Donald MacInnes: With better service on offer maybe the recession did some good


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It's often difficult to find much cause for optimism when it comes to how we are treated.

And by "treated", I of course mean as consumers. How your missus or mister treats you in the boudoir is entirely not my concern. Although if you do feel like sharing, my Twitter address is at the bottom.

A few recent incidents suggest we may have turned a corner in our seemingly eternal journey toward being treated like human beings, not customers.

First, you may have seen adverts for the retail website, which makes great play of the fact that it will place a brand new fridge on your doorstep at a time that suits you. This is obviously a good thing, unless what you ordered was the Season 6 box-set of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. If you had ordered this DVD, I suggest you do us all a favour and climb into the fridge.

The next two examples of surprisingly pleasant retail experiences are, even more encouragingly, from the world of automotive repair, a sphere of consumer unhappiness which has always been about as rewarding as having your prostate examined by Russell Brand on live television.

You'll be aware that I commute to the paper on a Honda scooter. Last week my oil change light came on, leading me to swing by my garage on the way to work. It's a place called Pole Position, a name which would only be slightly less amusing were it not for the fact that it is owned and operated by Polish nationals. I asked the boss if I could book my bike in for an oil change and also asked if he could check my brake pads, what with winter looming and everything.

He shone his little torch into the crevices of my metal steed and proclaimed with a sneer: "You don't need new brake pads. They're fine."

As a non-mechanically minded fop, I would have happily swallowed any hogwash he cared to throw my way and trusted that he was telling the truth. Instead of £15 for an oil change, he could be charging me for new brake pads plus labour. But no.

Another incident helped my growing belief that things might just be changing for the better. My wife (who works from home) had a car accident a while back (entirely not her fault, I should stress) and, it being a company car, the repairs were arranged by her employer. But instead of having to drop the car off at some oil-stained hell hole in an industrial estate, she just sat at her desk while a mechanic began reconstructing the car's bodywork in our driveway. A few hours later, it was done. Painless. Lovely.

And while it seems like vendors should have been treating us this well from the off, better late than never, eh? And if I'm honest, if it's the recession which has brought about this volte-face from previously please-themselves retailers, I say: bring on another dip.

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