This is a difficult letter to write, considering how long you've been a part of my life, but the truth is we need to talk.Now before I go any further I don't want you to panic, I'm not breaking up with you, I just think it's about time you and I have a little chat about our relationship. Things haven't been great for a while have they? And yesterdays Which? Survey voted you the U.K's worst high street store.
Ouch. That's got to hurt.
I'll be honest, I've seen the signs over the past few years, but you see i'm not willing to give up on you just yet. I think you and I could STILL have a long future together, but you've got to listen alright. No sulking, no rolling your eyes. Don't try to distract me with the half price chocolate at the till, that's one of the reasons we got here in the first place.
I think I knew you were always going to be a part of my life when I was about 7. I used to visit your store in Chester every Friday after school with my Dad and little brother. We would go to McDonald's for our tea, and then would come straight to you afterwards. We were allowed to pick one book or magazine each whilst Dad went off to read the Boxing News. I used to go upstairs to the section that's now a Costa coffee and spend ages picking my book, I would spread them out all over the floor whilst I pondered which Enid Blyton,or later which Sweet Valley high book to read next.
A nice lady, with a perm and glasses would always come over and help me. The reality was that she was ensuring I wasn't shoving one up my jumper, or wiping snot inside the covers, but whatever the actual reason was for being there she never rushed me, she knew what she was talking about, and would help me chose my next book. And then take me back down to my Dad (Again probably ensuring there was not going to be any snot wiping or book smuggling)
She made the whole experience a pleasure and it became the favourite part of my week, I used to enjoy seeing her each week. I forget when I stopped seeing her now and that makes me a bit sad.
Chester branch of W H Smith
The changes, they happened gradually didn't they. One day I came in and you had put in a fancy new lift, then you ripped out my favourite section upstairs and put in the Costa. You did this whlst I was away at University. I felt like I had lost an old childhood friend isn't that sad?
The biggest shock for me was when you changed your logo from brown and orange to blue! My Dad had to warn me on the walk there, he was so worried about my reaction.
It didn't go down well.
You know I always come back you though don't you? You pull on my heart strings.
One of my favourite things to do is still to come in and see you. I buy a book and sit in Costa (I soon forgave them ripping out my favourite section when I found out it was one of the easiest places to go with the pram and sip an Americano) I probably do it once a month now
But it's not just money problems making our relationship difficult, there are other things too....
Where's the staff? Where did they go?
In Chester store, there is usually one member of staff manning the tills downstairs, and one hovering by the self service tills, and then that's pretty much it for the entire store! I'm going to be honest the self service till panics me. I'm shouted at to use it and hurried through if I'm so much as 5ft away from the thing, still deciding on my purchase.
Maybe that's the cunning plan?
There are never any staff upstairs either, not even in the actual 'Book' department, No nice lady's with perms and glasses to advise on book purchases. you can't give great customer service without any staff to give it.
Or any customers, obviously.
Chocolate at the tills
Sometimes I think I've stepped into Willy Wonka's choclolate factory, not W.H.Smith!
I'm going to be honest If I've managed to avoid eye contact/pretended I've not seen/blatantly ignored requests to use the self service tills, then I'm asked a hundred and one questions at the till. And confectionary is almost always involved! Do I want stamps? A bottle of water? Half price chcocolate Oranges and mini bags of Thornton's Chocolate? Jelly Beans? No! I can probably get them cheaper in Tesco.
I went to but the Divergent books for my little Sister (and when I say little Sister I mean me) and they were £7.99 each. The Works had all for £10 it was a no brainer. Yes sometimes I use The Works too, I'm a bit of a tart.
There's too many vouchers I can't be arsed with them all, it's usually 20 per cent off something I've just bought anyway. I always take them as I feel I'm being rude if I don't .A loyalty card would be better, didn't you used to have one? What happened to that?
People selling things in front of the store
I physically have to dodge them sometimes to get in, A.A (not the boozy one the car one) Make up, phone providers, there is no getting away from them they pounce as soon as I approach the entrance. I can't cope with the pressure of making up a lie as to why I don't want overpriced make up I've never heard of, it's very off putting.
It's just so cluttered now, I walk in to the Chester store and I'm met with greeting cards not books, you're not Clintons what's that about? Then there are displays of Sharpies, everywhere, the basement which used to house music and DVDS is now a bargain basement with 50p post it notes, and autobiographies from realty TV stars.
I like your top floor though, it's nice and open plan and I enjoy shopping there.
I do not enjoy shopping downstairs, it feels like an obstacle course.
You hike up the prices in airports and Train Stations.
Come on now, admit it.
So now you know how I feel where do we go from here?
I want you to know I'll always be here for you, I'll continue to come in and see you, but that's just me W.H.Smth and my personal connection to you, You need to consider other people as well, I'm sure other's feel the same way as I do, we don't want to lose you and see another shop disappear from the high street.
I've got faith in you W.H.Smith, don't let me down. If you don't want to change for me, then do it for yourself.
Love Rachel x
P.S When I was about 12, I did once accidentally rip the back page of a Sweet Valley High book called Double Trouble, I wanted to see how it ended and our Tom jumped out and scared me so his fault really but It's always played on my mind.