Shop small, but also sell savvy

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If anyone is wondering how owning a small business is going, we recently received a 1-star review on our Amazon store because the customer could not figure out how to properly operate his purchase. He purchased a bottle opener.

I know I should be deeply upset about the one-star damage to our stellar business reputation, but I couldn’t stop laughing. I have definitely lost the “cannot operate a bottle opener” demographic. 

We were not given the opportunity to respond to this review. This is probably for the best as I’m not even sure what I would say to that. A simple, old-style metal bottle opener seems like something that would be “so easy a caveman could do it.” Not Phil though. Bless his heart. He tried. Somewhat. 

Local

For the record, I adore buying local. In fact, it’s my preference. In a perfect world, I would meet all our household needs within a 5-mile radius of our rural home. I would then rely on the internet for the kind of crazy one-off items I cannot get at the neighbor’s farm market or local hardware store. Although to be fair, that hardware store really does stock a lot of great stuff. 

My local stores have been nothing short of amazing through the past few difficult years. Those venues are very reliable. They have and keep posted hours. They show up. They do their best to keep stock up in these crazy times. It is not easy. You do your best and still, customers can be so demanding. Or confused. I’m looking at you, bottle opener man. 

I understand completely the frustration when people who have no idea how your business works tell you how you “should” operate. 

Nonetheless, now that I’ve planted my flag firmly in “Shop Small” territory, I’m going to say something that may be controversial: how am I supposed to “support small business” when I cannot seem to catch some of them ever actually open for business? 

Hours

I realize many folks go into business for themselves so they can make their own hours. I just wish they would consider making those hours vary beyond “open every fourth Tuesday from 1-1:12, only during a full moon. Closed if cloudy.” I’m truly trying here, but it is definitely difficult to support businesses that appear with less regularity than the mythical Brigadoon. 

In the past month, I have attempted to work with a number of lovely businesses that have posted hours they do not honor. Those hours of operation are more like “vague hints” than any hard and fast rule. They will respond to queries weeks after I have made them — if ever. 

I missed patronizing one business completely because all available information showed them closed when, in fact, they were not. In this day and age, you cannot simply “hate” the internet. It’s out there posting information about your business whether you like it or not. 

Internet

One local business made the news last year for not realizing for nearly a year that Google had their business listed as permanently closed. Spoiler alert: they were not closed — they moved. Yet if anyone tried to get directions, hours of operation or a telephone number, the Gods of Google (who are very fickle) told those potential customers to shop elsewhere. 

All of this could have been avoided with a free verification that takes a few minutes and about a week waiting for a postcard. I cannot say this enough: do not let the internet do you wrong. Take control! If you aren’t internet savvy and cannot speak “Google,” consider hiring a child to do so for you. 

Seriously, kids are great at this stuff. I’m pretty sure there are toddlers actively running businesses these days. Remember, you can’t afford to have the internet saying you’re out of business just because you couldn’t beg or borrow a small child to show you how to set up your hours of operation. 

Communication

I’m still a huge fan of small businesses, shopping local and working with buyers and sellers alike to get the absolute best solution for all. I also know that some businesses leave me feeling like I’m trying to communicate with someone ensconced in Witness Protection. 

I know owners who seem to work 24/7 and are always hustling. This is Mr. Wonderful. The man is always “on.” Then we have businesses that are “by appointment only.” 

Again, I totally understand. Good help is hard to find. In some cases, it works best just to have the customer message or telephone and work out a time to meet. No problem there. That is until said business never responds to requests for appointments or information. I’m left waiting by the phone like a lovesick teenager, just hoping against hope they’ll call. 

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