Maybe it is because I have spent so much of my career writing for retailers that I pay extra attention to what those outside the travel business do to please and maybe even amuse their customers.

Or at least I deliberate over what pleases or amuses me.

Today I am thinking of a couple of encounters that occurred in the last year or so.

In one case, the retailer operates a small meat shop.

The first time I walked in, I thought posted prices looked a bit high, but the establishment was tidy and uncluttered, and the goods appeared fresh.

But the memorable part is what the butcher said as he stepped out from behind his counter: "How may I have the pleasure of serving you?"

I am not making this up.

Last week, I visited an equally small shop to drop off a pair of shoes for repair.

This place was about as cluttered and crowded as it could be and still leave room for the cobbler to walk and work. All manner of shoes, handbags, belts and mystery items were stacked high on open shelves or hanging from hooks and rods.

Here, I was greeted by a curmudgeonly older man who tsked-tsked with a Hungarian accent about what he would have to do to fix what I had done to those shoes.

But with a nod, he agreed to take on the challenge and would have said nothing else, I am sure, if I had not asked when the shoes would be ready. He said, "Tuesday," and provided no claim slip.

I returned a few days later, and on seeing me, the cobbler identified my shoes without hesitation.

That's an impressive old-fashioned database management system, isn't it?

While dancing a kind of jig to the music on his radio, he studied the shoes, applied polish and studied them again.

Then, he was ready to relinquish them, delivered in an old plastic bag from some other store in town.

Finally, I asked how much he wanted for his labors.

He thought a moment and then, I swear, pulled a number out of the air.

I admit that when I first patronized the shoe repairman, I would ask for a claim slip. He would rustle up a lose scrap of paper and put a number on it. But he never put a matching scrap with the shoes. Now I am trained.

Both shopkeepers are on the block where I live.

I return to each for these reasons: They are close to my home; one is charming, the other entertainingly eccentric, and most crucial, one sells quality food and the other knows his way around shoes. The value package is good.

One day when I am feeling grumpy, I will talk about some retailers of another stripe.

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