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|Looking Backward From 2000 to 1887||Edward Bellamy|
|Page 2 of 4||
"Where is the clerk?" I asked, for there was no one behind the counter, and no one seemed coming to attend to the customer.
"I have no need of the clerk yet," said Edith; "I have not made my selection."
"It was the principal business of clerks to help people to make their selections in my day," I replied.
"What! To tell people what they wanted?"
"Yes; and oftener to induce them to buy what they didn't want."
"But did not ladies find that very impertinent?" Edith asked, wonderingly. "What concern could it possibly be to the clerks whether people bought or not?"
"It was their sole concern," I answered. "They were hired for the purpose of getting rid of the goods, and were expected to do their utmost, short of the use of force, to compass that end."
"Ah, yes! How stupid I am to forget!" said Edith. "The storekeeper and his clerks depended for their livelihood on selling the goods in your day. Of course that is all different now. The goods are the nation's. They are here for those who want them, and it is the business of the clerks to wait on people and take their orders; but it is not the interest of the clerk or the nation to dispose of a yard or a pound of anything to anybody who does not want it." She smiled as she added, "How exceedingly odd it must have seemed to have clerks trying to induce one to take what one did not want, or was doubtful about!"
"But even a twentieth century clerk might make himself useful in giving you information about the goods, though he did not tease you to buy them," I suggested.
"No," said Edith, "that is not the business of the clerk. These printed cards, for which the government authorities are responsible, give us all the information we can possibly need."
I saw then that there was fastened to each sample a card containing in succinct form a complete statement of the make and materials of the goods and all its qualities, as well as price, leaving absolutely no point to hang a question on.
"The clerk has, then, nothing to say about the goods he sells?" I said.
"Nothing at all. It is not necessary that he should know or profess to know anything about them. Courtesy and accuracy in taking orders are all that are required of him."
"What a prodigious amount of lying that simple arrangement saves!" I ejaculated.
"Do you mean that all the clerks misrepresented their goods in your day?" Edith asked.
"God forbid that I should say so!" I replied, "for there were many who did not, and they were entitled to especial credit, for when one's livelihood and that of his wife and babies depended on the amount of goods he could dispose of, the temptation to deceive the customer--or let him deceive himself--was wellnigh overwhelming. But, Miss Leete, I am distracting you from your task with my talk."
"Not at all. I have made my selections." With that she touched a button, and in a moment a clerk appeared. He took down her order on a tablet with a pencil which made two copies, of which he gave one to her, and enclosing the counterpart in a small receptacle, dropped it into a transmitting tube.
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|Looking Backward From 2000 to 1887
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