted on following you throughout their store by staring them in the eye and saying, “I’m just looking. I’ll let you know if I need help,” and they would slink away.
    Today they’re on you — pretending not to watch you while watching your every move — even though they have alert systems and video cameras everywhere. They don’t trust anyone and by stepping into their store you’re already guilty of wanting to steal their merchandise. I leave those establishments as fast as I can.

  5. Re: Restaurants that “bring a bill without being asked because they want to turn over your table faster.”
    My brother was with his wife at a restaurant once where the brought the bill before they were asked. They put the credit card in the folder and it was run. Before they had even finished eating, a waiter showed a party of two to their table to seat them.

  6. The “security” tactics of conspicuously following people around just turns off customers.
    I worked at a grocery store when I was younger and they took a different approach to security than that.
    The staff was supposed to ask if people were having a good day and if they needed any help if you saw someone in the aisle as you were walking by.
    The security staff made sure they weren’t seen when they were out on the floor.
    They’d usually have a couple of beautiful co-eds who were working on college degrees and working for the university police department. You’d never guess the gorgeous blonde shopping next to you was a cop, unless you did something to cause her to respond.
    They were successful in keeping theft down because they weren’t obvious.
    They also didn’t scare of honest customers by presenting a hardcore “let’s break some skulls” security stance that scares regular people away.
    I’ve been in stores where they announce over the intercom, “Security scan aisles 2 through 4!”
    I could never understand why a store does that since it “turns off” regular customers and isn’t really a theft deterrent. Security could just go grab someone who was stealing, instead of focusing their cameras on a range of aisles. If they were cops, they’d probably rather catch someone and be able to testify having seen the perp doing the crime, than scare them away with an loudspeaker announcement.
    If a staffer had observed something, they’d do better to discretely call security without an announcement to come and check out the situation. It’s better for the good customers who aren’t causing any trouble. Who wants to go to some place that is a “high crime area” as evidenced by all of the “security” annoucements squawking by a breathless intercom user?
    Word will get out among criminals that a store has effective, but low key security when people are caught.
    That tactic works a lot better than yelling over an intercom to scan the camera someplace because someone shady is approaching high priced merchandise.
    It’s also better to have your customers not feel like they are in some sort of danger when they are shopping because predators are roaming the aisle waiting to rob and steal.

  7. Chris —
    Yes, security is best when it is invisible and invoked quietly. Being loud about how secure you are only invites someone to prove you wrong.
    I think employee theft is more of a problem than customer theft. One of the chain pharmacies near us lost $100,000.00 USD in one quarter due to employee theft — and I overheard the auditor telling the store manager that was a “loss within normal spec” for a big store like that and I couldn’t believe it!

  8. Sadly, they did leave a tip. Although I am not sure how much, it’s fair to say that it was much more than they deserved. But like Chris’ friend, my brother told many people the story.

  9. A S!
    It’s too bad they left a tip for being so horribly treated though I’m sure it wasn’t the wait staff’s fault.
    Tom’s Restaurant is near Columbia University and that restaurant stars as “Monk’s DIner” on Seinfeld. We would see movie cameras all the time taking static shots of the restaurant from the traffic island in the middle of Broadway.
    If you chose to eat at Tom’s — and lots of us did even before Seinfeld made the place popular — you were only given 10 minutes to eat after your food was delivered.
    The food was rotten but cheap. If you lingered too long after getting your bill — and you had to pay at the cash register so you only paid when you were leaving — you would be told to leave.
    “But I want dessert.”
    “No dessert. You go now.”
    “I’m still hungry, though!”
    “Time up, you go now.”
    It is a Kafkaesque place to eat.
    The egg creams were pretty good though — if they let you order one!
    I learned the key to actually getting any dessert was to order it when you first placed your order. If you ordered a lot of food up front instead of adding on throughout your meal they were more likely to leave you alone a little longer before shoving you out the door.

  10. Hi David,
    I saw a sdrug store that has labels on its products that asks people to call a 1-800 number if they see the products at flea markets.
    I assume they don’t mind if customers buy the product then resell it. Once you’ve bought an item, it’s yours to do with what you want.
    I bet they put the labels on at the manufacturer to help catch employees who steal truckloads of the items for resell on the “gray” market.

  11. Chris —
    I haven’t seen the flea market stickers. That’s an interesting idea!
    Businesses lose lots of money due to “inside jobs” — and the sad fact is it all becomes part of doing business and we end up covering those losses by paying higher prices.

  12. I remember seeing an “all you can eat” buffet with warning signs in Honolulu, Hawaii warning patrons that they’d be charged extra if they didn’t clean their plates.
    You’d pay less if you ate 20 plates, but made sure to stuff it all into your face, than if you took one plate and didn’t finish everything.
    Isn’t the point of AYCE to stuff yourself with cheap but plentiful food cooked by immigrant workers who are getting paid minimum wage and live in the back of the restaurant?

  13. Chris!
    Yes! Excellent point about AYCE buffets being driven by immigrant slave labor. We had one of those Chinese buffets in the Bronx run by three young brothers who drove beautiful sports cars and talked about all the land they were buying.
    They’d bring people over from China — pay their way here and put them up in one of their “buildings” — and then the worker would “work off” the price of the trip and the living expenses by cooking in the kitchens of their buffets. I don’t think any of their workers was ever able to work their way out of that setup to live a life on their own.
    I am one of those people who will pile up one plate and eat it all and never go back for seconds. Janna puts three small things on a plate and then goes back and back and back. She probably has the smarter way because all her food stays hot longer.
    I like charging people for wasting food. That makes sense on many levels.

