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Warmest Regards: Wishing some things hadn’t changed

Published June 22. 2018 10:24PM

There are some changes I applaud because they enhance life in positive ways.

But there are other changes I lament and wish they had not come about.

Today I am lamenting the way we have big box stores but few small independent shops.

Remember when your pharmacy needs were filled at your locally owned pharmacy where they knew your name and everything about you?

Remember when you could find everything you needed for your home remodeling and repairs at your friendly neighborhood locally owned hardware store?

You could go there and talk over a problem you were having at home and walk out of the store with the perfect solution.

I can’t say enough about the Palmerton hardware store where the owners gave me the advice I needed and were more interested in helping me than in making money.

Specifically I remember going to the counter with an expensive weed trimmer I was about to buy. Instead of selling it to me, Bernie Shea said, “You don’t want to buy this. I think it’s too heavy for you to manage.”

See — he put helping people over profits.

All of which highlights another thing I wish hadn’t changed — having friendly and helpful clerks there to help shoppers.

Sure, it’s possible to find an occasional knowledgeable clerk in the big box stores. But it’s not easy.

When I went to buy a refrigerator in one of the big box stores, there was no clerk available to answer my questions. I was told to come back the next day when “the refrigerator man” would be there. He was there all right — with about four of us in line waiting to ask him questions.

Gone are the days of a fast “can I help you” when you walk in the door.

Now, I have just a few locally owned stores where I live. I suspect it’s like that in most places.

When we need something we can’t find locally, we go to the internet and order it. That’s exactly what I did when I couldn’t find the hyped “magic mouse repellent” that is said to keep unwanted critters from getting in your garage.

The internet told me I could buy it at Walmart. After I ordered it, I was told when it would arrive at my home, complete with a tracking numbers.

It never came. The solution should have been simple, a phone call should have done it. Instead, because it came from Walmart marketplace, there was no “real person” to handle my complaint.

When I did as I was told and filed my complaint online, I was repeatedly told it had arrived. There was no real person to ask where.

Finally I was mad enough to call Walmart customer service and demand help. A sweet talking representative told me they would resend it, and I would have it in a week. Again, it didn’t arrive. It still hasn’t. But Walmart Marketplace did offer to refund my money.

That made me long for the days when I could deal with caring local people who offered wonderful service.

I guess it doesn’t change anything if we long for the days when communities had a downtown with local stores. That won’t stop me from wishing those changes didn’t hit us in the face.

I remember when the owner of a small dress shop in my community lamented the fact that customers were leaving her business in favor of shopping at the mall.

“They’ll be sorry,” she said, “when small customer-oriented stores disappear.”

Well, now we’re being told people are tired of shopping in malls with depersonalized stores that all look the same.

I keep reading predictions that online shopping will someday overtake brick and mortar stores because people prefer the fast convenience.

I, too, like the convenience of shopping online for items I cannot find in any brick and mortar store.

For instance, I saw something unusual I wanted to buy for my husband’s birthday but couldn’t find it anywhere. (Can’t say what because he might read this and I don’t want to ruin the surprise.) Went online and poof! There it was.

Many of us will regret it if our local stores disappear completely.

Another thing I miss is a true private line. Six or so decades ago we had this thing called a “party line,” meaning you had to share your phone line with two or more families. We thought it was great when we all could have so-called private lines.

Well, our phone number is no longer private. The telephone rings day and night with telemarketing calls.

If all that wasn’t annoying enough, we are now being victimized by robocalls. If your phone rings and it’s a recorded message, it’s another robocall.

Our phones have been hijacked to the point where many refuse to answer their phone if they don’t recognize the number. There are countless times when I try calling someone to line up an interview but they don’t answer because they don’t recognize my number.

To counter that, robocalls are now using fake phone numbers that pretend to be callers near you.

Don’t you wish we could have true private lines that robocalls and telemarketers can’t access?

We can’t cling to a life without change or we would all be driving a horse and buggy.

But it’s obvious that not every change is good.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at

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