Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Friday, 18 January 2013

Pay me later.

Small businesses like this will never expand and
dominate food distribution, but they are 
the bedrock of the real economy and 
of local life
On BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday at 07.22 there was a report on the concept of fairness in chimpanzees. It was a fascinating interview and has something on what I want to comment on today.

This morning I went shopping in a local fruit shop, only spending €2.80. When I handed over a €50 note (a thing of great beauty and extremely rare in stricken Seville - almost unicorn-like I would venture to say), the greengrocer told me to pay him next time I was there. He waved away my suggestion to hold onto the goods while I went back to the shed and told me to pay him next time.

€2.80 is neither here nor there, so this might not seem worth writing about. But it is. It was only the second time that I have been there; the last time I went was over a month ago. Also it shows at the most basic level that all human relationships are based on trust. Neither must we forget that many a mickle makes a muckle. 

Good, honest produce at affordable 
prices (6kg of oranges 
for €2.50). Unlike horseburgers passed off as beef,
apples and pears are easily and  visually distinguishable 
from each other.
Abuse of that trust leads to the economic situation that we find ourselves in today. This really does not affect the financial masters of the universe who have dropped us in it - after all they are still getting their bonuses and making money hand over fist while the wealth gap between them and the rest of society yawns ever wider. They have been doing the equivalent of buying in the local shops with an unchangeable €50 note then reneging on the deal while asking for another €5 note so as not to break into the fifty.

Yet the key to social cohesion is that normal
people still trust each other. My greengrocer, you Dear Reader, our friends and I myself,  when I pay the €2.80 that I owe, are the true unsung heroes of humanity. I think we all deserve a pat on the back.

1 comment:

  1. I remember a similar occurrence when I went into a Jewish bakery in Hendon to buy a loaf. When I came to pay, I found I had left my purse at home. The baker told me to take the loaf and bring the money another time. He did, however, add an admonition: "Be sure you do," said he, "because it says in the Bible that it is a sin not to pay for your bread."

    I didn't need the admonition but rushed home to recover my purse and redeem the debt.

    I cannot imagine such a thing happening in the local supermarket, partly because everything, down to the last Rollo, is "on the computer" and everything has to be accounted for. Supermarkets are anonymous places and anonymity does not sit well with trust or credit.

    The small shopkeeper can do this because he is always there and when you return with the money, he will remember you. The small shopkeeper is continually making bets with fate in order to secure his future. Trusting you to come back later risks losing €2.80 but could win him a regular customer or gain the good will of an existing customer. Better the bird in the bush than the one that has flown out of your hand.