  14. Oh, and speaking of buffets — we learned the smartest thing to do is start at the end and work your way backwards. The best — and most expensive — buffet food is at the end of the line so you won’t have room on your plate for much of it or you may already be stuffed with all the filling cheap food before it!
    Going against the grain can sometimes have its benefits!

  15. Hi David,
    There was a case in our area where a bunch of workers at a Chinese restaurant were living at a house and would rotate in an out in shifts as they went to work, according to neighbors quoted in news reports.
    The house caught fire not too long ago and people couldn’t get out of the building.
    From CBS2 Chicago:

    Four bodies were found upstairs at 2021 Buffalo St. (in Michigan City, Indiana).
    “We think young adults, we don’t know male or female,” said Indiana Fire Marshall Roger Johnson.
    But neighbors say a dozen or more people lived in the house. They are believed to be Chinese and possibly Mexican immigrants, who worked at the Fortune House restaurant on state Highway 20.
    “They live quietly, sleep, at some point go to work,” said neighbor Jerome Kucharski.
    Identifying the dead is difficult because officials say the surviving occupants fled the scene.
    “We’re unable to pin down who they were, how many people were in the house. There’s a language problem we’ve had to go through,” Johnson said.

    A picture of the restaurant can be seen at Not Fooling Anybody: A Chronicle of Bad Conversions.
    It’s sad when you can see being exploited.
    What makes it even worse is when the people being exploited think they’re getting a good deal because they’re making more money than they could back in their home country.

  16. Hi Chris —
    Yes, I think that kind of immigrant worker exploitation is rampant. The immigrants don’t speak the language, are largely illegal, and barely make enough to sustain themselves, let alone their beloved ones back home.
    “Super Deluxe Chinese Buffet” made me laugh for some reason. I wonder what the difference is between “Deluxe” and “Super Deluxe?”
    The “Not Fooling Anybody” site is so much fun! Thanks for that pointer. I’ll lose the rest of the afternoon over there, I fear.
    😀

  17. Hi David,
    That site is pretty fun.
    There are some interesting conversions in my area.
    Some are the usual decommissioned Pizza Hut buildings converted into insurance offices and a former Burger King that has become a trucking company.
    The best one is the former notorious strip club that has since been exorcised and turned into a church.
    If I ever do a “Four Corners” about abandoned or former strip clubs in the area, the church that is in the old strip club will be the last picture in the series.

  18. You must do a “Four Corners” on the abandoned strip clubs, Chris!
    My favorite was the chiropractor’s office that used to be a KFC — “Uh, doctor, there’s a giant bucket of chicken over your sign!” Bwa-ha-haaa!

  19. Lol … For some reason I don’t think I’d trust a doctor whose office is in a converted KFC. Especially when all of the cool doctors around here have built or are building their own hospitals.
    Healthdecisions.org quotes a Wall Street Journal article:

    The building boomlet is certain to ignite more controversy about the hospitals, most of which concentrate on a narrow range of services, such as heart care or back surgery. Supporters say the new breed of hospitals are more efficient and provide equal or better care to patients, but detractors, including mainstream hospital groups, accuse the specialty hospitals of “cream skimming,” or choosing to perform only those procedures that bring the most profitable returns under federal Medicare and private-insurance schedules, leaving nonprofit competitors with the most costly businesses and sickest patients.
    Critics also say doctor-owned hospitals drive up health-care costs, pointing to studies that have shown that when the facilities open in a community, they increase the number of procedures that are performed in their specialty areas.

  20. Right, Chris!
    There was another funny building on that site where a former Pizza Hut had become a police precinct in Des Moines, IA! Harr! “Would you like a side of garlic bread with those handcuffs?”
    Lincoln has a special heart surgery “building” that is “owned” by five heart surgeons. It’s a small place where they do heart procedures all day and that’s all they do in their private “hospital.”
    I guess a building is a hospital if that’s what you choose to call it, eh?

  21. Service as a concept in society at all is being erroded – not just in the small shop – but right across the board.
    I am a shopkeepers daughter. I know the hours my father put in – I know the time and care he took and I know the trouble he went to, to look after the elderly and the vulnerable.
    We are lucky where we live – we only have small stores whom are dependent on their local trade to survive through the winter when the tourists are not here.
    I would guess that those businesses you refer to are suffering from what afflicts the majority of people these days – lack of time. There is always too much to do and not enough time to do it – and there is also the constatn pressure to survive. If his call could have led to either making or saving say $500 – as opposed to what he made on the 50 cent paper – in the short term he may see his decision to ignore you as a viable one. In the long term he may well have lost himself a lot of goodwill and a customer.
    Political office used to be about serving your constituents, and about representing the electorate – not just those that voted for you – ie serving the public.
    The police force used to be about dealing with crime, catching criminals and preventing crime – ie serving the public.
    Just two more examples ……..

  22. It’s always funny to drive by the local doctor’s hospital and see that it’s deserted after 5 p.m. The one we always see is right across the street from the “real” hospital that is open 24/7/365.

