Having seen John Lewis' brilliant new Christmas television ad
for the first time last week ("It made me cry," someone in the office said, but meaning in a good way), I found myself having a conversation with a few friends about both John Lewis and Waitrose. It speaks volumes that no one touched on prices, products, location...all we were interested in finding out was whether anyone had actually ever had a bad experience in a JLP store.
In fact, someone had - with a washing machine purchase about 20 years ago. But apart from that one blip none of us had ever found anything but smiling, switched-on staff who go out of their way to be helpful.
JLP stores are, of course, something of a phenomenon, almost universally loved by shoppers, who ensure that the sales figures keep going up. And much of the stores' place in our hearts is down to those employees - or, rather, partners - each of whom owns a part of the business and enjoys a share of the profits. Why wouldn't you be nice to the customers when you have such a stake in the place where you work?
Labour Leader Ed Miliband has slightly different motives for wanting to, as he says, "build an economy where everyone has a stake" by trying to make sure that all workers will be earning a 'living wage' if Labour wins the next election.
Employers not playing ball by joining the voluntary scheme are threatened with naming and shaming
Mr Miliband wants to change the situation where "too many people in Britain are doing the right thing and doing their bit, helping to build the prosperity on which our country depends, but aren't sharing fairly in the rewards".
The plans are undoubtedly controversial, and have split opinion in a readers' poll
on diyweek.net - and, certainly, worries over the added cost of paying a living wage are valid. On the other hand, treat your staff better and, like JLP, you may just end up with a better business.