Something for nothing

So a while ago, someone I know bought some new running shoes. He went and tried them on in our local specialist running shop, which is staffed by people who know what they’re talking about when it comes to running kit. The advisors there are pretty good – they will usually get customers to try on runners and run up and down the street outside so their gait can be observed, and they’ll happily do this several times until the best shoes have been identified.

I don’t know how complex the fitting process was in this case. What I do know is that once this person had figured out which runners they wanted, and tried them on, they left the shop and bought them online, thus saving £30.

When I called them out on this, the response was along the lines of  ’I'm all for local shops but I don’t have £30 to support them I am afraid’.  Support? SUPPORT? Like independent shops are some sort of charity case, surviving on handouts from those kind and generous folk, and who should be humbly grateful for being tossed a bone every now and again?

And breathe. Right. I’m sure I’ve covered this before on the blog, but in case you weren’t paying attention, let’s have a quick rehash…Online stores are often (but not always) cheaper. Sometimes a lot cheaper. Why can’t local shops offer the same prices? Well, it comes down mostly to rent costs and wage costs.

There is a big difference between renting a depot on an industrial estate and renting a city centre store. ‘Not my problem, is it?’ I hear you say. Uh, no, it’s not. Unless you want to try on your shoes before you buy them of course. In that case you’ll need to go to a shop on the high street. A shop that will have significantly higher rent costs, and therefore needs to charge higher prices.

And the staffing difference? It’s like this. If each customer takes 20 minutes trying on shoes, that means that in a 9-5 shop day,  one staff member can sell 24 pairs of shoes. Now I’m guessing that in a warehouse situation, one person can pick and pack 24 pairs of shoes in not much more than an hour. So wage costs eat a much larger proportion of your profit on each pair of shoes. Once again it’s not your problem, is it? Once again, no, it’s not. Unless you want advice and fitting of course, in which case – oh yeah, the high street again.

Of course cost is an issue for all of us these days. We all need to cut our cloth accordingly. But  by saying ‘I can’t afford the advice and service that comes with your shop, so I’ll just take the advice and service for free, thank you very much’ – well, that’s not cutting YOUR cloth, that’s rather arrogantly cutting someone else’s, surely?

I’m not saying don’t buy online. That would be a ridiculous (and hypocritical) plea.

I’m saying don’t take the piss out of local businesses by taking up their time, effort and money in providing you with a service, and then walk out and buy online.  It’s basically freeloading.

Something for Nothing

Cartoon reproduced thanks to


‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You’ by Paula Daly – Review

Just What Kind Of Mother Are You - Paula Daly

‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You’ is Paula Daly’s first novel, though she’s bringing out a second this year and working on her third as we speak.  Published last year and receiving positive reviews both here and stateside, the story promised to be ‘a cracking page turner’ (the Bookseller) and ‘fiendishly addictive as well as perceptive about guilt and social class’ (the Guardian).

The story is told by Lisa, a forty-something mum living in a small Lake District town. I was immediately drawn to Lisa – probably because there are some aspects of her life that I recognise – she’s a Mum of three,  permanently knackered, a bit too skint for comfort, constantly chasing her tail to keep life ticking over for everyone around her. And then, within the first couple of chapters, she makes a mistake – a terrifyingly easy mistake – which leads to the disappearance of her close friend’s daughter.

Lisa’s guilt and anguish is well depicted and is easy to identify with as she continues to relate the story, and as she does so, we come to know some of the other main players in the book, and their shared histories – namely her husband Joe, the missing girl’s parents Kate and Guy, Kate’s sister Alexa, and brother-in-law Adam. Needless to say, all is not what it seems and the desire to get to the bottom of the apparent contradictions, and of course to find out what happened to the missing girl, does indeed make this novel a page turner.

Interspersed with Lisa’s narrative are chapters written in the third person describing the thoughts and actions of the detective who’s been assigned to the case, and infrequent but chilling descriptions of the behaviour of an unidentified male. The three strands of the story are cleverly woven together to keep the novel moving along at a good pace, and it’s certainly true to say that I was picking it up every spare minute to find out how it played out.

As promised by The Guardian’s review, the themes of social class and guilt were both explored, although not in any great depth; while the overriding message that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence is of course true, I felt that perhaps this message was too simplistically portrayed. In addition the line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people was drawn very arbitrarily in the final pages.  I did feel that an opportunity was missed here – just because someone is immensely dislikable does not make them any less of a victim; and in this case, I would certainly have liked to know more about Alexa and felt that this would have added something worthwhile to the narrative.

On the other hand, the character and life of DC Joanne Aspinall is given some prominence throughout the story, and while this did not detract from the experience of reading the novel, I was not really clear why. It did not seem to me that there was quite enough linkage between Joanne and the main characters to justify the time spent on her – in fact I find myself wondering if perhaps the author has plans for us to meet her again in a future story, like Jodi Picoult’s Jordan McAfee. I hope so – I think there’s an interesting character there waiting to come out.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, though it’s probably not a novel I will return to a second time – I am not sure how much more there is to discover after reading it once through. However I have added Paula Daly’s second book, ‘Keep Your Friends Close’, to my Kindle wish list, and based on my experience of ‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You’, I fully expect to enjoy it.

On the whole, I would recommend ‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You’ to anyone who wants an engaging, fast and gripping read. If you’re a parent there are parts that will resonate all too well, but that isn’t a pre-requisite for enjoyment – there’s enough to keep you entertained even without the ‘it could happen to me’ fear factor. If you do give the book a try based on this review, I’d love to know your thoughts – as always, please do comment below or via the twittersphere!

**Disclosure – I received a free copy of this book from Mumsnet and Transworld Books, in exchange for writing a review. I have not been otherwise recompensed for this post, nor have I been asked to say anything specific in the review.**