  23. Well-played, Nicola!
    I wonder how the erosion of services started? How and why did it begin? We’ve always been stretched for time in the wrong direction. Doesn’t it have to something more insidious than that like, say, the lack of manners and respect for each other?
    I haven’t returned to the newspaper stand and I won’t in the future.
    The small bodegas and newspaper stores here on the East Coast make money on one thing and one thing only: Selling cigarettes. Everything else is a loss-leader to get people to pop in to buy a pack or two.
    The “smart” bodega owners buy grey market or even black market cigarettes so they can make a big profit. There are lots of trips to Virginia and the discount cigarette vendors and they’re sold in NYC and beyond without paying the proper local and state sales taxes.

  24. This reminds me of something I read in the paper a little while back. Not about the small business as such but anyway.
    There is a Taco Place in downtown Vancouver that is a family run restaurant. They have this deal where Tuesdays are what the owner calls Taco Tuesdays. This is basically where if you can eat more than 12 Taco’s in one sitting, you get to sign a straw Sombrero hat and fix it to the ceiling. This has quite a following and the record so far is held by a guy who managed 20 tacos.
    Just recently, the owner of the Restaurant received a letter from Taco Bell, stating that they held the right to the slogan Taco Tuesday, and he must immediately remove the slogan from his restaurant. This has the regulars of the plabce in an uproar. The owner can’t afford to go to court, and he’d also have to recall the 2000 flyers he’s just put out, and have another 2000 printed out. Again, something he can’t afford.
    I find a lot of times here in Vancouver, you get someone like this man, trying to earn an honest living, and it’s a big company with cheap tasting food that puts them out of business. I can’t remember the last time I visited a small family run restaurant with excellent food and service. They’re going out of Business because so many people prefer to go to places like MacDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell.
    Bring back the small places I say, the service we get from those is unparalelled!

  25. I started my career in customer service industry and I know, today – it’s not only customer satisfaction it’s customer delight that ensures (hopefully) someone’s traffic to be steady.
    Customer will never fit in to the owner’s bill, it’s solely the owner’s duty to fit and feed customer’s choice. Poor customer service is a proof of poor attitude. The sole proprietors need to understand that they are there because their customers are there!

  26. I wonder how the erosion of services started? How and why did it begin? We’ve always been stretched for time in the wrong direction. Doesn’t it have to something more insidious than that like, say, the lack of manners and respect for each other?
    Shooting in the dark here – I would say in the UK it started about 20 years ago. That is what it feels like it to me.
    I think it could have something to do with “quality of life” being measured in earnings and possessions and consumer consumption rather than contentment.
    I think the lack of manners and respect is a reflection of this same change in values.

  27. Dawn —
    What a rotten story! It is the law that forces big companies to go after EVERYONE they feel is going after their trademark. If they let one small guy slip by then they’ll have no legal grounds to go after the Big Competition. It is an ugly fact of life in the big world and I agree it’s the little guy who gets hit the worst.
    There are a lot of Greek Diners here in NYC that are owned by Greek families and many of them were named “The Olympic Diner.” The Olympics committee went after each one of them on trademark and copyright infringement a few year ago — the IOC “owns” the word “Olympic” everywhere in the world, I guess — and all the Diners were forced to change their name. Many of them just added a vertical slash to the last “c” to become “The Olympia Diner.” Funny!

  28. I think poor customer service is the other side of the coin, it was always there – probably the customers are more aware these days because they have lots of options.
    If I am not satisfied with a particular store I will try some other places which are their in my vicinity abondoning the desire to patronize that particular store.

  29. Hi Katha —
    Yes, I agree options are important.
    I prefer to shop online whenever possible. I can browse at my own speed. I don’t have people hanging on me. The company’s computer is rarely rude to me.
    😀
    You can even buy your groceries on Amazon.com now!

  30. Hi David,
    I wonder if the advent of 24-hour stores had anything to do with it.
    When I was younger, I remember stores in New Jersey closed relatively early in my town. If you needed something for school the next day, you had to make sure to tell the parents and get over to a store to get it before 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. when the stores closed up. And, they usually didn’t open before 9 a.m. in the morning.
    Places were even closed on Sunday in the early 1980s.
    I wonder if shopkeepers who did well working 40 hour or less work weeks in the 1970s and 1980s suddenly were overwhelmed when bigger stores started appearing that could stay open until 11 p.m. or even overnight?
    I remember going to a computer store right before the WWW started to take off when I was in college. I think back in those days, commerce was frowned upon or wasn’t really up and running.
    The dude behind the counter didn’t even acknowledge me when I came in the store to get a printer for an outrageous amount of money compared to today’s prices. I was already feeling bad that the early version of an ink jet printer was costing a huge sum of money. Waiting to be served and to feel appreciated for forking over money was bumming me out even more.
    I waited for a while, then went out to my car and called him from my bag cell phone (remember the 20 pound cell phone from the early 90s?). I had a friend who called my cell phone the “UN Field Pack” because it was heavy and huge.
    He put the other call on hold to pick up my call. I told him I was just in his store and he lost a sale. I drove away feeling pretty good even though I was going to have to put up with the dot matrix for a while since I wasn’t going back to the local vender.
    The best small businesses are the ones that specialize in areas that the big stores can’t cover. It’s too bad that many of the little guys don’t focus on becoming a source for something that can be obtained elsewhere, rather than trying to compete against places that are good at eliminating all inefficiencies in the marketplace so that they can get the lowest prices.

