April 30

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Apr 30 - 4:28:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (April 28, 1766).

“May depend on having their commands executed with expedition, and in the neatest manner.”

Breechesmaker John Baster understood the importance of customer service, and he wanted potential customers to know that he would treat them well if they called on him. He promised that his clients “may depend on having their commands executed with expedition, and in the neatest matter.” In other words, he did the job quickly but well, not sacrificing quality for speed.

In choosing to use the word “commands” rather than “orders” or “instructions,” he also established the relationship between artisan and customer. Whether elite, middling, or more humble, all customers could expect deference from Baster throughout their commercial interaction, regardless of their relative status and relationship to each other beyond his shop at the Sign of the Buck and Breeches.

Baster thanked former customers for their patronage (letting potential customers know that others had visited his shop) before stating that he “only requests the continuance of it, no longer than he makes it his study to please.” This convoluted passage was the eighteenth-century method of assuring customers that he understood that if he failed to offer good customer service that he realized that they would seek out other breechesmakers. Not only did he realize that was the case, he expected it.

Customer service is a major aspect of running a retail enterprise today, but colonial Americans understood its value as well, though they may have expressed it differently.

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