Sanders: Small-town businesses
Doing business in a small town has its own rewards, and not all of them can be measured in financial terms. Last week, my husband took a broken hydraulic hose to get a replacement. Due to the fact that the hoses require specific ends, or fittings, and the hose itself has to be cut to the required length, they are not made up ahead of time. Instead each hose is custom-made, on the spot. When he got to the local parts store, he found the hose and one of the needed ends was in stock, but not the second end.
Did the parts manager say, “Sorry. We can’t help you today,” and go about his work? No, he called a competing parts store and found they had the necessary fitting. Russ picked up the hose end, brought it to the place of business where he started his search, and had a new hose in very few minutes. That is service.
My favorite customer service story occurred many years ago. Our younger son wanted to wear a camouflage uniform for Halloween so he could be a soldier, just like his dad. The task of finding a set that would fit our son’s small body began; I found what he needed in Anderson’s, a downtown Chadron, Neb., clothing store, but they had to order the pants in his size. I hadn’t paid any attention to the calendar but two days before the costume party, our son asked where his outfit was. I called the family-owned and run operation and discovered that the brother thought the pants were destined for lay-away and had dutifully taken care of them. The wise and caring sister asked me, “Where do you live? We will bring them to you after work tonight.”
Now, we live 60 miles from Chadron, the purchase price was less than $10, yet she was willing to deliver, just so our little boy wouldn’t be disappointed.
Even a city can have a hometown atmosphere. While a college student at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, I frequented a neighborhood bank to change my money. One morning the cashier told me to come back after lunch to do my exchange as the rate was going to change in my favor at noon. That was putting the customer first.
A good friend lives in Little Rock, Ark., in an older neighborhood. She has her local dry cleaners, veterinarian, grocery store and other services where she always goes. My grandma called it trading, from the old days when customers literally traded merchants for their goods. Anyway you look at it, people shop where they are comfortable, whether in a city or a small town.
Money is not the most important thing — service is. Remember that when you buy your veterinary supplies from some catalog, in order to possibly save a few dollars, yet expect to frequently call the vet for free advice. These same vets will be around to help you in the future if you will support them now — and that goes for other small-town businesses as well. ❖
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