  31. Now you have me thinking – I was trying to remember when I felt the drift and came up with the 20 years figure.
    I am going to don my kevlar suit here and suggest a combination of :
    1. A psychological reaction at all levels in society to the 1970 ‘s Economic Depression.
    Combined with
    2. The children of the 1960’s having children of their own. The 1960’s change in sexual attitudes, feminism, women going out to work, latch key children, the errosion of family life, the relaxing of social rules and mores, led to a new generatio of children being born.
    By the 1980’s these children were young adults and trends were shifting. They were having children themselves.
    Thats my stab in the dark – what is your theory ?
    Oh and if you really want to get worried you might like to take a look at this headline from the BBC tonight :
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5301824.stm

  32. I know! I shop online a lot! Just love it! 😀
    I agree with Chris, the concept of 24/7 stores almost bulldozed the small shops…too bad they couldn’t think differently.

  33. Chris!
    I love it that you voted with your pocketbook when it came to protesting against being treated as invisible!
    I remember those big bag phones. At the time they were cool, though. No wires! Beautiful.
    24-hour stores have been around since the 70’s, haven’t they? I wonder if the 24-hour store theory translates to the UK and India, too?

  34. Nicola —
    Hmm… why would a change in the economy lead to crueler treatment in stores? It seems the desperation of those business owners would make the customer more appreciated, not less.
    The 60’s children thing is interesting but I don’t think the timeframe is quite right because it’s the business owners who have changed and children of flower children aren’t running those businesses yet in the 80’s.
    I’m inclined to blame it all on technology. Online stores. A want for separation and not a coming together. It’s easy to blow someone off online than it is to be kind to their face in person. I think the decline of service has been most evident in the last decade as the gush of the internet and virtual existence took hold of us all. It’s the curse of multitasking where we are required to do 10 things at once instead of one thing at a time.
    Thanks for that awful URL! I argued against the infant criminal/born guilty theory here without much success in the comments:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2006/08/09/a-badge-a-blood-and-orange-bloodshed/

  35. Hi David,
    Bergen County, New Jersey still has a “Blue Law” from what I read on Wikipedia.

    One of the last remaining blue laws in the United States that covers virtually all selling is found in Bergen County, New Jersey.
    It has produced the ironic situation that one of the largest and most popular commercial shopping cores of the New York metropolitan area is almost completely closed on Sunday (grocery stores are allowed to operate).
    Furthermore, Bergen County has significant Jewish and Muslim populations whose observant members would not be celebrating their Sabbath on Sunday with most of their Christian brethren.
    The substantial Orthodox Jewish minority is placed in the position of being unable to shop either on Sunday (due to the blue laws) or on Saturday (due to religious observance).

  36. Hi David,
    I never really noticed 24 hour stores until I moved to Bloomington, Indiana in 1985. Since it was a college town, there were lots of places that were open overnight.
    In the place where I lived in northern New Jersey, all of the towns around us rolled up their streets at about 9 a.m. in the early 1980s. I bet that has changed since then.
    The only things that were open late were some late night diners and 7 Eleven stores.

  37. Hi Chris —
    I find Blue Laws so strange. They’re terrible for business and non-democratic!
    When we moved to NYC you could not buy beer in a grocery store and liquor stores were only allowed to operate 6 days a week.
    You can now buy Beer — but not hard liquor — in a grocery store or corner bodega and liquor is now on sale all days of the week.
    Because of that crazy 6-day law — where a store could choose the day it closed — most liquor stores were closed on Mondays so they could get the weekend business.
    When the stores went to 7-days a week sales there was outrage in the small business community that the one-guy store now had NO DAYS OFF in order to compete with the larger stores and would have to hire someone else to run the store that one day and that meant a net loss in the sole proprietor’s business model. You had to be open 7 days a week or you’d lose your local customer to stores up the street that were open.
    In Lincoln, Nebraska they only recently started to allow beer and liquor sales on Sundays as well as being sold in convenience stores.

  38. I was trying to answer the more general question of “Doesn’t it have to something more insidious than that like, say, the lack of manners and respect for each other? ” – ie looking at the bigger picture.
    When did online shopping take off ……… was catalogue shopping the forerunner ? That was very popular in the 1980’s – and how about the loosening of credit laws, the mass introduction of credit cards, buying on credit from catalogues ……….. ?

  39. Hi David,
    Look at Germany’s business hour regulations:

    Shopping days and opening hours in Germany are regulated by a federal law, the “Shop Closing Law” (Ladenschlußgesetz), first enacted in 1956 and last revised on March 13, 2003. In general, from Monday through Saturday, shops may not open prior to 6 a.m. and may not stay open later than 8 p.m..

    It’s illegal to buy or sell beer in Indiana on Sunday, but we live close to the state line.
    It’s always interesting to see liquor stores on the Illinois side catering to Indiana people on Sundays and the Indiana cigarette stores filled with Illinois people seeking lower prices because of lower Indiana taxes.

  40. Chris —
    I sort of like the idea of mandated store hours. It makes for a more rested sole proprietor, I’d wager!
    😀
    It’s so funny how crossing an invisible “line” puts us in another “state” of mind with new advantages and disadvantages.

