From the Milk Man to Amazon, an Italian’s Take on Old Versus New

In the end, it's all about reputation

By: Louise Ricci Mulgrew, ISDA

The old saying the more things change the more they stay the same is true. Just look at shopping.

It wasn’t that long ago those groceries were delivered directly to you. Fresh milk and eggs were delivered to your door or milk chute each day.

The fruit and vegetable sellers rolled their wagons down the street in the summer hawking fresh produce. Even “junk food” like pretzels and chips were delivered in large refillable tins to your door.

And with seven children I shudder to think where I would be without diaper service. Good old West End Diapers picked up dirty diapers and returned with bundles of clean ones wrapped in blue paper every week.

It was Amazon without the delivery charges or having to pay an extra yearly fee. Mind you, I guess the merchants built it into the cost of the products but if you didn’t see the cost you didn’t pay it.

We also had loyalty programs. The king of loyalty programs was the S&H Green Stamp program. These green stamps were available from various retailers and coincided with the amount of your purchase at the store. One book was equal to three dollars. In those days three dollars went far. And I was always happy to fill a book or receive one as a gift from one of my aunts.

I remember taking them to the store for redemption where the cashier carefully inspected each page to make sure they were completely full and no stamps were missing. It was very exciting.

Whereas these days the accumulation of “points” for free merchandise has all of the excitement of internet banking. There’s no romance, no anticipation, no way to physically experience that high you get from reaching a goal.

Plus there are so many programs, you lose track of them. I have more plastic tags with bar codes on my key chain than I have keys. Many of these are linked to credit cards and debit cards I don’t use.

It seems that cash is becoming a thing of the past. My children have been telling me about Bit Coin this new form of currency backed by – well nobody’s quite sure what is backing it up. I personally think it’s just another form of digital dust.

Obtaining credit was also much easier when I was young. You went to the local store and you put items on your account. Your parents went to the store every Friday (payday) and paid off the account. And so it went, week in and week out. And it was interest free.

Often when times were tough, the local store extended credit for an extra week. Everyone was good for it. That was back in the day when your reputation was priceless and paying your debts or keeping your word guaranteed that reputation. A bad reputation was a thing to be avoided at all costs. Lately it seems to me, having seen so many of these “reality shows” that bad reputations have now become a badge of honor.

In fact, reputation is the one thing you can’t buy or acquire by points. You earn it. And for my money, that’s the most satisfying acquisition of all.


Copyright 2016, by Louise Ricci Mulgrew

All Rights Reserved.

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