My Kind Of Retail – Week 2 : 2020

If you’re a landlord you need to have a few trades or suppliers, on short notice, to step in and put right problems. However, I would caution all landlords to inspect the problem prior to initiating the cost of a trade visit. You’ll be disappointed and surprised at how impractical many people are today, especially if they’re a tenant.

We once let to a doctor who was unable to change a lamp. We were called down to this ‘emergency’. On another occasion a set of Japanese academics implored us to change a whole light fitting because the replacement bulb was now unobtainable: needless to say it wasn’t. Usually our better tenants will go through a long weary explanation of how they went through all sorts of sequenced diagnostics before contacting us. Sadly this sequence can omit such basics as checking the fuse. When satisfied that the problem needs attention we contact one of our regular trades. One member of our supply chain is a small appliance shop in North York

It’s inescapable that appliances do break (but seldom completely die). I say this because our ‘go to’ little shop can resuscitate most things. I had to get to understand the operation of this quirky establishment before I got to love it. For example telephoning is not productive as you might hope. It is not uncommon to go through a series of ‘Press One for parts’ type of instructions before getting to a ‘department’ where inevitably no one answers and you have to leave a voice mail. If you’d never visited the outlet then this telephone experience would lead you to expect a big outfit. In fact it is a small corner shop in a terraced house built when Queen Victoria was young.

The proprietor is a man you would never engage in a casual conversation. The famous quote of “I met him for three days over half an hour” comes to mind. He can give you chapter and verse on the failings of Zanussi, Hotpoint, Whirlpool or Bosch. Anything old is good and anything new is badly made and suspect. He can caress an old Dyson vacuum with the same excitement and love as if he was test driving a Ferrari 250 GTO. Which is where he came to mind for the Journal.

We’d had a washer drier nursed back to health at one of the flats and a hob fitted before Christmas. Money was owed (not that the shop had pulled together the bill or were chasing). I popped in to find the proprietor clutching a vintage Dyson vacuum in front of the counter. The elderly owner looked on with a worried expression akin to discussing the prognosis of a relative on life support. The mechanism that enabled the handle to fold backwards, as you pushed it, was not working with ease. After considerable intake of air between his two front teeth he identified the broken part. He now danced back behind his counter and peered at a computer screen. The search was on for the replacement part. Success was achieved albeit he commented that parts were getting less and less available as Dyson sought to steer punters to newer vacuums. The part was ordered, the malfunctioning vacuum left for repair and the lady departed.

Unfortunately her departure wasn’t my cue to ask for the bill. Another lady, of a similar age, approached the counter with some seals. These were the type to retain liquid in a Kenwood blender (rather than black ones with beach balls on the end of their noses). The story went that the mixer was a gift from her mother in law and the machine was still working. Clearly the machine was made before the 21st Century and I’d hazard a guess before Bucks Fizz won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Making Your Mind Up’ in 1981. This time the parts were in stock! Another satisfied customer!

After 25 minutes of this cabaret I was given my bill and the account settled. I did ask if he made any money on these spare part transactions? This was an error on my part as I could see him rise to the topic and luxuriate in delivering his answer. In fairness, it was a good answer.

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He liked to help as part of a community service. In a world balancing built in obsolescence and upgrades to one, which wants to repair and maintain. The latter being an environmentally responsible one then he has a worthy facility. In telling me this he did stare mistily ahead as if drinking in the view of a cherry tree in blossom rather than a way too cluttered shop. I knew that his supply, installation and repair of larger appliances for landlords or homeowners around York was how he made a proper living. This smaller stuff verged on being a hobby. He commented that he was also proud that he kept four families in economic certainty by their employment with his humble operation. I’d be proud as well.

These ‘breadwinners’ were known to us by the fact that we had relied on their expert services in and out of our properties over the years. We trusted them implicitly. Some tenants were known to be hesitant about allowing unsupervised trades into their/our properties. We received their anxieties with some disbelief about any issues to do with trust about these characters.

Price wise he’s never been expensive and always has an expert view on a brand (several of which we’ve never heard of) and its performance. Our own household appliances are a testament to trusting his judgement.

Anyway I handed across £358.60 and departed wishing him a Happy New Year and commenting that I hoped I wouldn’t need to see him again in the near future! We both know I’ll be back.

(I haven’t named the shop as I was a affectionately rude about the owner and there is a remote chance he could see this and take umbrage. However if you’re in the market locally for an appliance or repair give me a shout for the contact details. He’s peerless).

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