  41. This discussion is rather thought provoking. When I was in college I remember a restaurant that had great food (at least for a college student), excellent service, and a great price. If the person was a frequent customer the owner would ask how you’re doing and sometimes give you extra food. Unfortunately even with all that great service, the business did not survive long.
    On the other hand, my family went to a restaurant where the waiter spilled hot tea on one of my relatives. He did not apologize but looked at us as though it was our fault for being in his way. The food was pretty much thrown at our table rather than served. That place is still thriving a decade later.
    It makes me wonder if some places lower their customer service level because they do not see the difference in their profit and are perhaps better compensated for their rudeness.

  42. Gosh, I hope that isn’t true, A s, that being rude is better for business than being kind.
    I always felt the personal touch was important, especially in the restaurant business where customers come to relax and have fun and not a headache. Unless the food was spectacular, I have a hard time wanting to believe that rudeness wins the bigger money day.

  43. There are many factors invovled so I can’t say the conclusion is that rudeness is better for business. They were completely different types of food places in very different locations. But still interesting if the argument proved valid.

  44. I will come out of the closet a bit here.
    I run a very small personal adult accomodation business. I operate in a very snall *niche* market.
    I have now been running for 7 years. I offer a very personal touch – comfortable unthreatening atmosphere – attention to detail with great care and with a high level of service. I have survived – I have not made a mint. I have also seen several false pretenders come and go over the years – people who have thought they could offer the same – except that they couldnt. I do everything myself – greeting customers, cleaning, preparation and administration. Most of my customers rapidly become friends.
    There is one other establishment in the UK that offers similar facilities. They operate at the other end of the scale with very minimum involvement from the owners and on an almost clinical basis. (quote from one of their ex-customers). They employ staff. They also rent their premises to “professionals” during the day. They are inflexible and run on a timetable.
    There is room for us both – because there are people who savour their experiences and take their time and enjoy their food, their leisure time, and in my case their holidays. They dont rush, they settle in , take their time, appreciate a log fire and soak up the atmosphere.
    On the other hand there are people who regard food as fuel and need to get the whole eating process over and done with, there are those for who just to be seen eating at a “Named Restaurant” is more important than the food or the service they receive. This is the case with this other establishment. It is more frequented by business men wanting a quick fix than couples wanting a special experience.
    Then there are those that dont like to make a fuss – they dont like to complain – I have to ask AS if they made a complaint about their appaulling service at that restaurant ?

  45. Hi Nicola,
    You should write up a post about the hypotheticals that are involved in such a business. Not necessarily anything that happens, but a fictionalized account about what might happen in certain circumstances to protect the innocent.
    When I was younger and more than 15 years ago, I had a dream about a place that was similar to what I think your talking about when I was in a larger city on the East Coast. In my dream, the experience was an exercise in giving up control and power to someone in a way that was safe, but exciting.

  46. Call me the contrarian here, but…
    I’ve always thought that “The Customer is Always Right” was a silly platitude, not a workable principle. If the customer walks into your restaurant and says, “I should eat here for free,” is he right? If so, I hope that your restaurant is in my neighborhood. If you own a Mercedes dealership, and the customer says, “I should pay ten cents on the invoice dollar for this car,” is he right? If so, I’ll be upgrading my ride in no time flat.
    The customer is not always right, because customers — like business owners — are people, and people are not always right. Everyone knows this. Even those who say, “The Customer is Always Right,” know this. So if it isn’t true, why say it, or hold it up as a model of what customer service should be?
    It’s smart business to be gracious, accommodating, and even willing to bend over backwards at times. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, and all that. But some recipes call for vinegar, and substituting honey will only ruin the dish. In the same way, some people’s overbearing natures, outlandish demands, and self-entitled behavior and attitudes ought not to be catered to. Sometimes, the right thing to tell the customer is “no,” and if that causes him or her not to become a repeat patron, it’s business worth forgoing.
    And if I’m an unreasonable customer, the same goes for me, too.

  47. I have a very quaint website which is need of an overhaul. If you put MsDemmie in a search engine you will find it very easily.
    So far – touch wood I have had no problems with the*powers that be*.
    I tun a very discrete business, I fall within all planning, zoming regulations, I offer accommodation or education – no “professional services”. The business is kept outside of the main house -seperate entrances – away from my children and family life ( especially applicable when my children were under age the age of 16).
    We have had one incidence when my play partners ex employers tried to make it an issue in an employment tribunal case and sent a private investigator to investigate us – the village maffia caught him and dispatched him on a false goose chase and gave us the heads up before he had even got in his car to leave.
    Obviously there have been the rumour or two about what we do – most of these were laid to rest after we took part in a local TV programme.
    We have alsways tried to ensure any guests we might have are respectful of both us and the area, we ask that they dont invade the pub in full fetish gear or parade themselves up and down the country lanes.
    it does help that I live in an area where *free thinkers* tend to congregate and that I have no near neighbours to upset of offend.

  48. Chris – I provide the facilities for couples to come and experience exactly that.
    “the experience was an exercise in giving up control and power to someone in a way that was safe, but exciting.”
    I also teach them how to that safely, how to incorporate it into their lives and how to work throug hany problems and issues they have when they are doing it.

