Thursday, 29 October 2009

Dismal Rotherham

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I had a dismal morning in Rotherham today...

I took a walk around town on foot trying to find a coffee shop to kill a couple of hours in,and was shocked at just how many retail units were either empty or in use as Charity shops. Not a Starbucks or Costa to be found! I finally arrived at a dismal little greasy spoon cafe in the arcade along the walkway across the river from Tesco, just opposite Wilkinson's.

I ordered a milky coffee (in London we call that a latte :-) plus a toasted tea cake (which arrived liberally spread with what seemed like marge) and proceeded to open my laptop to work on the manuscript for my next book.

After a while I noticed the woman (not sure if she was the cafe owner) leave the shop and gossip something to the fruit and veg man who was selling bananas outside the shop who then looked at me - not difficult to establish she had gone outside to have a moan about me using her juice for my computer.

So I took my plate and cup up to the counter and ordered a hot chocolate plus a packet of bourbon biscuits - just to show goodwill.

After a little while longer, the woman came up to me and said 'You've had enough time on that love, we don't normally allow it' meaning my laptop. As the pensioner who sat across with his 75p cup of tea looked on. I was incredulous!

There must have been 12 tables in the coffee shop; only three of them were occupied; I was about to buy some mineral water and invite the person I had been waiting for to join me there for another coffee.

Needless to say, I packed up and walked out, but not before giving said woman my business card and telling her if she needed any advice to help improve her customer service be sure to call me.

It's a ridiculously small incident but to me it sums up everything that is wrong with this country - the lack of entrepreneurial spirit, the view that customers are a nuisance rather than a business opportunity and the 'let's go on strike rather than try to add value' mentality that we are seeing hammer the last nail in the Royal Mail's coffin.

I am so passionate about empowerment through enterprise that I could cry at the dismal way most people approach business. If we want to rebuild our tattered and bankrupt economy the starting point is a sea change in the attitude of our people.

Oh and by the way, when I got back to my car I had received a parking ticket.

Rotherham, I won't be visiting you again any time soon.


Andy Parkes said...

I'm going to Rotherham next week, last time I went I remember trying to kill some time as well - i went for a walk around the shops to what was about. I went back to the car in the end

Sorry to hear you had such a poor experience. Did you ask first? I never quite kmnow the ettique when it comes to laptop power cables!

Anonymous said...

Expect that old lady had just been shagged by the banks Rachel. Pop in on one when ure passing. They might let you have some free electricity there and even give you a smile and wave goodbye.

You seriously are losing it!!

Anonymous said...

stuck up cow

Anonymous said...

Its not about being stuck or losing it, she perfectly correct, the country is falling down because there is NO customer service. It is irrelevant wether it is a greasy spoon costa coffee or harrods, the customer comes first. If the likes of the 'greasy spoon' owner was any good at customer then he/she would have a full cafe, and probably not even be serving there, because they would have loadsa wonga.

So to one and all, get off your backsides, go out there relentlessly and start putting this great nation back on the map. And if you dont like working to earn a living, then go live in siberia.

Good night all

Anonymous said...

bloody nora, just re-read my post, now, I am either very tired, or, i am becoming dyslexic

Still goodnight and sweet dreams all.

Stephen said...

Rachel, My 0.2c.

In future don't go to Rotherham. Let Rotherham come to you. lol

Stephen said...

Its true Rachel. You have the power to alter the way you view any scene.

For example, you could have visualised that you were in fact in Beirut rather than Rotherham and could have therefore taken pity on the old lady in the shop.

Its amazing how positive this kind of thinking is. lol

Rachel Elnaugh said...

The reason half the shops in Rotherham are shut is lack of customers. Therefore if I had a business that was still open I would treat every customer like a jewel.

So that they stay as long as possible, come back again soon and tell all their friends how wonderful my business is.

I would not have objected to paying for the laptop juice either - she only had to ask if I would make a contribution to the leccy bill and I would happily have paid!

