1 EAGLETON NOTES: I Hope Service Still Lives On

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Saturday, 2 August 2014

I Hope Service Still Lives On

Somewhere around 1965 I was taken ill in the middle of the night.  I had completely forgotten about the incident until today when I was thinking about the department store John Lewis and the remarkable service I used to get from George Henry Lee which was their Liverpool Branch back then.  I had shopped there independently since I was 16 as had my parents before me.  The doctor was called in the middle of the night and the next morning an ambulance arrived to take me to the nearby hospital (where I had been born and had subsequently worked for a while).  This took me a little by surprise (I didn't even possess a dressing gown).  I rang George Henry Lee and asked if they could send a dressing gown and some pyjamas to the ward.  A couple of hours later one of the young men from the menswear department arrived on the ward with a green paisley dressing gown: the perfect choice.  I have no idea what the pyjamas were like (I have always had a detestation of wearing clothes in bed).   Many years later that young man was still working in the menswear department and I was still buying clothes from him.

When my Uncle who lived on Anglesey was taken in to Bangor Hospital about 9 or 10 years ago he needed extra pyjamas and a dressing gown and, as I was over 500 miles away I wasn't in a position to do anything immediately.  So I rang the M & Co branch in Bangor (in those days it was Mackay's).  I told them what I needed and said that I would try and arrange for a taxi to collect it (how I would manage to get a taxi to do that without cash I wasn't sure).  The assistant asked me to call back in a short while.  I did and she had arranged the whole thing.  One of her colleagues with a car was going home shortly after and she would go to the hospital and take the clothes to the ward for me.  For the record I wrote to the head office and expressed my appreciation.

I have never ceased to be loyal to John Lewis nor to M & Co nor to sing their praises.

I wouldn't mind betting that even with though sales are so the impersonal these days those two companies would still help out in a crisis.  I would like to think that they are not alone.  Just don't try and ask Amazon!

27 comments:

  1. Department stores of old are rare as hens teeth here, but I do remember as a child the shopping experience of them. They even had elevator drivers. My one and only experience of Amazon does not make me a fan. I know I am in the minority though.

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    1. Department stores are few and far between here too Carol, I have to say that I am a fan of Amazon. Living on a Scottish Island to which many companies will not deliver or even post goods and to which Amazon provide a (usually) next day service I appreciate the service.

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  2. My husband was for some years the buyer for men's tailoring at John Lewis. He always says he "had a lot of fun". However, if you could see him now,,you'd never guess it. He has to be the least fashionable man in the world. I buy his clothes from the market. £3.99 for three pairs of socks just last week...

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    1. Somehow Frances I can't see you buying socks in the market. Why do women buy their husband's clothes? I've always thought that a very strange thing to do or, from the husband's point of view, let or ask someone to do.

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  3. what an interesting post Graham, really enjoyed it

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    1. I'm surprised that you haven't heard the second one before Carol.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Did it, by any chance, contain a spilling mistook.

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  5. We still refer to the John Lewis store in Sheffield as "Cole Brothers" - hence the Richard Hawley album - "Coles Corner". They have always given great service and their prices are "never knowingly undersold". I am pleased that you survived that emergency hospitalisation. Of course if you hadn't we wouldn't have had this blog!

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    1. The strange thing is, YP, I can recall absolutely nothing about the hospitalisation or the reason only that I was taken ill in the middle of the night. Presumably I was discharged fit and well. Apart from a couple of bouts of (proper) flu, cancer and a heart attack I have been remarkably fortunate and can recall no other illnesses since childhood. I know so many people who have constant pain or disability from an illness or injury and I always think just how lucky or fortunate I am.

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  6. Graham, it's Cole Brothers for me too. Brilliant they are. A year ago my knees were poking through my Levis. So I rang them for a new pair of 501's. I was put through and explained that I'd like another pair but I hate the buttons on the fly. He got me 507 jeans which last for years but have a zip. A great company selling top class gear and the jeans are perfect. I got two pairs.
    I got it all sorted in twenty minutes but had to go into Cole's. I left your Mark wandering up the road. The salesman couldn't have been better. He never mentioned my beer gut but the little tinker did sell me a pair of bright red braces to go with the fuller waste on the second pair.
    Just drop dead brilliant they are.

