The fall of Mom n' Pop stores and the rise of consumer freedom

For all those shedding a tear for the 'mon n pop' store, spare a thought for how organised retail formats have radically changed the way we shop. I clearly remember as a young boy what my mother told me every time I went to the corner store to buy provisions. Note, then there were no organised retail format stores. She reminded me to be careful and always watch while the shopkeeper picked provisions asked for, and put them into paper cone containers. 'Cos If I batted an eyelid, the shopkeeper would slip in a shoddy item which would only be discovered once I got back home and when the packages were opened.

Look around now. The greatest gift the organised retail store has given the consumer is the freedom to pick and choose what he wants. No one's gonna slip in a 'bad one'. It may sound exaggerated, but this is true consumer freedom. Now, has this 'free to choose' facility permeated into all retail formats. Not yet. My experience at a IBP petrol bunk demonstrated this lack of freedom. Nowhere in India, as far as I know, can you fill petrol on your own. The attendant at the bunk does it for you. This is where the 'lack of freedom' hurts. Having asked for Rs. 500 worth of petrol, the crooks at the bunk first filled up for Rs. 100, apologised, and then proceeded to fill for another 400. Just that, this time around, they distracted me, took advantage of that, and started the petrol meter at 100 and not 0. By the time I looked up at the counter, the numbers had jumped to around 300 in a flash. Having realised what the attendants had done, I protested, which had the owner of the bunk come out, apologise and add another Rs. 100 worth of petrol.

The point I am trying to make is, its get my goat when 'mom n pop' stores are glorified. The fact is, they curtail the consumer's right to pick and choose what he wants. The only way the 'power to choose' can be put into the hands of the consumer is to welcome whole heartedly the explosive growth of organised retail formats around the country.


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