Don't Shop It

by David Ellis

My Mum likes to change ‘her little car’ every two years.

And so the time came for her to make her vigil to the FIAT garage in Keswick, to part exchange her 4 year old Punto for a newer model.

Accompanied by my Dad and youngest brother Dale, there was never one trip - usually a series of visits: the first to recce what they had in and to sound out how much they would give Mam for her current car. The second to have another look at a car they might have identified and liked. The third, after an internet search and 20 car mags later, they would return to haggle with the dealer, who by now had become their best friend and could have sold them 10 cars.

Dale loves these trips out.

Dale is an exceptional person. At birth, it was discovered that he had a genetic defect in his 23rd chromosome (another one of Sellafield’s silent victims). His mental handicap means that he’s become something of a gentle giant (helped by his love for sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks). Dale has a very simple outlook on life and is very reflective and sensitive. Although he comes across as being rather shy, he’s something of a celebrity in Workington. Everyone seems to know him. Although he goes to a day centre throughout the day, at lunchtimes he likes to walk around town and browse in the shops and chat to well wishers who say hello.

So the day arrived when Mam brought her ‘new’ car home. For Dale this was a big occasion and when I arrived on the Friday night, Dale had been standing in the sitting room, looking out of the window, waiting for my arrival. As I pulled onto the drive he dashed out and rushed me to the brightly polished Punto in the garage. He then ushered me into the house, apparently he’d got a new purchase too, a ghetto blaster.

I went into the sitting room and there on the table was a very impressive CD player, a SONY too, so nothing cheap. This thing must have cost over £100. Dad and Mam must have been in generous mood. Dale ‘earns’ about £5 a week from the day centre, so I knew that he’d never have been able to afford it.

I then went through to the living room, greeted my parents and told them how impressed I was with their new purchases and enquired what had possessed my parents to buy such a generous present for Dale. My parents smiled broadly and began to tell me the tale about how Dale had come to own such a wonderful piece of technology.

Apparently, Dale had arrived home at 4 .00pm the previous day from the day centre brandishing his new purchase. Dad immediately quizzed him about where it had come from. ‘I bought it - from ARGOS’

Dad knew Dale only had less than a fiver in his wallet and no savings or bank card so he feared the worst. Could Dale have stolen it? So concerned were my parents that they decided to go down to ARGOS to see if Dale was telling the truth. Dale had never lied before or stolen anything, but how could he have come into possession of such an expensive item - particularly when Dale insisted that he’d bought it at ARGOS.

Once in the shop, Dad asked to see the manager who duly came out to see them, greeting Dale like an old friend as he did so.

‘Do you know Dale?’ enquired my Mam.

‘Oh yes, he comes in here most lunchtimes and looks through the catalogues. We have a chat don’t we Dale?’

Dale just smiled.

The Manager proceeded to tell my parents how Dale came to acquire his ghetto blaster. It turned out that when Dale had gone into ARGOS, unbeknownst to my parents, he had put his old , diminutive ghetto blaster in his bag. When he got into the shop he took out his ghetto blaster and handed it over the counter to the confused teller, announcing that he’d like to part exchange it for one that he had picked out in the catalogue. The very kind girl had explained that ARGOS didn’t do part exchanges, but Dale insisted that they did, because his Mum had just part exchanged her FIAT Punto for a new one so he wanted to do the same.

At this point the Manager came into the shop and knowing that Dale had bought his previous cd player at ARGOS, decided to use his discretionary allowance to give Dale his desired purchase and take his old model in part-exchange.

For Dale it was nothing more than an ordinary transaction, but for my parents, me and the many people that I tell this tale to - it was an extraordinary action, an act of such kindness and understanding, that even in it’s recounting, makes me well up with tears.

Customer service like this is of course exceptional. But for me, that manager did more for his shop in that one action, than a thousand other things he might have done under the auspicies of managing his business. I’ve told this story to thousands of people, who in turn, I’m sure have passed on the tale.

ARGOS - you did something wonderful. Thank you.