A built-in, small-town warranty
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.