Never knowingly overpraised

Tue, Jan 17, 2012

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Never knowingly overpraised

I couldn’t quite believe it when I heard Nick Clegg, or ‘the Cleggster’ as I now think of him after reading the Guardian’s Westminster Digested column, beseeching British business to copy John Lewis.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t just adore John Lewis? First it was the huggable Christmas ad, flying in the face of children’s seasonal grabbiness. Then my own trip to the mothership (Bluewater branch) had me falling hopelessly in love with the Sylvanian Families John Lewis shop. Next, at a drinks party, a friend brought up John Lewis out of the blue and proceeded to shower them with praise.

And no, this blog is not sponsored by John Lewis and I haven’t been offered a single freebie for mentioning them (not even the Sylvanian shop, sob). I would, however, say yes in a flash to a bit of advertising from John Lewis. JOHN LEWIS, are you LISTENING?

But I digress. My friend, whose husband virtually runs another famous and hugely successful high street fixture, was practically swooning with the wonderfulness of JL. She had dispatched her busy husband to the John Lewis Oxford Street branch on Christmas Eve’s Eve, to pick up some gloves for his mother-in-law. Many men would have refused to have anything to do with the project at this point (and who can blame them) but my friend’s other half bravely soldiered on. My friend had already checked via the website that John Lewis was teeming with the right kind of glove, and the husband’s mission was simply to pick up a pair and leave.

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. He couldn’t find the gloves. He asked an assistant, who informed him they were out of stock, despite my friend’s information about high stock levels shown online, and that was nearly that. Stressed, cross and jostled by other cross, stressed shoppers, he started to make his way out, dodging the Christmas Eve’s Eve crowds, when he was stopped by a floor manager. ‘You don’t look very happy, sir, didn’t you find what you were looking for?’

My friend’s husband hesitated, torn between saying a sharp ‘no’ and storming off, or wasting yet more time explaining. He decided to explain, and told his sorry tale, which was received with sympathy and decisiveness. The floor manager asked him to stay put, and nipped away, returning sharpish with the right gloves. They’d been languishing in the stock room all along, as the website had said. A Christmas miracle!

Well, my friend certainly thought so. Her husband was amazed that a floor manager, on the second busiest shopping day of the year, had taken the time and trouble to assess a disgruntled shopper’s mood, step in, make his day and convert him into a John Lewis loyalist to boot. My friend, naturally, was thrilled too. And I’m sure her mother was very pleased with the gloves. Well, you just can’t beat John Lewis, can you?

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