The Death of Independent Retailers: It’s the Little Things

Good Product Isn’t Enough

Today I took the plunge and visited a great chocolate shop where I worked many moons ago. I’d determined to only buy a few pieces. After arriving, it was easy. I only bought one.

Four people stood behind the tiny counter, and after serving me they quickly went about their business (talking to each other) with one complaining about her cough.

Commercials blared on a radio while a music box grinded out annoying tunes repetitively.
Mind you this was in a 10×12 foot space.

I milled around looking at their current selection. No one stopped to ask if I needed more help or how I liked the chocolate. (I was the only customer.) The experience was dreary and depressing, especially as a long time customer which is their life blood.

Before writing this, I decided to write them with my feedback instead. But their website only has a phone number. This 60+ year old shop is located in an area with skyrocketing rents and nouveau riche cafes, hair salons and other businesses. I give them 6 months before they’re driven out.

Take My Money Please 

Recently I went into a charming independent bookstore with worn oriental rugs lining the wood shelved aisles. It was everything a bookstore should be and although I knew I’d be spending at least $10 more by patronizing them I set my mind to it.

I whipped out my Amex card and out came the time honored phrase: We don’t take American Express. While I am not familiar with if Amex charges merchants merely for offering their card as a choice (vs charging more per transaction which I believe has always been the case), shouldn’t a store that is hurting do everything to take the money of customers?

By the time I got home I’d thought of another book I needed that I figured they didn’t have. And well, my computer was right there and I knew Amazon took Amex. The guilt gnawed at me but not more than my urge to check off the task to buy the books.

I love independent retailers. I shop local whenever I can, especially at hardware stores.  There is a point where as a customer you just expect certain things like an ambiance that goes with the mood or theme of the store, and the conveniences of payment options.

Cole Hardware is a great example of a company that makes you forget about trudging to a Home Depot. Retailing is grueling and competing against chains must be exhausting. But so often it’s the small things that can endear customers.


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