Friday, February 20, 2004

Not listening anymore.

At a time when local businesses and government officials decry the use of the Internet by consumers to bypass local merchants one would expect the small business owners to be putting extra effort into pleasing the customers who do walk in their door. This is not the reality in my own experience. I succumbed to these appeals to my local patriotism a couple of months ago and started buying locally some items I had started ordering on the Internet. My experience was not rewarding.

It had been at least three years since I bought Valentine roses locally. This year I had found what I wanted on the Internet and was about to click the pay button when a pang of guilt pulled me back. This year ,I told myself, I'd do my duty and order from the nearest florist. So two weeks before Valintines Day I walked into the nearest florist and told them I wanted a dozen mixed color roses - just like I'd seen on the Internet. "We can't do that," said the floroclerk. "You have to pick from this list," she said, as she shoved a flyer into my hands. I asked why I should buy from her shop when I could get what I wanted on the Internet. She was apologetic but explained that the absentee owners set the rules. I took the dozen standard red roses from the local florist this time but I vowed it would be the last time. It's back to the Internet.

A few days later I walked into a coin and card shop to buy some baseball cards for a nephew's upcoming birthday. I approached the counter with a list of his favorite players in hand - prepared to ask for the best, most expensive cards the owner had. For 3-4 minutes I stood there while he shot the breeze with an acquaintance - without acknowledging my presence just three feet away. No "I'll be right with you" or even a "why don't you stuff this card up your arse. mate?." I had spent hundreds of dollars in this shop before. I turned around and walked out of his shop for the last time. I got the cards on the Internet - with free overnight shipping.

I could offer other recent examples of the lack of service and foolish business practices of small businesses in Oklahoma but suffice it to say I'm not listening to any more pleas to keep my purchasing local - until local businesses start taking business, and their customers, seriously.

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