  49. Nicola!
    Whoo! Love your site! I think the design is fine and lovely and it’s fast and clean. Important.
    This especially bit me on your site:

    BDSM is my passion and now my life. I have been involved in the scene in the UK for over ten years now. I have a collared slave who lives with me 24/7 and who shares my life. He has now been with me for nearly 8 years, and living with me for the majority of that time. Prior to that we endured a long distance relationship, commuting from one side of the country to another.

    Now that’s a “Yeowzah!” if I ever uttered one and I daresay I hope you will let us all in on this style of living in the world in a future article right here in your favorite Urban Semiotic!
    You are quite lucky you are accepted in your community because I can think of several placed I’ve lived where you’d unfortunately not only be shut down, but burned at the stake after a public hanging.

  50. Hello,
    I have spent a couple of overnight stays at NYC, both of which were the longest stints I had made in the US before I finally went on business to Dallas. I was hoping to find the legendary US customer service (I’ve since been told I should be on the west coast to find it) but found nothing but stonefaced automatons in the big apple.
    As it happens, I bought a pair of trainers/sneakers near Times Square and not so much as a “thankyou” from the staff, who barely spoke to me. Another time, I spent 10 minutes waiting at a CD/DVD stand at JFK airport while the salesperson spent her whole time on the phone talking to a friend. She didn’t even make eye contact. I really would have bought some stuff if she’d just paid me enough attention for me to feel it would be worthwhile to ask her to pass me a couple of DVD covers to read, so I could check DVD zone information and additional details which I’d have needed to complete my purchase.
    Seems that employees have no boss driving them to objectives on sales, perhaps because they feel so unlikely to get a pay rise or bonus on sales that they just ring up stuff on the till and consider that to be above and beyond their job, which requires their mere physical presence…
    Business seems so impersonal in so many places, but those who have the personal touch are in fact those that succeed. I’m happy to pay higher prices (and I’m sure I’m not a unique case) when I receive great service. I recently bought an electric piano that I could have paid way less for online, but the salesmen were so helpful I gave them my trade.
    -Fruey

  51. Back when I was temporarily editing the Indiana Blog Review while its author was in California, there was a battle brewing over an Indianapolis dominatrix and the zoning authorities who didn’t like her business being in a residential neighborhood.
    Miss Ann writes as reported by another blog:

    Someone decided that this could be spun into a political ‘win’ for the Mayor and they did a press conference. They probably thought this would scare me and I would go away for good.
    They didn’t count on Miss Ann being a Libertarian, smart, informed, well networked, and a political activist. This surprised me because any boob could research all I’ve published and deduce that about me.
    Instead, they thought I would be an easy pawn to exploit.

    Miss Ann a/k/a Melissa Donaghy took her case to Federal Court, reports Indiana Barrister:

    The fight between the city of Indianapolis and a local dominatrix is going to federal court. … She’s arguing the city is violating her first amendment rights to freedom of expression by shutting down her business.

  52. Reactions to alternative lifestyle professionals differ throught the world. I believe that in the USA the rules vary from state to state.
    The reasons I have flown the right side of the powers that be and not drawn any unwanted attention are as follows.
    The building used was already business/accomodation rated – no change of use required.
    I have no neighbours to upset or offend.
    I have no school, or church within 2 miles.
    I do not mix with alcohol or other licensing issues – so there are no conflicts of interest.
    As I rent accomodation & facilities and I am not a professional Dominatrix – the accusation of running a brothel cannot be leveled at me.
    Other establishments have not been so lucky – usually because they have not declared business status – ie are not paying business rates or applied for change of use.
    They have also tried to set up in towns and other urban areas close to schools and churches – or have had inappropriate parking and have been too close to neighbours.
    The other reasons establishments run into problems is because of indiscrete clients who flaunt fetish in the neighbours faces, who think it is funny to visit the local supermarket in drag and other wise attract negative attention.
    Any updates on Miss Ann ?

  53. fruey!
    It’s has been longer than forever since you’ve been here. Welcome back!
    I agree customers are treated rudely — especially in big cities like New York. There are few people who work service jobs in NYC who plan to do that as a long-term career choice. Most of them are artists looking for a paycheck against their will as they seek their stardom. They have zero interest in you or anything else other than getting famous.

  54. Excellent post, Chris.
    In America, if politicians can run against perceived “sexual perversion” outside the mainstream they can win a lot of votes.
    Sex is a big political football here and is hardly private even if kept discrete.
    The law is used as a cudgel for punishment out of the majority sexual norm.

  55. I need to check up on Miss Ann to see what’s happening.
    I assume that things will be slow going since it’s in the court system. Even when courts want to move cases quickly, sometimes the parties like to slow things down for strategic puposes.
    I’m not sure if it’s an election year or not in Indy.
    If it is and it was me running for office, I’d want the case to not be decided until after the election because there’s always a chance that the judge could find the activity is protected speech.
    I’d then try to figure out some compromise after Nov. and let everything go away quietly — maybe the case gets dropped after an agreement about hours of operation or whatever.
    You look tough, but end up saving time and money in the long run by not running the risk of a case going all the way to the state Supreme Court.
    But, then again, that’s me.
    You can never tell how a judge will rule on a case.
    My city tried to close down a massage parlor but a city judge refused to close the business. Also, Gary has a strict adult-oriented business ordinance, but I think it’s on hold because of pending litigation and because a judge issued an injunction.

