Shop Local

Shop local.

It’s how to bolster the local economy, create jobs, improve social dynamics. All sorts of benefits come from buying goods and services from the ‘corner store’ instead of some multi-national, rainforest burning, soul-less giant.

What a load of crap.

Now, before you click away from this article and go back to watching cats riding robotic vacuum cleaners while wearing a shark costume on youtube, let me tell you that my wife and I do shop locally for many things. We shop at our local pharmacy, grocery store, service station, doctor, vet, landscape supplies, hardware, chiropractor and cafe.

Frequently.

Except when it doesn’t pay to do so or when they don’t stock what we’re after (which, unfortunately, is often)

I think whether you’re local or not, you should earn my business and not expect me to patronise your store just because we live in the same town.

Let me share a story with you.

I decided to support my local garage and tyre fitter recently. I needed a couple of tyres swapped over for my box trailer so rather than go to a ‘big’ tyre shop I went to our local garage to get the job done.

(A little background for you – our ‘village’ has a population of approximately 2,000 people. We’re also very close to the main business centre for our region, about a 20 minute drive away.)

So, I walked into the workshop with our 18 month old daughter on my hip to explain what I was in need of. (My daughter likes to accompany ‘datt-tee’ on his shopping excursions.)

When the guy behind the counter eventually looked up from what he was doing and acknowledged me it was as though I was interrupting something very important. In fact, rather than greet me, he offered little more than a grunt.

Ok, I accept that not everyone is as talkative and confident as I am, but a simple hello would surely have been possible. Especially with my (very cute I must say, as a doting dad) daughter grinning at him.

Nope.

Silence.

‘Ok, let’s push on’ I thought.

Me: “Mate, I need to swap these tyres (pointing to them) onto those rims (again, pointing) and get the wheels balanced for my box trailer. Is that something you’d be able to do, if you’re interested?”

Long pause.

Guy: “Depends when you want them”

Another pause.

Me: “When could you have it done? I’d need them by the weekend because I want to use the trailer” (by the way, it’s Tuesday afternoon at this point)

Guy: “Well, I’m not here on Friday”

More silence.

Me: “Um, ok. So could I pick them up tomorrow then?”

Guy: “Nope, too busy”

Me: “Ok, so how about Thursday afternoon?”

Guy: “Yeah, so long as you come after lunch”

Me: “That’ll be fine. So how much do you reckon it’ll be?”

Guy: “Hmmmm (looking thoughtfully at the tyres and wheels) probably $10 each wheel and extra to balance them. Wouldn’t bother balancing them though if it’s just a trailer.”

Me: “Cool, that’s fine. Yeah, I’d like them balanced because I carry my motorbike in the trailer also and don’t like the bouncing you get when they’re out of whack” (I’ve had trailer tyres wear unevenly before from the wheels being out of balance. It’s why you see some small trailers ‘bouncing’ as they’re being pulled along the road)

Guy: “Yeah, I don’t normally balance the wheels if it’s just a trailer”

Silence.

Me: “Um, yeah, I’d still like them balanced if that’s ok”

Guy: “Alright, I’ll see how we go”

Um, what the heck does that mean? ‘I’ll see how we go’? Pretty sure I just asked to have the wheels balanced, no?

Anyway, I managed to unload the wheels and tyres (4 of them) from my 4×4 whilst still holding my daughter on the other hip. The whole time our friend stood in the doorway of his workshop watching.

Thursday afternoon arrives and it’s time to collect my prized wheels. I take my 18month old daughter with me again, I think for my moral support as much as the fact she loves to hang out with ‘dat-tee’…

I walk into the workshop again, same scenario. Our friend seemed almost annoyed that I came back. Maybe he was hoping this was all a cruel joke and I was sent as part of a gotcha program dreamt up by some TV exec in Melbourne.

He tells me he ended up balancing the wheels and that’ll be $30. (no “thanks”, by the way, just “That’ll be $30″)

I hand over the cash and wait for him to help me load the wheels into my 4×4.

We look at each other.

I get the message.

After strapping my daughter back into her car seat I quickly load the wheels into my vehicle and go find somewhere to wash my hands.

Nope. Nothing. No tap, no hand wipes on the wall, nothing.

So I wipe them on one of my daughter’s used face wipes in the car and drive off.

Now, you might be thinking ‘well, it’s only a crappy $30 job so he’s hardly going to profit from that transaction’.

You’d be right. I doubt he’ll retire doing those sort of jobs.

Problem is (for our friend) I have 2 vehicles getting close to needing tyres. Last time I replaced the tyres on my 4×4 and family car I spent almost $3,000…

If he’d offered some simple customer service, a smile, a bit of a hand, I would have happily supported a ‘local’. None of that would have cost him a single cent.

I’ll now take my consumer dollar to a business I have the confidence will provide me with the level of service I expect and appreciate, as any customer does these days.

It’s sad, and you might think it harsh of me, but when was the last time you returned to a business, any business, not just a local business, that treated you with disdain or took you for granted?

Business owners need to understand that simple customer service and a smile can make them money, especially when you’re a local.

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