Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

vertising system must fail at length; and though a few great fortunes may be made by it, the advertising shops must ruin themselves at length, when in the end all other shopkeepers have become advertisers in selfdefence. Then no sufficient profit will be made by any one; and the expense of advertisement will only lie as a weight upon the whole trade, and as an additional charge upon the profits, which the system itself has thus diminished.

For this is another way in which trade is becoming ruined, namely, by the additional expense with which it is more and more conducted, and the additional charges which are being imposed upon the diminished profits. Setting aside, for the present, the increased style of living, and the consideration of what are becoming necessaries of life in each station, far beyond what was looked for in former times, or even by our own fathers,—the first expense of establishing a shop is very greatly increased. The use of handsome shop fronts was at first for advertisement ;-and this is one kind of advertisement which is now becoming general, and a charge upon every one who thinks of setting up in business. The competition in this line is greater than in the quality of the goods. As much as £5000 has been paid for a shop front; and some of the panes of plate glass have cost more than £100 a piece. Many shop fronts cost £2000. And after this is paid, what capital can remain to stock the shop? No ordinary profit or custom can repay these expenses; and the consequence is, that the keepers of shops are obliged to resort to all

manner of means to make profits and attract custom, such as to put them upon a very different footing of character from the respected London tradesman of the last century. The respectable tradesman of that time would not put an article in his window. He stood upon his character. The personal character of a tradesman is now little inquired into. The shop-front is of greater importance. Reliance upon the outside and appearance, is of kin to untruth; oratory and advertisement are an irresistible temptation to falsehood. Tradesmen not only now put goods into their shopwindows, and ticket the prices upon them, but, what is an inevitable result, it is quite a common practice to put goods into the windows which have not been manufactured by the workmen within, and are of a much superior sample to anything which they are capable of executing. This is done in shoes, in coats, in hats, in stocks, and almost every other article. I have known this done by a miniature painter. The prices ticketed upon the articles are much below their worth; and there are no goods inside the shop corresponding to the sample.

The tradesmen of the last century were of a different stamp. The following is an anecdote of one of them.

Hooker, linen-draper, in Cheapside,--uncle to the celebrated Dr. Hooker, who kept a school at Rottingdean,-came to a merchant living in Bishopsgate Street, one of his regular customers, and told him with much concern, that a great misfortune had happened to him : -a gentleman had left his pocket-book upon his coun

ter, whom he never saw before, and knew nothing of; and asked for his advice in such an unfortunate predicament. “Why, open it,” said his friend, “and you will most probably find his name in it.” “Open it !” replied Hooker, with dismay,“ do you suppose, sir, that I would open a gentleman's pocket-book ? No, that I never will do.“ Then I will," answered the merchant. “Do as you please, sir,” said Hooker,“ but I will be no party to any such proceeding;”—and he walked to the window, and looked out, that he might not be a witness to the act. The merchant opened the book, and found the owner's address; and the pocket-book was sent to him.

All this would now be called a foolish and absurd prejudice, according to modern apprehension. But it was a prejudice which secured him in an upright course of dealing, and his character from being liable to any impeachment. Mr. Hooker resisted, to the last moment that he could, the then increasing practice of putting goods in the shop-windows; and at length he did it only in the most sparing way, just enough to show what was the kind of trade that was carried on within. He was not such a man as would have put up an article to view not made by himself, or ticketed it at a fictitious value. Customers, till lately, would go after such tradesmen to the city, and into the narrow streets,—where there was no show in the window; and a man's character brought him customers. Now this is insufficient. Tradesmen must come to the West end of the town, and set up shop-fronts,—and exhibit goods like other men, by way

ness.

of attraction and advertisement. We shall see tickets upon them in the end, and perhaps bills in the windows, with “

Bankrupt’s Stock,”—“ Great Bargains within,”-and, “Below Cost Price,”-and, “Enormous Sacrifice.” The system connected with these last-mentioned exhibitions would be long to detail. They are some of the means and evidences, among many others, of the operations which are going on, and gradually more and more prevailing, of ruin and chicanery.

Now it is difficult for a tradesman to be honest, in this race of competition and advertisement and cheap

If profits are nothing, those only can live who practise some deception, either in the quality, or the quantity, or by the evasion of duty, or by grinding the workmen down by insufficient wages, or by protracting their payments to the wholesale houses which supply them, beyond the time agreed, and so depriving them of that profit which they hope to make by their busi

The cheating dealer, who evades duty, has always some advantage over the honest tradesman, who pays all his dues, and meets all his engagements to a day; and this, when it is only a part of his profit. But in the case supposed, it must be the whole profit; and therefore it is a temptation almost beyond resistance, to adopt some of the means by which other men appear to thrive : and men of station and character too,-for money gives station and reputation in this country. And thus examples are found in higher and higher walks successively,—like the case of piracy in patterns above quoted; till at length deception must

ness.

become the rule and principle of commerce and trade generally and universally. Wealth is so highly honoured, that people cannot resist the temptation, of seeing those around them growing rich by speculation and fraud, without imitating them.*

The honest tradesman, in a small way, cannot live. The custom which might keep him going, at the diminished rate of profits, is enticed away from him by advertisements and shop-fronts; and he can still less afford to enter himself in the race of competition by a costly window and advertisements, so as to keep his fair position. If he is rash enough, through necessity, to set up a front too, with borrowed capital like many,+ and so

* The fraudulent contrivances by which dishonest men are obtaining advantages over the fair tradesman, cannot be enumerated in any number and detail, for shame's sake, and for the sake of the persons concerned in them. Among examples which have been made public, a recent bankruptcy exposed the practice of one firm giving a character to another, which was deeply its debtor and insolvent, for the sake of securing a greater proportion of their own debt. The transaction was denied by the parties concerned; but one thing was acknowledged by the trading world in general—that the practice was notoriously a common one.

In a publication which will be presently quoted at some length, another common practice is alluded to in these terms:—" For example, a trader purchasing merchandize on credit, and handing it over to some importunate creditor,-obtaining an advance of cash upon it to meet his present wants, or disposing of it immediately for cash, at such rate, as to convince a jury of the fraudulent object for which the goods were originally purchased.”- Remarks on Trade and Credit,

p. 40.

+ These shop-fronts, as well as the stock within, are frequently provided for by borrowed capital. Many of the handsomest shopfronts are said to be rented, and to be regularly demised by a landlord, distinct from the house : the landlord of them being the firm of

« AnteriorContinuar »