I have written multiple posts about consumer responsibility. I stand by the idea that we, as consumers, are responsible for what is bought and sold in the US.
Now I want to address business owners, specifically small, local business owners. What the hell?
Sorry. It is like you aren’t even trying anymore. You have given up. Here in the small towns surrounding where I live the stores are pitiful, ugly, tired-looking places with almost no inventory (except for the bazillion Dunkin’ Donuts franchises that have popped up everywhere — they treat their employees like crap folks). It seems as though they are not paying any attention to the very ones whom they serve. Um, did you get that little word “serve”? Did you see that?
I want you to know that I want to be WOWed. I want to be valued. I want good manners and smiles. I want you to act like you give a flip that I came to YOUR establishment.
You are not doing me any favors by slicing my roast beef. You are not going out of your way if you make sure my cheese is sliced at the thickness I prefer. You are not being put out when you must consider carrying something that I will buy. I am not obligated to you if you repair my car. The economy is depressed, yes. You are hanging on by a thread or about to go out of business, definitely. I know this when I see your shelves mostly empty. I know this.
My life is just as depressing. I probably don’t have a job, and if I do, it doesn’t pay hardly anything. I might be on SNAP because I can’t find a job after 3 years of job searching. I might be about to lose my house or have my car repossessed or have mere pennies to buy food with this week. Life is dark, at least here in Connecticut. You need to make me feel better when I visit your establishment.
You do not make doing business pleasant if you lie to me, cheat me, sell me junk, refuse to be polite, do not acknowledge my presence, do not offer the best service that you can offer, and do not make an effort to make your place of business pleasant.
There is one little market that I frequent that has almost nothing on its shelves. I know it is struggling. But when I walk in there it is so depressing that I don’t want to come back. I want to see fresh, local produce. I want to see an effort made to carry quality, healthy products because even though many people are struggling financially, they still need healthy food. Actually, they need healthy food now more than ever because stress in life wreaks havoc on the body’s immune system. Pay attention to what your customers want.
If you can’t afford to keep a decent inventory, find some way to bring in items under consignment. Work with other local businesses to sell other businesses’ products. The grocery store can carry seasonal plants from a local nursery, or flower arrangements from the place next door. What are you business people doing? There is no business community. There is no working together to weather the storm and make it through intact.
You small businesses: if you want my business back, you need to earn it. You need to entice me to buy from you. Do not mark up your products 80% higher than standard retail prices. Hire some local talent to work on window art, build that web presence or rent space in your store to other small businesses. Get creative. Be nice. Treat your employees well — this is huge for me and the reason I rarely buy from Dunkin’ Donuts (besides the fact that they sell unhealthy food). Invest in your community. Show me that you not only sell bread or yarn or snow blowers, but you care about your community. Show some heart. That might be all that we have left in this economy. And that is something that discount stores can’t provide.
So while I am asking my fellow consumers to consider buying from small, local stores in lieu of that trip to Target or Wal-Mart (and always read labels and try to buy from the USA or countries that treat their workers well), I likewise ask you, small business owners, to open your hearts to me and my fellow community members. Show me that you care about me as a customer. Show me some loyalty and I might show you some right back.
P.S. There is no excuse for not using clever marketing practices (not deceitful, mind you — fraud will lose you customers and possibly put you in legal trouble). If you refuse to invest in local talent, which would be a great investment, in my opinion, get on the internet and do some research. Learn how to use your computer to breathe some life back into your business. Work on your brand. When you attract a customer, make sure that they will want to return over and over and over. Give them a reason to return. Those returning customers are your bread and butter, folks.
P.S.S. When you invest in your employees you show me that you truly care about your community and building a strong foundation as a business. I support and frequent businesses that treat their employees well with good working conditions, where employees are happy and they get raises and benefits. I notice those things.