  56. That is quite a frightening exchange – I refuse to go and look at it on You-tube or on his sites.
    He looses the argument here – :
    “I only open the door to prove the act and it usually makes both parites look right at the camera.
    Keep in mind, 99% of the time the man and hooker are having sex in public where our children, wives and family see it. It would still be happening if I didn’t catch it on tape.”
    He then perpretrates this exposure by putting it on You- tube which is accessed by people of all ages.
    Never mind being a voyeur – I would say he is peddaling porn if not for money but for gratification, notoriety and acclaim.
    Perverted Sex is a big talking point over here at the moment – the government has announced it intends to press forward with its proposed ban on *extreme porn*.

  57. It’s interesting that some of the videos on YouTube are flagged as “innappropriate” for certain viewers.
    If you look at some of the comments posted after the videos, it is clear that some people are excited — and not because someone is getting embarrased.
    The solution is getting help for the women who are so addicted that they sell themselves on the street.
    You can’t embarrass the women — they’ve probably been through the system and obviously don’t mind waving to passing cars to let people know what they are doing.
    You can’t scare away the guys with a video camera when street thugs who are addicted to drugs present a clear and present danger to anyone participating in illegal activity in the urban core.
    If the threat of someone with a gun ripping open your door as you’re parked in an alleyway and robbing you and the woman doesn’t give someone pause, a guy with a video camera won’t.
    Not to mention the threat of a police officer pulling up behind your parked car and arresting you.
    There are greater threats than a camera that aren’t effectively deterring these guys.
    Cameras — watched by police or amateurs — don’t necessarily stop the bad people from doing bad things.
    Writes EPIC:

    Chicago has 2,250 cameras in its “Homeland Security Grid,” which DHS helped finance with a $5.1 million grant, and will be adding cameras in the next two years with funds from another $48 million grant from Homeland Security. By 2006, Chicago will have a 900-mile fiber-optic grid. The cameras are linked to a $43-million operations center constantly monitored by police officers.
    Baltimore has used federal grants to finance its camera system and $1.3 million “Watch Center.” The cameras are connected to the state’s existing highway monitoring cameras, and the plan is for five counties in Maryland – Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Hartford and Howard – to connect with the city’s surveillance system.
    In New Orleans digital camera images are sent to a main server archive for monitoring, and the Internet-based archive can be accessed from any location, including police vehicles. Cameras are currently operating in the city, but New Orleans’ extensive 1,000-camera surveillance system is expected to be fully deployed by the end of the year. Paramus, N.J., is launching a pilot camera surveillance system at shopping malls that will be partially financed by federal grants.
    Though cities are spending millions for these systems, studies have shown that they do not decrease criminal activity. Last year, a Milwaukee study found that law enforcement officials in cities such as Detroit, Mich.; Miami, Fla.; and Oakland, Calif., abandoned the use of these surveillance systems because they had little effect on crime prevention.

    We need national health care with full mental health benefits to help people who are addicted to drugs. That would provide the most effective solution to many of the problems that plague the urban core.

  58. So with all this money invested in all these cameras a la BIG BROTHER is watching you – why are the crime figures still going up – this has to be the biggest argument against such camera’s.
    I would go for legalization of prositution – state liscenced brothels, with helath care benefits etc ( and of course due taxes paid.
    And at the risk of being really controversial I would leglalise or de – criminalisze all drugs, get state approved farms, factories to produce in a similar way to tobacco. The companies that got the manufacturing deals would do so on the condition that they carried out the research into why some of the drugs go wrong and eliminate what causes the negative effects. They would be sold at state licenced drug stores at a standard rate. This way you would cut out the gangs, the extortion, and most of the crime that currently surrounds the drug culture. The profits would go towards dealing with and investigating and treating addiction.
    (Dons kevlar suit)

  59. Chris —
    I am with you on YouTube. Sure, the “offensive” videos are marked as such — but if you’re a youngin’ you’re absolutely going to click on the “naughty” videos just because society thinks you shouldn’t.
    Repressing sexual desire doesn’t rid a community of the desire. It only drives it underground where 8-year old girls are held against their will for a decade as sex slaves to men four times their age.

  60. Nicola!
    Chris has also written about community microphones that can detect a “gunshot” and alert the police to the misdeed. Now that is really fascinating, predictive, and reactionary “Big Brother” stuff.
    I’m with you on legalizing everything, regulating it, taxing it, and then leaving people alone. The criminalization of non-invasive behavior is an anathema to private humanity.

  61. Cameras also have to be monitored to work.
    The secret, that isn’t a secret because the newspaper printed the story, is that the police camera system in Gary isn’t monitored by police dispatchers.
    The police can use it using a Wi-Fi set up, but they need to have a vehicle parked nearby with someone monitoring it. (Of course, there are always two police cars parked right in a block area of where the camera is, so maybe they are monitoring it).
    I was told that the roadside cameras along the highways are monitored, but that tapes aren’t kept. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’d assume if tapes were kept, we’d see footage of crashes and chases on the local news because they’d obtain them via the Freedom of Information Act.
    Of course, local news stations have their own cameras along side the highways for traffic and weather reports.

  62. It does fit right into the Panopticonic theory of punishment where one person can watch a lot of people without those people knowing exactly when they are being watched.
    We are already being watched what we do on the web.
    Have you heard about the Firefox extension, TrackMeNot, that sends out random queries to throw off anyone who might be keeping track of what anyone is searching for?
    It might have made a difference for those poor AOL customers who got caught with search terms for “dogs peeing everywhere” right next to searches for their first and last names and other embarassing topics.
    At least with the Firefox extension, you could blame the word list for any strange searches that were generated.
    Some users have posted comments worried that some of the search terms my fireup the panopticon’s watchers.

