Have you a local bakery which puts out samples, enticing you to actually try Rosemary Olive Flatbread or that strangely coloured spinach pasta? Do you see the same, cheerful staff ringing up your purchases over the years? Can you stroll around, discovering new food while picking up your usual frozen shepherd’s pie and French bread? Is your experience one of welcome and comfort, so different from the larger supermarkets? What is the value of small store, neighbourly stores that offer a taste of Paris style shopping?
I have spent money for over a decade at this pleasant collection of cramped stores, voting with my money that they deserve their spot on Yonge Street I am sure that Longos and Lablaws (both family owned big stores) must covet.
It made it particularly distressing to see the plump, dimpled bakery lady’s face crumple as she told me about the bakery’s plastic bag debacle.
Turns out the Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, wants the plastic bag 25c charge to discontinue, and this was reported in the media. The result is confusion as many shoppers and store owners believe that it has been dropped, but turns out that laws quickly put in place are not so easily repealed. This bakery does not have a compliance officer or lawyer on staff; checking out legislation is expensive. How many loaves of bread does a bakery need to sell to ask a lawyer 's counsel on whether they must continue to charge 25c, particularly when the media reports the mayor saying no more charges?
This is where the true horror story begins – a customer of the bakery snitched on them to City Hall for not charging 25c.
Worse than Agent Smith, a government bureaucrat posed as a customer in order to entrap this store. Then a fine was charged, a significant amount of money compared to the bakery's profits.
Is this Russia where neighbours snitched on each other?
Is this Zimbabwe where the government imposed bread prices and government thugs terrorized store owners?
No. This is Toronto the Bland, Toronto the Good.
Was this snitching and government interference over 25c bags a matter of concern for a global warming, Al Gore lover wanting store owners to snap into line over being green? Was it the City of Toronto Rob Ford haters just in for a dig to make him look bad? Or is it just a do-gooder making sure everyone follows the rules?
Whatever the reason, this snitching is terrible. Our our risk taking, hard working merchants do not need to be frightened.
This bakery lady was more upset that a customer had snitched. Imagine the feeling of knowing a customer has snitched on your business, that government bureaucrats pretended to be a customer in order to levy a fine, that not charging 25c cost you thousands of dollars.
When you have a bad business day, will you be able to carry on in business, or will you be just that bit more to close down? Snitching casts a terrible pall over a store and reduces the "animal spirits" required to run a business - that optimism.
Finally, will the bakery owner continue to be generous to the customers and put out a new cheese for them to sample – meh - not this week.
And there goes the neighbourhood.