Behind the Counter
Shop Lives from Market Stall to Supermarket
- Pamela Horn
15th January 2015
Behind the Counter reveals the largely hidden personal stories of shopworkers. Corner shops, ‘high-class’ grocers, dress shops and department stores are brought to life through letters, records and the workers’ own diaries and memoirs.
For the most part, shopworkers were expected to work extremely long hours, to be obedient and subservient, and even to ‘live in’ as if they were domestic servants. Shop life was not easy, even in the twentieth century. Although the trade union movement, the co-operative movement and the concerns of some enlightened employers made life a good deal better for workers, they remain among the lowest paid even today.
Their history, spiced with personal anecdotes and everyday humour, provides a fascinating and lively insight into social change and working conditions. It is also a telling portrait of our changing relationship with shopping as it becomes less a service industry than a branch of the entertainment world.