Advertisers on television constantly show us how much they love us, the consumers. They will go to incredible lengths to please us. One insurance company will rename itself after the subscriber. We’ll save hundreds of dollars with every single one of them if we switch. They stand in line for hours just to serve us. Just hand over your money, and they’ll prove themselves. In my household, we are grateful for the DVR gadgetry that allows us to skip all these commercials, flipping right through every single one unless something interesting catches our attention. For example, I’ll stop and watch the little white dog take his bone to the bank and then retrieve it. It appeals to me, not because I want to change my insurance to that company, but because the commercial is cute.
We see right through the guises used by big businesses on television, or at least I think we do. What about local businesses though? Some days I wonder who’s serving whom. For example, a few days ago I drove to the grocery store to stock up on tea, sugar, detergent, cat food, toilet paper, etc. In other words the cupboard was close to bare, and poor Bentley wanted a bone. After traipsing over half the store and loading my shopping cart, I checked out. My plan was to load the groceries and then drive over to the garden center where I could probably convince some nice person to help me load some potting soil. I’d also purchase cat food and some herbs for my herb garden while I was over there.
After hearing my plan, my sister said, “The gate’s closes over there an awful lot. I don’t know if it’s open or not today.”
“I’ll check,” I told her, waving goodbye as she drove away.
Driving across the parking lot, I was delighted to see that the gate was indeed open. I checked the price of the potting soil, noted the number so I could pay inside, and selected a pot of basil and one of thyme. I sniffed them all the way to the cat food aisle, savoring the aroma. Since I couldn’t find a cart, I loaded a basket with several 4-packs of cat food and juggled all my purchases to the garden center checkout. It was closed, and I was furious.
My choices were limited. I could lug all that stuff all the way to the front (if my sore shoulder lasted that long), pay for it there, and walk all the way back to the garden center to get someone to load my potting soil. Maybe he’d still be there by then, but my luck wasn’t going too well. Or I could put all the stuff on the check out station, including the dripping herbs, and walk out. I’ll let you guess what I did. I’ll stop in Baxley tomorrow and shop at the garden center. I’ve never had that problem in Baxley. I suppose the moral of this story is that I should have shopped at home in the first place. I drove home fuming. If I hadn’t already paid for all those groceries, I would have left them, too.
I consider myself a reasonable person, even a patient one for the most part. But this same store had already used up all my patience as I stood in line waiting to check out with my groceries. I’d stood behind two ladies, each with as many groceries as I had, and patiently waited my turn. I didn’t even tap my foot or lose my temper as I noticed that four other lines were as long as mine while most of the cash registers sat idle.
I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe too many people had called in sick. Then I saw three employees standing watching the chaos and chatting. Okay, maybe they were on break and, granted, everyone needs a break. I chatted with strangers as I waited. The gentleman behind me teased me about the amount of food in my cart. We chatted and laughed, making the best of a bad situation. But the garden center episode was too much for me.
Whether a store is part of big chain or family owned, management would do well to remember that without customers, the business will not thrive. This week that store lost one customer—me.