    Okay when I started seeing bomb, and plane pipe bomb, as well as a whole lot of “Red Letter” searches being created I dumped this thing like a computer virus. I do believe they should edit this program to omit such dangerous words and phrases because there’s a potential for problems here, a whole lot of problems!!!!

    However, others praise using those exact same words.

    Anyone else find it at all disturbing how scared we’ve become? That were terrified of evening using words like ‘plane bomb’ (a headline in dozens of recent news articles!). Isn’t this just the culture of fear & surveilance this software is addressing? well, nice try her kids, but looks like the bad guys have already won -kp

    Writes another:

    If you’re really looking to decrease the signal to noise ratio of the data available to snoops, why not add all the words from the legendarily alleged “Echelon Word List” (q.v.) to Track Me Not’s word list?
    Just a thought..
    Of course until lots of users have TMN running with the extra Echelon Word List words, it might be counterproductive to anyone expecting to attract LESS attention to themselves…

    Is it a sign of bad customer service that our internet service providers are watching (and releasing) lists of everything everyone is searching for online?

  63. Chris —
    I agree tracking and storing web searches — and then turning them over to the government — is a form of mind control in that we begin to fear what we want to know because we are concerned who might be watching us.
    I’m not sure if it is possible to cover our tracks. I can see the value in fooling all the search engines with “terroristic” words that would send up red flag after red flag that would lead to false ends but then we’ve sunk to their level of unrighteous paranoia and the real “bad influences” don’t get caught because of the false keywords thunderstorm.
    This is where a product like an IP-hider can help. You can buzz in anonymously, do your searches and then to back home to your regular IP address. If we can do that, so can the bad guys, so what’s the point of tracking us in the first place?

  64. Hi Chris!
    I believe you actually have to be on someone’s backbone to have an IP address so going through a proxy gives you that while an extension would not unless it was a portal into a VPN connection or something…
    http://www.anonymizer.com is a great product. You can install it or just go to their website and login and surf without being tracked back to your home IP.

  65. I was just reading about Tor as well.

    Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.

    It sounds interesting.
    I tried the anonymizer tool bar but couldn’t get any pages to load. I might have to try it again one of these days.

  66. Here are more Tor users:

    A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle East recently. Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or surveilling web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.

  67. Hi Chris —
    Tor looks interesting and they even have an OS X version for Mac! I don’t like how you have to set up proxies in your applications, though. That’s tedious and it can mess you up troubleshooting your own home connection. It has to be slower, too. I like a VPN or a Proxy you can just log into and out of as you wish.
    I don’t use the Anonymizer toolbar. I pay for my account and then just login to the site, set my security settings and I’m off! It’s fast and clean and leave no residue and I don’t have to wonder if it’s active or not when I’m done.

  68. I don’t worry about people tracking what I look for, since it’s mostly silly or routine non-sensitive stuff.
    But, if I had a multi-million dollar deal I was working on, I’d want to figure out a way to protect even my search terms from curious eyes. If there was enough money involved, giving any indication what you are researching could tip off the competition.
    Just think if “Big Box Store” was searching for locations and their Google map queries were released …

  69. Very relevent to what I have been occupied with in the last few days …. compiling web reporting and tracking discussion content and replying to the extreme p*rn proposal document released by the government here in the UK.
    If I dont appear for a while – you will know they have come knocking! I will however been in good company as the BBC spent all day investigating it as well !
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2006/08/all_sides_of_the_story.html

  70. Maybe it sounds better if I call it channeling resources !! – sounds far better than tracking what is in fact data ……… even if the data is human.
    Sadly to compete with them we have to use the same methods they are using to maintain our effectiveness. We did score a bit of a result with the BBC to get them to not only give a more balanced view after the watershed – but the right to reply as well. That was after 50 or so complaints went off to the BBC and to Sky News after the very one-sided reporting.
    I do at least think I have enough written matter, and collation of responses, timelines etc to prove research – along with the fact that I downloaded no pictures at all during this period.

  71. Oh, Nicola! You have a wonderful, horrible life: We should all be so lucky! You are absolutely on the bleeding edge of humanity and The Law and the struggle for the soul of a nation teeters in your hands. I do not envy you, but I certainly feel for you, my beloved!
    I hope you can make a “virtual” move to Switzerland to at least protect your online interests. Tracking you within the guts of your home is more daring than steadily peering at you via the web.
    This is the unfortunate price you must pay for the rest of us by being a sexual pioneer. Your life is more unfair and harder by reason…

  72. I havent forgotten the Virtual move details ……. they are in the post I understand ( ie he has not written the email yet !).
    It would be whole lot easier if the powers that be did not have knees that jerked in such an ill thought manner and that they actually thought things through. Clear unabiguous choice of language would also help because it is that which leaves so many grey/risky areas which would cover what I may have, or might want to record for posterity.

  73. I’m with you all the way, Nicola.
    Finding calm, rational people in the midst of the world is a difficult thing to do. Politicians especially like the pander to the popular minority with one hand while striking down the “deviant” minority with a fist in the other!