I know there are a lot more weighty things on Americans’ minds these days, but I want to start a movement to abolish automated phone systems. I settled at my desk this morning thinking I had just one or two small matters to take care of and then I could revise, revise, revise. Not so. Between the bank, the United States Postal Service, and a fabric outlet, I spent almost all my morning on the phone, being shuttled from one option to another, put on hold, assured it would be just a minute, and put on hold again. To say I was frustrated would be an enormous understatement.
In the midst of all this, the upholsterer I had called came to pick up my wing chair. He had one helper with him but I could tell immediately his was a single-person shop. He asked, “How did you hear about me?” Not how did I hear about his company or anything, but him. To my embarrassment all I could say was that he was recommended by someone whose taste I trusted but now (several months later) I couldn’t remember who.
He had a nice sense of humor and a gentle way of telling me I hadn’t ordered enough fabric—I’d ordered the 8 yards he told me, but he meant 64” wide and what I got was 48” Back to the drawing board. But because I instinctively liked and trusted him, he left with not one but two chairs. We decided later by phone to wait until next week when the fabric was due to be in stock again, order more, and order a separate fabric for the second chair—a barrel chair. He explained that the original fabric—a horizontal pattern—wouldn’t work on the barrel chair because he would have to cut on the bias. That personal, individual explanation, kindly and even humorously delivered, was worth its weight in gold.
Whenever I can, I deal with mom-and-pop businesses, and I vow now to deal with businesses where, like the upholsterer, a real live, speaking human answers the phone.
Oh, to go back to the good old days—at least that aspect of them.