WOULD you pluck an apple from a supermarket display, take a bite and put it back? Or do the same with a piece of cheese or ham?
I hope the answer is no. But newspapers seem to be different. I’ve seen several instances recently of someone spending several minutes reading a paper then putting it back.
Being me, I tend to shake my head, think rude thoughts and carry on, even though I’ve a fair idea of how much work by many people goes into producing and distributing a newspaper. Liz, being Liz, with her ingrained distaste for anything underhand and a tendency to say what she thinks when she thinks it, tackled a man she saw in a supermarket perusing a copy of the local paper for some time.
Then he put it back, saying with a smile of self-satisfaction: “Well, that’s all I need to know.”
He got that wrong, because Liz, as a former chief reporter on that paper, told him several other things he needed to know, not least that he was cheating everyone involved in producing it out of their already minuscule rewards for their efforts.
“I can’t afford to buy a paper,” he bleated, backing towards the exit. “I’m a pensioner.” We might have added that he was a well-dressed, far from the breadline, senior citizen, but legged it instead before we could discuss what else he was.
“There’s a lot of it about,” said the checkout lady a few feet away. “But what can you do?”
Our local newsagent says he has the same problem: “If they make a habit of it, I have a word. But it’s more difficult if it’s a one-off. They might decide to buy, and by the time it’s obvious they’re not going to, they’re heading for the door.”
As a journalist with a regular order for several papers, plus impulse buys, I obviously look at the value and enjoyment I get from them in a different way from our free-read man.
But compare what I could buy instead of a newspaper. Half a pint of moderate beer, say, or half a cup of coffee, two-thirds of a pasty, nine minutes of a third division football match or three and a half minutes at an opera.
The above figures are approximate and you can make your own list, but the argument is valid. Newspapers, local or national, are good value for money. In a printed-word business whose problems in a digital age have been well documented in recent years, the last thing we need is cheats copping a free read. «
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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