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Published: December 9, 2007, Author: MHirch

It is often said that progress is inevitable and that things will always get better as a result of progress. In recent years my own observation, as I am sure that of many millions of others, is that this idea of progress isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Nothing is actually inevitable, least of all progress.  Change certainly seems constant, but even change has its limits.

I went into a large Costco/Sams Club/Target type mass sales store the other day. I tried to buy a bed with a base and found it almost impossible to achieve.  The workers were over stressed. The scheduling for shipping was too complicated. The people in charge seemed to be uncertain about who was in charge and what would happen if a mistake was made.  I tried for two hours to buy the bed.  In the end I didn’t buy the bed or the base. No one seemed willing to make the final purchase possible.

On the other hand, I had a quite old cedar chest I wanted to have repaired and refinished.  I traveled five minutes to a small nearby town where I had been told there was a “carpenter” who would take care of this project. I met with the craftsman–his name is Cayetano, made an agreement for him to pick up the older cedar chest and agreed to the date (four days later) when he would complete the project and return a newly refinished and repaired cedar chest. A day earlier than agreed my craftsman returned with a beautifully restored sixty-year old chest with a new key to replace the lost one so it would lock again.

The difference between the mass store experience and the single craftsman was so striking that I couldn’t contain my sense of pleasure to find the convenience of a small shop with a skilled craftsman who responds to a simple agreement. There is no doubt that “progress” bites back and the mass retail store is a great example of this assault on our human sensibilities. Thanks to the world that contains diverse populations with human one-to-one transactions where the owner like Cayetano is the maker and the customer service person all in one. Service with a smile and high quality too.

(c) 2007 Center for World Indigenous Studies

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