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    1. I'm glad some things never change Adrian.

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  7. It would be great it we had more of this service. I know I'm dreaming!

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    1. I like to think that we are not dreaming Red. There are some pockets of service still around.

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  8. While I can't personally speak of their service, they do have a mighty fine looking store that pleases me no end whenever I visit. I'll be in Glasgow in 3 weeks and will think of your post when I walk through those hallowed halls on Buchanan St.

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    1. I'll be there in two weeks Violet Sky. Otherwise we might have walked past each other or even sat at adjacent tables overlooking the rest of the Buchanan Galleries - and never known.

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    2. It's a shame we'll miss each other. wouldn't Katherine be jealous ;)

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    3. I think that Katherine would love to be having a visit to Scotland.

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  9. What a great story, GB. We used to have a local dept. store called Frederick & Nelson's. Their service was also amazing. Sadly they were bought out by a competitor who "streamlined, and modernized", and the store later closed. Good service does exist, but it can be hard to find. I'm hoping John Lewis's service is still as wonderful as it used to be, as I have to purchase and have a wedding gift delivered in a few weeks. As you say, it's doubly hard, trying to do anything by long distance -- and it's a long way from Seattle, WA. to Birmingham, West Midlands! Love, xoxox DeeDee

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    1. DeeDee the internet makes the world very small and John Lewis have a very good (and I've always found) very reliable on-line service.

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  10. Ahhh here in our small town there is a Lady in the Electronics part of the store (OK Farmers Department Store) Whom (despite all the upset Men who do not want to be sold electronics goods by a mere Female and often ask if there is a Man who can help them) often goes well beyond the call of duty, and pay scale and reward to deliver, (in her own Vehicle) and set up Tvs and the ilk for her customers. I often growl at her for being so silly (She is my Step Daughter in truth) and imagine all the rules and regulations she is probably breaking in being so helpful, yet quietly I am happy that she enjoys going to extra mile to help her customers, especially in this modern greedy selfish often jealous world.

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    1. OK Peter so it's winter and Farmers so at least I think I have worked out your location: still a country of the macho male. I would be very proud indeed of your Step Daughter.

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  11. RJ is nearly 2 m tall and weighs more than twice my weight, so he can't just step into any clothes shop or department store and find something to wear - "normal" shops simply don't carry his size. But there is a special menswear shop in Stuttgart where he goes when he wants something, and I have had the pleasure of accompanying him a few times. He always has the same salesman, a Mr. Bischof, who greets him by name (and would greet me the same way if he knew my name), and we always have a very pleasant hour in there. Mr. Bischof and I often have the same idea and make suggestions, while RJ gets in and out of trousers and jackets, and we always stop downstairs at the tie rack, too. Of course, good quality suits for men don't come cheap, and special sizes come even less cheap, but I think they are well worth it, and in our line of work we always have to look smart; an ill-fitting suit simply wouldn't do.
    Mr. Bischof is very good; if need be, he can arrange things to be altered, he orders if something is not available, and he never talks RJ into something just because he wants to sell it.

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    1. Meike Mr Bischof sounds like the perfect salesperson.

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  12. Never thought of John Lewis or other department stores in this particular way before. I think you might be right about John Lewis although they do seem to me to have started living on their reputation a bit, which is a shame. Waitrose even more so, but then they are not quite the same :)

    They are still ahead of other stores though.

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    1. I suppose, Jenny, there are more department stores in London than elsewhere. You still have Harrods, Selfridges and probably Debenhams and perhaps others. Most of the others in Glasgow and Edinburgh seem to be simply a home for franchises. I still like to think that John Lewis give that service but I accept that I may be living in a time warp of my own dreams.

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  13. How I do wish that service was exceptional all the time....loved your story GB...made me quite nostalgic for the good old service days.

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