Good customer service means the answer is always yes - now what's the question?


Anonymous said...

A lot safer in Rotherham though Stephen!!!!!!!

Andy Hanselman said...


She's what I call the 'Sales Prevention Officer'. So many businesses have them - and not just in Rotherham either!

But you're right - if you're surrounded by them, it doesn't take much to stand out and be a 'Sales Creation Officer'. That's what wins customers and repeat business.

There are some good businesses in Rotherham I promise - happy to introduce you to them too!

Rob said...


I live in Rotherham and refer to the place as a doughnut, that is, really quite nice around the edge but sod all in the middle!

If you think the cafe owner is crap at business, try this one - Rotherham Council demolished its own building just up the way from the cafe and didn't secure a proper deal with the developers that were going to build something new.

That building brought £250,000 rent into the public coffers, year in year out, and now it brings sod all in. But the Council said it was OK 'cos now we've got a luvely view of the parish church.

How's that for enterprise? - it rather puts the dozy old cafe owner in perspective.

Funny though, I never seem to really feel the need to go shopping in Rotherham.

Anonymous said...

You're right to complain about the poor customer service, but you have to remember that we Northerners are quite straight-talking.

Plus, you were at the more 'colourful' end of town (be thankful you weren't accosted by the Big Issue man who usually frequents the Tesco tunnel!).

If you visit again, head to the opposite side of town and try the Arts Centre Cafe, it has a much more diverse menu, they do know what a latte is and use butter.

Otherwise, ask directions to Parkgate, they have a Costa there :-)

Anonymous said...

I have just been sent and am listening to a series of discs by Earl Nightingale entitled Lead The Field. In these discs the late Earl Nightingale speaks of the great depression being times when people needed leadership, hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. Rather than decrying the situation of his time he set out to do something about that which he saw was needed. He set out to offer leadership, hope and a light at the end of the tunnel that he felt people sought. He did this by way of creating educational information which would enable people to take up the batton themselves. We have had good times in this country, and in many other places around the world for that matter, and for a long while people have forgoten what service means, becoming instead a little lazy, non-plus somehow. Why work hard when business simply came to you on a plate or the squeeze was not tight enough financially to worry too much. What opportunity this brings for those who know all about the likes of product knowledge and customer service, and what opportunity for those who teach the basic principles of business. The darkness, as they say, always comes before the dawn! Perhaps Rotherham is as good a place as any to start recruiting the next delegates for the many events that are being held on making business work in 2010. It could be considereed a regeneration project, and injection of much needed light that would be stimulated by an injection of much needed enlightenment offered by the leaders in the field. It is the places and people that cry out the most whose need is the greatest. It appears that this and many other areas are crying out, is anyone listening, and if they are, action is what is required, for actions are what makes the difference. How do any of us know the difference if we are not shown, it takes only a thought of making things different followed by an action to bring it to pass.

Thinking Locally - Thinking Local Independents, Thinking of how we put the GREAT back into Britain, Susanne

Rachel Elnaugh said...

Hi Susanne

I have spent the last four years working in the enterprise sector helping entrepreneurs on their business journey, speaking at hundreds of events, creating and delivering training programmes and getting involved in helping govt create an enterprise strategy. However my big issue with Mandelson et al is that millions are being thrown at enterprise with no real strategy and no attempt to address the underlying culture through education etc. Thus I will go to events in Newcastle or Grimsby or Blackburn all govt funded, free advice and info and no one turns up because there is a local footie match on or no one can be bothered. I will go to business link organised events where all 250 tickets booked but on the day only 100 turn up. Business link aren't allowed to charge for tickets by the way not even a fiver despite the fact payment of the smallest amount creates traction. I am a great fan of the enterprise thought leaders - napoleon hill, Carnegie et al - but the biggest challenge is often getting people to at least open the book or get their bum on the seat!


Stephen said...

I agree that motivating people is the greatest challenge.

It is a challenge which our leaders have failed to live up to.

