Artisans don't do Self Service.
Because the story matters,
A long time ago, I worked as a buyer for Marks and Spencer in a retail world far, far away. It was in the days when family still dominated it - The Sieffs and the Sachers, who were a daily presence, who you could find coming up to you at any time to discuss what you were doing. They had what seemed like a supernatural ability to know more about the tiny details of what I was doing than I did. The ethic continued all the way through the ecology. We were expected to know the suppliers and store managers, and to have a relationship with them that enabled an understanding of what was going on. Store managers walked the floor and talked to staff. Staff talked to customers. It was a fairly seamless relationship from manufacture to sale that defined the brand.
Going into our local store yesterday, the checkout staff had disappeared to be replaced by self-service checkout. In many ways, an inevitability, given cost pressures and our willingness to shop online, but it seemed to be that the story had gone with them. Rather than a human connection, we are being left to construct our own story about what we are buying, prompted by in-store signs and out-of-store advertising. The last vestiges of a relationship seem to have disappeared, and we are left with a transaction buying average products for average prices with no real connection. The same is true of much of what we buy, from accounting applications to government services to education.
It’s a gift for the artisan because the story and the storytellers matter. We are probably more expensive and most likely less convenient, and yet…
People buy relationships and stories. We are not a big business, yet our accountant knows us, as does our butcher, as does the engineer who looks after the car. We pay a little more (but not much - their overheads do not have to support manufactured storytelling) and what we buy does not come in fancy bags with flashy logos, nor does digital marketing bombard us. We are a desert for influencers.
As artisans, we do not hunger for market share to support thin margins predicated on volume. There is a rubric that suggests we can have a vibrant business with a thousand real fans. They become part of the story, part of a community, with little rituals and ceremonies through which we acknowledge each other.
The last thing in the world they want is the isolation of self-service.
Rituals are symbolic acts. They represent, and pass on, the values and orders on which a community is based. They bring forth a community without communication; today, however, communication without community prevails.
The disappearance of rituals. Byung-Chul Han. Page 1