People who gas on about Europe’s need to liberalize labor markets, privatize state-owned industries, and reduce the paperwork burden on entrepreneurs and so forth in order to facilitate the transition to an information-age, service-based economy, blah, blah, blah (and I gas on like that a lot these days) could save much time and breath with a single pithy recommendation:
European business needs to learn to call you back.
I long ago stopped counting the times merchants have told me, “I’m sorry, the person who handles that isn’t in right now. Can you try back in the afternoon?” Usually they don’t even say sorry.
It goes without saying that since I need something from them, I should be the one making the effort. It doesn’t enter their heads that they need something from me — namely business.
Some months ago my wife and I stopped getting voice-mail messages. After a couple of days, finding it hard to believe that all our friends and relatives had blown us off at once, I called the phone company to ask what was wrong.
“The system’s down while they reconfigure it,” said the customer service specialist.
“Well, I didn’t know that,” I said.
“Oh, that’s all right,” he said cheerfully. In other words: I wasn’t to feel bad about having bothered him.
Telephonic exchanges are predictably frustrating this way, but it’s not as if they treat you any better in person. The other day my wife and I were in a cutlery store to buy a cheese knife. The utensil lay there in front of us. I held my credit card, ready to pay.
“Hmm,” said the woman on the other side of the counter, after rummaging around for a quarter of an hour, “I can’t seem to find the price. Can you come back tomorrow?”
Please note that this wasn’t some nose-studded, vacant-eyed, minimum-wage-earning teenager. This was the owner.
Small shops in Italy are almost always owned and run by families. The profit goes directly into their pockets, often without stopping at the tax man’s. Yet they still won’t make it easy for you to hand over your cash.
The other evening my wife went into our neighborhood florist, looking for a simple bouquet of something to put on our dinner table.
“I thought I locked that door,” the proprietor said when she saw my wife, whom she surely recognized as a regular customer. “We’re closed.”
My wife went away without any flowers, the euros she had planned to spend still inside her purse.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?