People don't turn up because much of what is said and done in the past hasn't made one jot of difference.

It is this indifference that leaders must address.

They must honestly answer the
question... Am i really making an impact here? Is it enough to simply turn up?

Anonymous said...

Hello Rachel, with a soul of an eternal optimist, like you, I am also no quitter. I say this because I too, along with many others, have put time into people and projects that was like pouring liquid gold into a bottomless pit, and the results ‘at the time’ appeared futile because the results were often so very disappointing. Yet at other times the results are quite the opposite. I always believe, whichever the result, that whatever seed we sow, if not immediately, will eventually take root. I used to have a sign on my wall that said ‘Just because people appear not to be listening does not mean that you should stop talking because at some point in their lives it will be apparent that they heard every word! People act when they are called to action, this can be a minor happening in their lives or one of a more major nature. People are also curious and up for things that spark an interest or by something that they do not want to be left out of for example. Maybe we need to get more inventive. Let’s look at Bingo; people used to fill many a Bingo hall up and down the country to collect numbers for winning lines that would secure a prize. Today we have the lottery - people buy a ticket in the hope of a fortune that would change their lives, other appear on reality shows desperate for some recognition. What if we could come up with an idea that would guarantee that all seats were full at these talks you mention, what if the stakes were high in relation to what those attending could get out of attending. There would be a pay off, the pay off being each participant having to digest the material offered and take a quiz rather than test, sounds more fun, the winner or winners of which get fantastic opportunities to better their lives. We need events that offer life changing carrots to tempt the donkeys at the donkey derby into becoming thoroughbreds in the greatest race of their lives, the one where they come out as winners. Has to be possible, all we need is an innovative spark to set this and all manner of other ideas alight. As leaders in the field, what we need to do is get creative and come up with the next big wave of must have that leads people not to the latest diet fad or how to be a celebrity, but how to live a life of abundance in all forms that is truly fulfiling to the heart and soul. These souls then become leaders in their field who create change witin their own family and direct community and on it goes. The opportunities are all there for us to grasp and run with.

With all good wishes, Susanne

Mr A Dragon said...

" I will go to business link organised events where all 250 tickets booked but on the day only 100 turn up."

Thats because Business Link is rubbish. Very few people involved have ever run a business, in my experience. You can learn more from a good book than going to see Business Link.

They should just scrap it and use the saving to reduce the tax burden for smaller businesses.

I am a F@&k?ng Genius!




Anonymous said...

Actually not every one can read, some are dyslexic, so the book wouldn'y help much.

And before you say it, yes there are many entrepreneurs out there who dyslexic, I know of some, but one for the record is, I believe any way,
Sir Richard Branson


Stephen said...

The problem of leadership is the perceived underlying intentions of the leader.

Cheating bankers, corrupted politicians and immoral media propaganda has served to muddy the waters of perception still further.

How can you take any leader seriously when you doubt their underlying intentions behind the advice they convey?

I watched the video of Warren Buffet and yes i would certainly turn up to meet him.

But i cannot think of too any other capialist leaders i would.

Total indifference (apathy) created by poor leadership, you see.

You cannot herd people, like sheep. You cannot herd apathy. The only way to address it is to show that your intentions as a leader are sincere, honest and well founded.

Now, lets see leaders do that. lol

Anonymous said...

Well Stephen, make me a leader and i'll do it. Honest, Promise


Anonymous said...

Location, location, location...

Why go to Rotherham. The vast majority of local folks, even those who can't afford it just go to Meadowhall. Free parking, good facilities, good location and well trained staff.

Meadowhall IS the reason that the centre of Rotherham is dead. This is the price we all pay for having out of town shopping palaces. Dead town centres.

You can always tell a healthy town centre by the number of Big Issue sellers on the streets.

The councillors are probably more bothered about fighting amongst themselves, than doing anything for the town. This is also true of nearby Doncaster.

This does not mean that Rotherham is dead forever, but short of someone investing £xxx millions in the town, then it will stay dead for the foreseeable future.

