Deborah Ross: The trouble with shops nowadays? Everyone is too nice

If you ask me...

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If you ask me, I wonder whether anyone else has noticed how hard it is now to find bad service in this country.

Once, you could enter any establishment knowing you would be routinely demeaned, belittled and humiliated, in the odd instance you weren't pointedly ignored. I remember, with particular fondness, the waiters in Bloom's (in Golders Green) who, when you were ready to order, would get up crossly from their card game and bark: "So, you want something? What?" But now? Now, I'm afraid, it's almost impossible to locate such poor levels of service. It's all "Hi, how are you today?" and "Anything I can help you with?" I'm minded to blame Mary Portas, so I will: I blame Mary Portas.

Anyway, it all came to a head recently when I stepped into a branch of the cosmetics chain Lush. I have no real interest in bath bombs and whatnot, and was only killing time, but after the sixth "How are you today?" I decided to give it straight to one of the girls, even though she was probably a nice girl of the kind who PHONES HER MOTHER REGULARLY.

I said: "How am I today? How am I today? I'll tell you, since you asked, love. I'm not so good. The VAT people are after me. They always are. My back aches. My old cat's on his way out. My window frames are all rotten. My car's been written off. I sometimes suffer from this queasy feeling my life isn't worth living.

I used to live for Downton, but now it's plain silly: Matthew's sudden and miraculous boner; Bates, who is about to be framed for the 789th time; Lord Grantham having the hots for that maid. If he has an extramarital fling, how is he going to hush that up? Tell me that, Lush lady!" I continued: "I appear to have developed late-onset rage. Everything makes me mad. Duvet poppers. When do they ever pop properly? Duvet buttons? What is the point of them, when they snap in the wash? Mary Portas, and her new clothes collection, supposedly for older women, though they could only suit someone phenomenally willowy – like Mary Portas!*

"Mothers with buggies who manoeuvre them so slowly from Tube carriages you miss the one free seat. If you can't exit public transport nimbly with a buggy, then DON'T HAVE CHILDREN! Chances are, they'll never phone you anyway!"

The girl blinked a little. "You did ask," I said. "Yes," she said, before adding: "Now, can I help you with something cleansing, or moisturising?" It was almost as if she had never actually cared.

* A short person in Mary's No-Brainer dress looks like a potato swaddled in a rag. Trust me, it's true

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