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I want to tell you a story; a story that could almost have been conjured-up for the season of goodwill. But it hasn’t. This is a true story…
Many of you were up in arms after reading about the damage done to Pavla’s shop window the other week. Quickly picking up on all the stresses and strains this would put on her and her business during a difficult season fraught with uncertainties, you were wonderfully quick to show your support and ready to voice your disgust at the increase in gratuitous acts of vandalism and violence in our society.
Pavla was distraught, naturally, and worried not just the about costs but also the organisation and implementation of the repairs and the detrimental effect this could have on her sales.
The day after the incident a young man came into the shop. He introduced himself as the person who had broken the window. Appalled at his own behaviour he apologised profusely accepting total responsibility for his actions offering to pay for all damage and costs himself; understanding that this was only part of the problem he offered himself for work as some kind of remuneration. He brought a letter of apology with him. In his own words:
‘I am writing this letter in response to my regrettable actions from the night of 19th of November this year where I broke one of your shop windows. It was an act of outright stupidity and inexcusable behaviour which I wish never to have happened. I regret what I did to an infinite level and I know that a simple letter of apology will not begin to compensate you for the trouble I have caused. It goes without question that I will pay fully for the replacement windows but I want to further my compensation by offering to work for you, obviously without pay, in any capacity possible so that I can prove to you how sorry I am. I understand the logistics of me working for you may not be possible, or you may not even want me to work for you considering my previous actions but I do want to prove to you that I am serious about compensating you for what I have done.
It is the first time and most certainly the last time I will ever commit such an act of error and I fully understand and accept the severity of what I have done. I would like to apologise again for my actions and hope that you can accept to some extent what I have said.
Thank you for your time and I will see you in court on ** December unless I hear otherwise. Finally, I would just like to apologise once more for my actions.’
A dialogue sprung up between them. Pavla, moved and surprised by his genuine remorse, found out that he was a student at the university hoping to graduate to Sandhurst and follow a career in the army. Knowing a conviction would scupper all aspirations of the career he wanted to follow, Pavla contacted the police to see if charges could be dropped. The police were understanding and helpful though due to the amount (in money) of damage done this could not be reversed. The police suggested that both she and the neighbouring business, which also suffered damage, wrote to the court. Xxx was unaware of what Pavla was attempting to do. Here is part of the letter Pavla sent to the court…
‘My name is Pavla Henshaw and I am the owner of Crede Boutique on Little Castle Street in Exeter. I am also writing on behalf of Anita Vines (the owner of V&M Hair) with regards to an incident that occurred in Little Castle Street on Thursday the 20th November.
In the early hours of the 20th November both of our shop fronts were damaged by xxxx. A small window pane was broken in V&M’s window, and my much larger window received substantial damage.
The following day we both received a visit from Mr. xxxx who had admitted to causing the damage. Mr. xxxx represented himself well, and his maturity and humility with how he dealt with the situation made a very strong impression with us both. He was very eloquent in accepting his responsibility of the physical damage he had caused and he also listened with concern to our views on the impact of the damage had caused our businesses.
Mr xxxx left us both a letter of apology which I have included with this correspondence. The letter was thoughtfully written and the sentiments of regret and acknowledgement of his role in the incident came across in a very genuine way. He has offered to pay for replacement windows and has suggested further compensation by working for us in any capacity without pay. V&M have plans to take this up by having Mr xxxx paint their shop front and I will also be taking Mr xxxx up on his offer by having him do some interior painting in my shop.
We feel that Mr xxxx has handled the responsibility and the consequence of his misdemeanour exceptionally well and are very happy with the offered compensation. Therefore both V&M and I feel strongly that we would not like this incident to have a negative impact on Mr xxxx’s future plans by either losing his university place or a prosecution and subsequent criminal record.
We would be happy with a conditional caution and the terms of his compensation met as stated in his letter to us both.
Despite Mr xxxx’s regrettable actions on the 20th November his subsequent behaviour has been without fault and very admirable.’
When Pavla let xxxx know what she had done he was flabbergasted “But why? Why would you do this for me?”
“Because of your actions. Because you were brave enough and honest enough to take responsibility, to come and see me, to pay for the damage and more. You have paid your debt and re-established my faith in humanity. It’s my response to you!”
So, good can grow from the most unlikely circumstances, bringing out the best in human nature, turning distress into hope. This story touched me, maybe it will you too.
I can’t quite believe this. There was an email from Pavla this morning
look what I had waiting for me this morning……… £820 of damage. I know I have insurance but it’s not the point………
Fed up, fed up………
Her shop window had been smashed – apparently someone thought it might be quite cool to go around busting windows with his fist (and what did his fist look like…?).
The police have arrested him and he’s admitted to doing it. But as Pavla said, ‘that’s not the point’. It’s the hassle; the damage, the organisation, the repairs, the shop being shut, the energy needed to talk to the police, the insurance company, the glass repair business, the carpenter, the decorator and last but not least the excess and the up-front payment while everything is sorted out (and where’s that coming from at a time like this? Falling in bounty from the sky?). This is not something she needs right now.
Pavla, I know everyone’s thoughts will be with you, gunning for you, and hoping our combined energy will make it all a little easier. My blood boils at the senseless, thoughtless, inane behaviour of the chap who did it, and I just hope the Courts help him to realise the cost to his victims like you through some meaningful reparations.
A few of you have asked if I’m still working at Crede, my friend Pavla’s boutique in Exeter, as I haven’t mentioned it recently. Yesterday I had an email from Mary (thanks) who brought the subject up, prompting this update.
Yes, I am still working there in between my farming, business and writing commitments. But since that fateful Black Monday at the beginning of October I have only been helping out occasionally, whenever Pavla has to go away on buying trips. She can no longer afford the luxury of everyday staff.
Recession, hype, panic and worldwide financial mayhem has severely affected shopping habits making it a hard and rocky road for retail businesses. Six independents have gone into liquidation in Exeter in as many months. It’s pretty frightening if you’re a small business out there at the moment.
Pavla’s worked hard and relentlessly over the last nine months. As she notes, there are benefits of being an independent in times like these. You have the ability to respond quickly to feedback from customers, and to adapt quickly to changing economic circumstances.
Pavla says “I read a lot about ‘credit crunch’ last January and February so adapted my buying accordingly. I sourced a wider range of well priced, interesting everyday items as well as keeping the more unusual investment pieces.
“I looked at what overheads to cut, again I have the flexibility to make cutbacks where necessary – but unfortunately that meant Paula’s hours! I really miss her contribution to Crede – as someone who has run her own business she understands all about customer service – again something that independents can offer that high street can’t – personal service, as well as an enthusiastic love of clothes!
“Although mostly I have been looking to where I can reduce costs, one area I didn’t want to cut back on was advertising and marketing. I need to balance out the fact that my customers have less spending power at the moment, I just need to find more of them!”
Apart from making the shop a special and enticing place to be in she has joined forces with neighbouring retailers to promote Castle Street as a good shopping area.
“We are all independents in this area which despite being very close to High Street some people are still unaware of. Rosie (of Violette) and I worked together on some ideas and have come up with a Christmas leaflet design. We are all contributing to the costs of printing and my mum is doing a leaflet drop in Exeter.
It may be difficult times, but in a positive way this can generate ingenuity and creativity.”