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Ricky Blue's Other Life
Ricky Blue
Ricky Blue
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is a Montreal-based humorist, singer, and writer. He and partner George Bowser are the famous Bowser and Blue comedy act. Here's his bio from their Bowser and Blue website.

Ricky Blue was born in Liverpool, England, but raised in Maine, New Jersey, and Toronto. He has an MA in English from Concordia University. He has been involved in bands and media music in Montreal for over twenty years. In 1981 he won an international 'Clio' award for excellence in advertising.

He once appeared on television naked.

His life had no real meaning, however, until he began to play with Bowser and Blue. Rick plays guitar, mandolin, and harmonica, and sings in a rather pleasant baritone when George will let him.

His columns are archived here

Posted 01.22.04

RICKY BLUE

Service, like they mean it

The other day a letter arrived at my house that began: "Dear valued customer."

Isn't that a nice phrase? Wouldn't we all like to believe that we are truly valued by the businesses we patronize? That would prove that capitalism has a human side. The side Karl Marx chose to ignore.

When capitalism works on this level there is no better system.

Each worker is plying skills or services and being remunerated by a grateful customer. Ideally, that worker or tradesman is doing something that brings him or her satisfaction in itself.

Like when someone who likes working with wood is a carpenter. Or when someone who loves movies runs a video store.

"I would do this for free," they say. "Getting paid is a bonus!"

I wish everyone felt that way about his or her work. Every once and a while I do meet someone who fits their chosen profession perfectly. It is a revelation when it happens.

"Hi. I'm a butcher. What kind of cut would you like? I recommend the rib. It's very tender today. Look at the way it's marbled. People always ask me for only lean meat. But you can only get tender beef if it is marbled with fat like this."

"Wow, that's great. I came in here because the sign said: 'Butcher.' And so I was hoping I'd meet a real butcher. Not just someone who is serving time. Now let me see that rib."

I know. You're thinking that this can only work for small businesses. It can never work on the scale of today's big corporations.

Modern retail is mostly huge chains employing thousands of low-paid clerks who probably know less about their inventory than their customers. The only guy who really knows what the store is selling is hidden away in an office somewhere in the back.

That is true. And those chains only succeed because with their volume they can offer lower prices. But with a small business I can walk in and be greeted by someone I know. And even with my rushed little life, I can manage conversation or a joke.

And when I ask about a product and trust that I am receiving a truthful response, and not being hyped or hustled.

There is a gas station in my local village that epitomizes this for me. And so I don't even look at the current price per litre when I gas up there. Because our relationship is more important.

They have changed headlight bulbs for me, only charging me for the bulb. And on one occasion the owner even took my car home with him to find out what was draining my battery. He would park it overnight and then start it each morning, eliminating various possible causes one by one.

Eventually he found out that it was a small switch in the door that stuck and so kept a small light on inside the car. This light was draining the battery. He fixed the switch and the problem, only charging me for the switch. This man is no longer just my mechanic - he is my friend.

And now he has become part of a column. He can call me a "valued customer" anytime and I'll call him my 'valued business.'

When the larger chains learn this then I will read their letters that begins with: "Dear valued customer," instead of immediately throwing them away.

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