Closeness to the customer

Klaus Steves /

The last five years or so I have observed how my clients, who previously had no contact with their end customers and marketed their products only via distributors, are trying to get close to their end customers. They collect data about the customers as often as possible. They try to eliminate the distributors and to gain a better understanding of what the market needs. A stronger link to the end customers is the clear trend. The end result is that we buy almost everything on-line and the contact with living persons becomes ever less frequent.

I can remember how, as a small child I went with my grandmother to the dairy to fetch fresh milk in the morning. That was a social occasion. Grandmother always dressed her hair carefully and applied the light red lipstick. In the dairy they was only a single saleslady, of whom I was in fear and at the same time she fascinated me without end. She was tall and very loud. She wore white clothes, a white apron and in her short hair a white lace headband, which restrained her wavy hair. She also wore red lipstick, but compared with my grandmother not a decent red, but a shining, screaming red. My grandmother called her Schkobiska. What her name really was, I don’t know.

But it was never only a question of buying milk or curd. We were also seldom alone in the shop. In the morning the shop was the social centre of the district. One exchanged news, complimented one another on new clothes or received sympathy, if something unpleasant had happened in the family. I liked going with grandmother and always looked forward with suspense to what we would experience today. In addition to the dairy products, grandmother received the local news (hot from the press) and also contact with the social community, although we lived in a capital city.

My mother now orders much of her food on-line, which is then delivered home. That is practical, convenient and she doesn’t have to carry heavy bags. We taught her this, when she had broken her leg and couldn’t go shopping. But almost every day she still goes to the shop round the corner to buy something small. It’s not the shopping as such, but the walk and meeting all the many people she has known for decades (including many former pupils) and with whom she exchanges news or also receives and gives empathy.

It may be that in the near future we will buy most things from the Internet. Clever algorithms will answer our questions and pick out what is suitable for us. But for human encounters we will have to pay extra and the empathy will be sold as a separate service.

London from a different perspective

There are cities, which are alive, inspirational, pulsating and time and again surprising, so that you can’t see them too often and where a lifetime is too short to discover everything worth seeing. London is certainly one of them. Where to begin and what to see? I’ll leave the classic sights unmentioned, all you have to do is google.  If you’ve ticked them all off, what about Covent Garden Market? Not only because of its many small shops, which offer astonishing things, and the inexpensive flea market, which has even more surprising things on offer, but above all for the artists performing there. There is always something on: street comedians, singers, jugglers, living statues. It’s never boring.

Or what about a “Bond in Motion” exhibition not far from the market? All the cars, with which James Bond had spectacularly raced and chased all the rogues in the world, are exhibited there in the original version. They are accompanied by the appropriate film excerpts and some requisites are also there. A must for every James Bond fan.

A visit to London should also include an evening at the theatre. Musicals, dramas, comedies or Shakespeare for those, who like it classic. The tickets are not cheap and you shouldn’t be naïve and think that one can pick up tickets at the box office. If you don’t book in advance, you’ll probably have to miss the culture.

Even with a small budget, quite a lot can be seen. For example, all the museums in London can be visited free of charge. The Tate Museum of Modern Art for example. Even if one can’t get on with modern art, from the 10th floor there is an excellent view, almost as good as from the London Eye, only one can enjoy it FREE as long as one wants. In addition, there is a wonderful corner, where small children can play. And also worth mentioning is that a modern residential block has been built so close to the Tate building that one can see not only city, but also the interior decoration of 14 floors, because the English don’t believe in curtains and therefore don’t have any. Quasi a “live ” course on interior decoration by the upper class at the beginning of the 21st century.

And if you’re travelling on a restricted budget, then close to the Tate Museum there is an old food market with many delicacies, but also opportunities for attending courses in baking or learning how to butcher. You can try much of the food free of charge and an inexpensive, wonderfully smelling lunch can be bought at one of the stands.

Food in London is a world of its own and one should find the courage to eat things one doesn’t yet know. Everything is there and in all price ranges, you can eat Chinese, Indian, French, Lebanese, Japanese, Mexican and so on for 7, but also for 120 pounds. It’s worthwhile. For breakfast try porridge, it fills the stomach and lasts until the evening.

What surprised me was the number of homeless people, who could be seen everywhere in the centre and gave the impression that they had taken root where they slept. It wasn’t simply people in sleeping bags, which one knows from other cities, but real tented camps with household equipment and only the stench of urine reminded one of the limitations of living in a tent.

You can live very well with a lot of money in London, but I think that, as a visitor, you can live well and also see a lot on a small budget. The courage to enjoy unusual experiences is certainly rewarded in this city.

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