There was a time when Britain’s towns were full of small family-run businesses that sold everything we wanted and their staff were only to happy to help. Then came out-of-town stores on trading estates, putting all these nice local businesses out of the running because they could not afford to compete. Well, it looks like it’s time for the out-of-town businesses to suffer the same fate, and it can’t come a minute too soon for some of them – it’s pay-back time.

I went out to day to spend about £300 on a new bridge camera that could shoot HD movies as well as take really decent photographs. I’d researched my market, got prices from Internet retailers, so went armed with all the facts. However, I was prepared to pay a little bit extra on the basis that I’d be able to try out the camera in the shop before I bought it. I think this fair doos, they’re charging more than the Internet retailers so they’ve got to put a little effort in to the sale.

So, first stop, Comet in Aintree. I spotted my preferred camera and very nicely asked if I could have a cloer look at the camera and see it in action. I could see it, I was told, it’s there on the shelf – but I couldn’t see it in action because Comet has a policy of not keeping batteries charged. The staff are not allowed to demonstrate cameras I was later told by the manager when I complained. So why did they want to charge me an extra £50 over the Internet retailer? They wouldn’t budge on the price, even given that they were not going to do anything for the extra £50 they wanted to charge me, so I just walked out – they didn’t deserve my business. I certainly wans’t going to blow £300 on a product I was not abosultely sure was going to do everything I wanted.

We, as a nation, in our quest for ever cheaper goods have supported businesses like this at the expense of the good old family run local business who would have thought nothing about spending half an hour with me to make sure that I walked out the door with the right product. And would I have paid an extra £50 for this service, you bet.

Anyway, second stop, that good old family run local business that is PC World in Aintree. No, I’ve not gone off my rocker. I was treated today the way I used to be treated in the good old days, I met someone (the digital SLR camera specialist) who had good personal skills and great values – it was a pleasure to do business with him. Unfortunately I don’t have his name, but he knows who he is.

I spotted my same target bridge camera and was about to ask for help when I spotted some ex-demo SLR cameras. Now they might not have been able to shoot HD video, but an SLR would benefit me hugely over a bridge as the quality of the still images they produce is, in general, much better.Factor in the flexibility of additional lenses and flash guns and the benefits are huge. I’ve always fancied an SLR but they really were out of my budget.

Enter my helpful sales person. He spent over half an hour with me extolling the virtues of the various models on special offer, getting a battery out and showing me a camera working (something no shop did according to the manager at Comet), and putting up with me whilst I oo’ed and are’d over which one to pick. I think I made the right choice. I spent within my budget, but I came away with a different, better, camera than the one I wanted. I was treated like I was the most important person in that shop.

Well done Mr Digital SLR Specialist at PC World in Aintree – your store, ney your company, ought to be proud of you and train all their other young oiks to emulate you. That sale could have been yours Comet in Aintree, but you couldn’t be bothered – your loss.

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