This letter from a shop assistant, published in the North Otago Times in April 1878, complains of the late-night shopping on Saturdays, which it describes as ‘an evil of gigantic proportions’. Shop staff often only got home at 11 p.m., after working all day. It reads:
A VOICE FROM THE COUNTER.
(To the Editor of the North Otago Times)
Sir, —After leaving business for tea this afternoon, I was met by a friend, who asked me whether I was prepared for the fray. “What fray,” I asked?” “Why, the Saturday night fray,” he quickly answered. It struck me that this was a very appropriate remark, for the slightest observer may notice that all Oamaru turns out on a Saturday night, for the mere purpose of looking at the shop windows, and completing a few paltry purchases, with which to deck themselves with on Sunday at church.
Now, Sir, I look upon this Saturday night shopping as an evil of gigantic proportions. We know the disastrous effect it has in the Old Country, on those employed in places of business where late hours are the rule. How many young men and women have met with early graves through it, Heaven only knows! And I think every sensible man ought to do his best to prevent all such evils of a like nature, from existing in a young country like this. I myself have spoken to ninny on this subject, and have only to often received the following thoughtless answer: “Oh, it’s the only time we see the town lively,” but when I explain matters and tell them I can scarcely put one leg in front of another after leaving business at such a late hour, as for instance tonight, when it was after 11 before I left, they come round t to my. way of thinking and agree with me that there is no real necessity for keeping the shops open till 11 at night, and that if it is necessary to keep open later on Saturday, which is very questionable, 9 o’clock would be quite late enough. We see what they have been doing in Dunedin lately, why could not the thing be done here. I do trust, Sir, that you will allow your valuable column to become a medium for remedying this crying evil.
Apologising for the length of my letter – and am, &c,
Oamaru, April 6, 11.30 p.m.
Te whakamahi i tēnei tūemi
National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past
Reference: North Otago Times. 9 April 1878, p. 4
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