It was a very inauspicious start to the day. Driving to work, just outside Gearstones Farm was a large smouldering pile: a crushed motorbike in flames, a decapitated sheep and a lot of smoke. A biker had misjudged the corner and killed the sheep. I have to confess, I must be getting soft in my old age, but I cried and then I cried some more when I thought of my animals, Penny Pig and Snouter. It was the most dreadful sight: blood and diesel and smoke. I heard later that the biker had walked away completely intact.
So I arrived at the shop twenty minutes late, made some sandwiches and set to. But the day became something of a tourist information service. They really shouldn’t ask me as I do not have the local knowledge that Lydia and Stu have as I live a good 13 miles away and apart from going to work in Hawes I never go there. So I ended up unwittingly misdirecting someone to the community playing fields and when asked which waterfall was the best one to visit: Hardraw or Aysgarth, I plumped for
Hardraw as it has a pub there, but I have to confess, I haven’t a clue. And where is Buttertubs? Where is the petrol station? Oh, and how do I get to Kirkby Stephen…um…beats me. Despite being made to feel an idiot, I did my best and looked at the maps in our local walking books on sale, but couldn’t see it, so felt bad having to redirect them to the ice cream lady opposite. Then there were the usual questions: can you tell me where the Creamery is? I try to suppress a sigh and do my best to cheerily tell them, but it does get very wearing.
A lady came in for a coffee and then five minutes later asked for more milk as she had to drink it before the coach came back to pick them up. Then there was a man who poked at a cheese sandwich that had a label saying ‘Just Cheese’ who asked what it was. ‘Just cheese’, I replied, trying not to laugh. And after this, a man who spent ten minutes examining the refrigerated counter before declaring that he wouldn’t eat cheese because it contained too much cholesterol. A woman who bought the smallest piece of cheese then returned to ask me to cut it up for her. People who take up your time and attention by reading aloud every single cheese label, have you explain what it is and then say they can’t buy any because they are on a coach/travelling home/going somewhere else/too expensive/too much in weight as ‘there’s only me , you know’/ have high blood pressure/high cholesterol levels/gives them tummy upsets/only came in to get change, can you change a£20 note for £1 coins for the meter.
This year has been a very difficult trading year in the shop. Our trade relies heavily on tourists and there simply hasn’t been the numbers, especially at weekends and people are not spending. Some people just poke their head around the corner of the shop, scan around it and don’t even come in. If I could have£1 for each person who says ‘just looking’ or snaps ‘I’m just browsing’, I would be very rich. Much is said about poor customer service, but no-one mentions incredibly rude customers!
There are of course some lovely customers who are genuinely interested in cheese, are knowledgeable, know what they like, or are prepared to try new ones and appreciate the whole concept of what we do which is to make a premium, artisan, hand made cheese and they are a pleasure to meet.
On that note, cheers, I’m off for a much needed pint!