The local branch of Sue Ryder is fed up of having post-carboot leavings dropped on its doorstep when it’s closed on a Sunday. Fair enough, I suppose: it turns out they can’t use the donations and have to pay a bit over a tenner to dispose of each bag.
In this age of PR and expert message crafting, where the customer is king and shops are their enablers and advisors, how have the staff reacted to this? Well, they printed off a dozen copies of the same unreadable A4 sheet of paper and stuck them randomly in their front window, of course! That’s how you get your message across: slightly frightening repetition of the same hard-to-read point, over and over again at random intervals with no discernable pattern. Each copy is in the same scribbly, undersized font, and each has the same spelling mistake (“obstuction to pavement” indeed.) They’ve also titled the notice “NOTICE”, which is about as useful to getting the message across as titling it “THIS IS A PIECE OF PAPER.” Worst of all, nowhere in the window do they display the shop’s actual opening hours. So how can you ever know you’ll come back to find them open? The temptation, in the absence of that information, is to leave the donations there and then.
The whole note reads like whoever wrote it did so when they were still fumingly angry at the people who—in a well-meaning but ill-informed manner—were dumping things on their doorstep. The anger is understandable, but you just have to count to ten and swallow it with a wide smile before you try to get donors on your side. But as it’s a production purely of annoyance, the notice has taken on a will of its own, and ended up not communicating the problem and its solution, but rather delivering a stern and slightly erratic telling-off, the sort you get from the slightly unhinged teacher who totally once threw a board duster at someone sat next to you in double hist. The fact that the note is amateurishly repeated some ten times in the shop window, each instance randomly half-aligned with the others, and that the spelling mistake is repeated those ten times too, just detracts further and further from any wish they might have had of communicating with people on an equal footing.
Passive-aggressive notes—whether they’re on a photocopier, pretending to give instructions but slyly telling off whoever fed the wrong sort of paper in last and jammed it; or whether they’re in a communal kitchen, pretending to remind you to wash up your mugs but slyly telling off whoever left the last pile of unwashed crockery there; or whether they’re on a shop front, pretending to appeal to your better nature not to leave donations out of hours but slyly telling off everyone who’s ever done that—are ultimately self-defeating. While any note at all will stop some people from dumping on this particular shop’s doorstep out of hours, then the note they’ve posted won’t stop those in a rush, or with poor eyesight, or with poor reading comprehension: the note’s actually quite hard to get through if you’re distracted by, say, your engine running, having just come from the car boot sale. As of last Sunday, there were already few boxes of donations outside the shop by lunchtime: the notices aren’t working.
So some of the more well-meaning and charitable people who do spend ten minutes trying to read the notice won’t, I admit, leave any donations on the doorstep. But those fleeting successes will, in the long term, have had their customer relationship with the Sue Ryder shop changed permanently by reading this weird, misspelt, repeated NOTICE in the window.