A few years ago, I sat in a town council meeting and listened to a local business owner complain that he was going out of business because area consumers were not supporting his store.
I've heard other business people echo this cry, suggesting they deserve our local patronage simply because they set up shop in town.
But that's no way to do business - in a good or bad economy.
It's not the consumer's responsibility to keep local businesses in the black. A business, large or small, must provide consumers with the value, products and services that will attract and retain customers. They also need to understand what I call in-store marketing.
Sometimes marketing stops at the front door. Below is my list of 20 customer turn-offs I see too often when I step into a small business. Please feel free to share your list in the comment section below.
1. Look up and acknowledge me when I come in, even if you are on the phone.
2. Stop texting when you have customers present.
3. If there's trash on the floor pick it up - this includes your restroom.
4. Dress like you care about yourself and how your business is perceived.
5. Comb your hair.
6. I do not want to watch you eat.
7. A sincere greeting and a smile goes a long way.
8. If you make a mistake fix it, and then some. All businesses make mistakes. How you fix yours may actually earn a customer for life.
9. Don't ever assume it's alright to use foul language with a customer or take God's name in vain.
10. Get off your chair when a customer approaches. It may seem subtle, but it says a lot.
11. When you slouch or lean on walls you look lazy.
12. When you don't look at me while I am talking you are sending me away.
13. It's not outdated to open the door for a customer, especially a lady.
14. Don't follow me around like a hungry shark; sometimes I just want to browse.
15. It's OK to send me to a competitor if you don't have what I want, I'll remember you.
16. If it's closing time and you still let me stay to shop I will remember that too.
17. Bad breath reduces sales.
18. I'll spend a little more money with a person who is not grumpy.
19. After the sale is when you really need to shine - not with words only.
20. Pleasantly surprise me whether I buy something or not. I will tell people.
Small businesses can provide customers with intimate shopping settings and highly personalized service. Small business owners can know regular customers by name and know what they like. They understand the value of a trusted reputation in a town where word of mouth can make or break a business.
Successful local business owners understand this. They know their next customer could be their neighbor, their child's teacher, someone who works with their husband or wife, or the new pastor of their church. They take every opportunity to shine, inside the store and out. But, unfortunately, some do not.
This Christmas shopping season I encourage our readers to delve into the treasures that our local businesses have to offer.
Shopping locally is good for our economy. It creates jobs and generates tax revenues for our community. We all benefit when we patronize shops owned by our friends and neighbors - but there's nothing wrong with asking them to work for our business.