Allan B said...
Made a stir, then Rachel . . .

Allan B said...

Created a bit of a stir, then . . .

Anonymous said...
Casued a bit of a stir then . .

Library Boy said...

I had a horrible experience last time I went down to London - people and beggars everywhere.

I went into a Costa coffee to escape, due to the lack of decent local businesses that aren't dependent on plastic cups and franchise deals.

I paid £5.00 for a skinny latte (In Rotherham we call that a rip off for a milky coffee).

People refusing to talk to each other, shoved off the street, and no-one prepared to give you eye contact. When I looked at someone and smiled in a friendly way, they thought I was a bit special and walked down the overcrowded carriage.

To me THAT is perhaps what is more sympotomatic of what's wrong in the country.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way, when I got back to my car I had received a parking ticket. - did you actually pay to park or did you just assume that because you are Rachel you didnt have to? You dont recieve tickets for no reason not even in 'Dismal Rotherham', as you may have guessed I actually hail from Rotherham and I have never found the shops to be rude or uncaring, rather they tend to be full of banter, this tends to be because many of the older establishments have a small but loyal customer base. I think the reason you didnt feel welcome is because you are not from the area, this is not to say you wernt welcome (you arnt now), but rather dont expect everywhere to be like London. Rotherham is a shithole granted, but the people there are good honest people (regardless of the press), and you have attacked them without even considering local etiquette, dont judge people you clearly dont know or understand. If you didnt ask the woman if you could use the electric then what do you expect, you took it without asking as if you had the right to do so, maybe this is how it is done in London but like I have said dont think thats how its done everywhere. Personally I found your attack to be incredibly pompus and you seem to be completely ignorant of the difference in ways. Lastly if I was going to take business advice from any Dragon your name would not be on my short list, what with your businesses epic fail.

Stephen said...

Well, that was a rather interesting update, full of needless asides which show the author in a rather negative light.

Perhaps it's just me, but this entire article seemed to drip with a sneering pompousness, that every sentence should have concluded with 'So that's why I'm too good for all this'.

Perhaps you should be entitled to do just whatever you like, wherever you like. You want to plug your laptop in? Go ahead. These minimum-wage mortals will be glad you've graced their 'dismal little greasy spoon', and will turn a blind eye.

I must admit, buying goods from the cafe 'just to show goodwill', is indeed an olive branch even the most hardened of scullery maids would find it difficult to refuse. For this, you should be applauded.

Assuming this cafe doesn't normally allow customers to use their laptops (which is entirely at their own discretion), why should you be 'incredulous' that you were treat the same? If that's the way they want to run their business, let them do so - if it's an enormous failure, so be it.

I understand the need for bloggers to 'set the scene', but so many things about this article really hit a nerve.

I bet Rotherham feel really grateful that you stooped so low as to visit them, and that your business card has made it's way into their local museum, where it'll be 'oohed' and 'aahed' at for many years to come.

Stephen said...

What i found when i met Rachel near my home in Hythe kent was that people were taken back by her appearing in the local coffee bar. For weeks after when i went in the cafe the people behind the counter would ask me when she was coming in again. So maybe sometimes people to Rachel seem rude, when they are simply trying to place who she is.

Also, i find Rachels failures very interesting and this makes her all the more interesting. But the long and the short of it is - shes a lot more successful than any old anonymouse. lol

Lets be havin YA! lol
Who are you..?
Stand up and be counted mate!

Stephen said...

anonymouse now posting as me.. lol..

bourgeosie bastards..

mine is the hythe post.

Ed said...

I reckon there is some truth in what you said Stephen. People around our way treat celebs very differently too. But you have to agree, they do look down their noses on people.

Anonymous said...

So maybe sometimes people to Rachel seem rude, when they are simply trying to place who she is.

I can understand that, it would get annoying and true she is still far more successful than I (most probably ever will be). However I still stand by my opinion that her attitude was pompus, say what you want about the town but an attack on the people who live there is something I take very personally.

