Monday, February 9, 2009

Big Bad Wolf

I have become very frustrated at work lately. I know that everyone is feeling "the crunch" with the economy the way it is. I encounter this problem at least 3 times a day. A customer comes in, asks for my opinion on a product, asks to try on a product, or wants expert knowledge on a product. After I finish explaining the product, the customer asks the price. Then they are excited to tell me that they can get it on the internet cheaper. Of course you can! You will ALWAYS find things cheaper on the internet. All it takes is some jerk off sitting at a computer posting products and shipping them out. They don't provide the knowledge base or customer service that local businesses can. I explain this concept to the customer (not in the same lingo I just used) and they say it's all about getting something cheaper. I challenge them to think about my store closing and how their options would be limited in receiving good customer service and knowledge. Some customers have then agreed with me. Do people have a conscience? Some don't. I would feel horrible about trying on a pair of shoes at a store to see what size I wear, and then turning around and buying them on the internet.

Example: A customer walks in today and asks, "Do you have any sale saddles? If not, I will buy one on the internet." I showed him the saddles I had to offer and explained that he could definitely find one cheaper on the internet, but that I would do my best to help him find one that worked. We took several saddles out to his girlfriend, who needed the saddle. She explained her problem to me, I showed her the different saddles, and gave her my opinion on which one would work best for her. They decided to get the one I recommended. I offered to install the saddle for her. The customer then apologized for saying that he would buy one on the internet and stated that I exceeded his expectations today. Yay for me!

Don't get me wrong. The internet is great! I don't know what I did before I ever logged onto Prodigy with my modem. I just hope the internet does not put everyone out of business.

Some companies that we do business with even prohibit selling their product on the internet. I was disappointed tonight to find that a company we do the majority of our business with, is now selling their product straight from their website. I thought they prided themselves on their product not being available on the internet.

Big box stores also bother me. Customer service is always hit or miss. You will find employees at these places who really do care. More times that not, I have encountered the opposite. At my shop today, we ran into a situation where a customer brought in a bike that she bought at a chain store. One of our mechanics took a quick look at it and noticed several problems with the build of the bike. This could cause major problems when descending a hill at 30mph!

I recently had a very heated discussion with 2 friends of mine on this topic. Let me preface this with the information that they both work for local companies, as well as myself and my mother. My father even owns a local company. These two friends of mine were discussing how they would choose a big box over a local company if the box offered a lower price or better service! Really? That's absurd to me! If that's true, then my dad should probably be out of business. His rates for service are never the lowest. He gets the client because he has great customer service and unique ideas.

This concept is also explored in my favorite movie of all time, "You've Got Mail." The "big bad Fox Books" puts the cute little "Shop Around the Corner" out of business. It saddens me when the main character explains at the beginning of the movie that her mother opened the shop, she now runs it, and her daughter will own it one day. She doesn't even have a daughter, but she is confident that her shop will continue on with it's quaint decor and knowledgeable staff. Then the big bad wolf comes to town with it's cheap books and coffee selection.

I will continue to challenge people on internet/chain shopping vs. supporting local business!

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