One of the things that we always liked the least in Europe is the intent of people in the service sector to have lives outside of their shops. What do you mean, you are closed for three hours in the middle of the day? Are you so dumb as to lose potential customers by madly waving your hands at them and shouting J’ai fermé! at 4:58pm on a perfectly good Monday1? Used to – spoiled by it! – having places of commerce in America stay open late into the night and practically never “enjoying” days off2, we were constantly rubbed the wrong way by shops closing early on a weekday or never opening on a Sunday in most of the places that we’ve been to3.
Contrast that with a run-of-the-mill experience in our neck of woods.
We need to buy some stuff at a local Home Depot. For one reason or another, we are only able to get to the store around 9pm on a weekday night. 9:03, to be precise. The store schedule posted at the door suggests that the place closes at 9pm, but the doors slide open, a couple of cash registers are operating, and a store worker does not exhibit any displeasure with late walk-ins asking for assistance in finding whatever it is that they are looking to get. There are probably no more than a dozen shoppers all together in the huge store at this hour, and I have no clue whether their combined spend that evening covers the expense of staff wages and electricity to keep the store open, but, at the very least, there is little doubt that each one of those late customers will come back and spend at this store again and again.
For all of my natural inclination to European lifestyle, I am perpetually baffled why this notion of doing something extra for the customer so that they keep bringing back their business remains a largely foreign concept in the good old Europe.
1 True story – happened to us at a random shoe store in Avignon.
2 Northern Jersey’s Bergen County has inane local regulations that keep shopping centers closed on Sundays. I am pretty sure similar examples elsewhere in this big country do exist, but they are mostly exceptions, in my experience.
3 Prime tourist locations normally operate in more American-like way. Shops on Champs-Elysées stay open pretty late into the evening. But step a few blocks away, and Paris – or any other top destination in Europe – is not much different from the rest of the Old World: Closing early, staying shut on Sundays, etc.