Stephen1 said...

Stephen, while I agree it's unheard of for two people to share the same name, I assure you it was not my intention to impersonate you. My name also happens to be Stephen, a rather splendid name I'm sure you'll agree, however for the purposes of clarity, I shall henceforth be known as 'Stephen1'.

Stephen said...

anonymous, i'm sure Rachel would be the first to agree that she is not perfect. And perhaps even pompous sometimes.

Well i think she would anyway.. lol

Hi Stephen1.. Welcome to Rachels jungle of ideas blog. Where we defend against the incoming and challenge the anonymous fiends to breaking point. lol

And to hell with the bourgeosie and Mr A Dragon.

Rachel Elnaugh said...

Yes of course I paid for my parking space for 2 hours trouble is I was 2 hrs 20 mins, clearly the wardens are incentivized to pounce! Really didn't expect to be so long.


Geoff said...

Hi Rachel. Sorry you had a poor experience in Rotherham- however there are many things you don't know. Did you know that Rotherham has won many Beacon awards for supporting businesses; it won the title "Most Enterprising town in Yorkshire" in 2006; it was UKBI's Incubating Champion in 2005 - Rotherham council runs four large business incubators where survival rates are around 89% after three years; it continues to win awards for enterprise education and is leading the way in Europe for enterprise initiatives in primary and secondary schools; we now employ business coaches to work proactively in the communities to raise the bar on self-employment; I could go on but space and time preclude me - we think you need to see the real Rotherham so we will be inviting you to visit again and see all the intitiatives for yourself. Rome wasn't built in a day- so we just keep working away and we know the rewards will come.

cafe rendezvous said...

Rachel visit cafe rendezvous next time you are in roth- we do douwe egberts lattes

Esoteric said...

Im originally from around 20 miles from Rotherham but have lived in the south east for the last 15 years after moving in my early 30's.

To be frank when you move your expectations of what is "normal" change and I would these days fully have expected to have been able to use a laptop without asking for a pass to do so. Im not a snob but gradually feel myself becoming more of one day by day when I realise yes-----I like places like Canterbury (where I live) and Bath and Winchester and Brighton--I like a mix of chains and individual shops, greasy spoons and posh cafes and a farmers market as well as tescos, pound shops and Karen Millens. I also think there is a great deal of inverted snobbery up north whereby anything to do with the south east or London is crap and expensive and we are all on oodles of money. I see far more bling and wads of cash and an obvious desire to be seen to be doing well in leeds or Manchester than I ever do here in East kent . I also can say particularly with manchester its made a grand job of doing itself up, building a down to earth but friendly vibe and I definitely could live there (if it didnt rain as much) You see the down to earth girls sat out with their lattes and paninis just as much as the more "middle class" so its not a snob thing.

I love a good greasy spoon still just as much as I like a nice french style cafe (and we have many of both types here) but good manners and good business sense mean that you treat every customer as you would want to be treated yourself --otherwise it feels like you are doing them a favour, rather than the other way around.

Its about aspirations too. When I lived in the midlands I worked in banks or general offices which was considered a good job and its not a bad job at all but when I first moved to London I temped in such a wide variety of things from ad agencies to nanny agencies to the royal mint to back office jobs in the city and became aware of the massive variety of roles there were out there and variety of people. I never knew such jobs even existed and thats when I became entrepreneurial and realised I wanted an interesting business or career not just something to do 9 to 5.

I do however agree with the comments about Meadowhall, the problem is though unless you are offering something pleasant and with a bit of a vibe why wouldnt the vast majority of people prefer to go to Meadowhall.You dont have to have a lot of cash to still have some taste and people are voting with their feet that they dont want to visit a half empty town centre that doesnt make them feel good about themselves. I dont like shopping malls much at all but suspect I too would be frequenting it if I lived in the area.

Thats why i think Rachels suggestions made sense. You need to keep it real and mix it up so there is a bit of something for everyone.