A built-in, small-town war­ranty

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey ([email protected]­gar­rynews.ca)

With Black Fri­day of­fi­cially kick­ing off an­other sea­sonal shop­ping frenzy, we are com­pelled to re­it­er­ate the mer­its of buy­ing lo­cally. As we stressed in The News Hol­i­day Gift Guide pub­lished Novem­ber 21, there are many rea­sons why con­sumers ought to spend their hard­earned money close to home.

The con­crete eco­nomic ben­e­fits of shop­ping lo­cally are proven. Some stud­ies have con­cluded that for ev­ery $100 you spend at lo­cally-owned busi­nesses, $68 will stay in the com­mu­nity.

But peo­ple should not sup­port area busi­nesses sim­ply be­cause they are owned, op­er­ated and staffed by lo­cal peo­ple.

Although the world con­tin­ues to change rapidly, some time-hon­oured rules of com­merce still must be re­spected -- busi­nesses must keep their cus­tomers sat­is­fied and in or­der to keep their clients happy, busi­nesses must con­tinue to adapt.

To pros­per in a com­pet­i­tive, fluid global econ­omy, re­tail­ers are obliged to ad­just to chang­ing tastes. To­day’s hot trend is to­mor­row’s garage sale item.

Busi­nesses know that loy­alty is dif­fi­cult to earn and so easy to lose. A dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomer can “flame” a ven­dor in­stan­ta­neously on “so­cial me­dia,” where in­evitably an­other thou­sand “Friends” will in­stinc­tively echo the gripe, re­gard­less of the va­lid­ity of the com­plaint. Bad re­views tend to go vi­ral much faster than gushy plau­dits.

Shop­ping lo­cally does en­sure bet­ter, per­son­al­ized ser­vice. Since lo­cal busi­nesses must be sen­si­tive to the tastes and needs of their cus­tomers, they se­lect prod­ucts that re­flect lo­cal in­ter­ests, and bud­gets.

One of the fea­tures of a close-knit com­mu­nity, where ev­ery­one knows your name and your shoe size, is the in­her­ent war­ranty that comes with fa­mil­iar­ity. Ev­ery­one knows your busi­ness, lit­er­ally.

Thus, busi­ness peo­ple know that they al­ways must put their best foot for­ward.

But long be­fore the In­ter­net was cre­ated, re­tail­ers re­al­ized that one dis­grun­tled per­son can do wide­spread harm to their bot­tom lines.

There are some shop­pers who have sworn never to re­turn to a par­tic­u­lar es­tab­lish­ment be­cause of an un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence that oc­curred decades ago. For­give and for­get? Not when it comes to bad cus­tomer ser­vice.

Lo­cal busi­ness peo­ple are bound to meet clients, and for­mer cus­tomers, ev­ery day of the week.

There­fore, it is in their best in­ter­ests to pro­vide fine and cour­te­ous ser­vice in or­der to avert ugly con­fronta­tions with irate pa­trons in church or at the soc­cer game.

Lo­cal con­sumers ben­e­fit from a de­fault, built-in guar­an­tee that comes with the knowl­edge that they are buy­ing ser­vices and prod­ucts from their neigh­bours, who are also ma­jor sources of em­ploy­ment and taxes, and who also hap­pen to be peo­ple who spon­sor com­mu­nity groups and ac­tiv­i­ties.

Shop­pers are bet­ter in­formed than ever be­fore; con­sumers are more de­mand­ing.

But one tenet of tak­ing care of busi­ness rests on a time-hon­oured tra­di­tion -- the cus­tomer is al­ways right.

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