Hump Day: “Buy local” only works when the lights are on and someone’s home

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Every once in awhile on Facebook, I see a status update urging everyone to shop locally and support small homegrown businesses.

Sadly, these notes are also interwoven with posts about people spending all their Christmas shopping money in Bangor. Trips are organized. Vacation days are taken from work. Credit cards are spit-shined and buffed to make sure they’re pretty for their trip to the U.S. and getting swiped through all those foreign cash registers.

I’ve never been a fan of cross-border shopping. I can’t imagine the deals are that good to make the time invested driving there even remotely worth it, but apparently from those who are fans of the practice, it’s indeed a worthwhile trek. I much prefer to stick around here and help the local economy. Of course, if I find myself in another city, fine, but I would never travel just to shop.

I like investing in local businesses and artisans as much as I can. I think we have many brilliant entrepreneurs around here who work hard to put out good products for their customers. You may pay a bit more, but the quality and service are usually a mile ahead of anything you’d see in a large chain store.

However, I have a bone to pick to with some local businesses because of something that’s happened to me a grand total of five times in the past year – each time at a different business offering goods and services completely unrelated to the other. The only thing they had in common was that they were a small locally owned retail or service business with one location. As well, their hours of operation were posted to their door.

Come in, we're open!Now, keep in mind that I was trying to give them my money. I run my own consulting business, so I completely understand the pressures of being there for your clients at all hours. Also, I don’t work in a retail environment so my hours are a lot more flexible. I still have to put in the time, mind you, but which 12 hours of the day I work are up to me. They can be in a long stretch or broken up into segments. I get it. The retail environment is tough.

Unfortunately, when you’re a small locally owned retailer, you’re a slave to the hours posted to your front door – at the very least. On top of that, there’s all the paperwork, stocking, cleanup, etc. You have to love it.

My beef is that some locally owned businesses aren’t honouring the hours they have posted. I can’t tell you how insane I get when I speed across town to try and give my money to a locally owned business only find the doors locked up tight and the lights off – and this despite the posted hours on their door. Am I late? No. They aren’t supposed to close for another 30 minutes. Is there a note in the window saying there was a death in the family or an emergency?

Nope, none of that. They just decided to close early, likely because it wasn’t busy. Well, I hate to tell you, my dear local entrepreneurs, but I showed up at your door during your posted business hours with my money in hand and very willing to give it to you. What I was met with was a locked door even though you said you would be open.

Now, I understand things happen, but that’s why you should at least put a note in the window. “Had to close early today for family reasons. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Or whatever reason, really. My point is to at least acknowledge the people like me who are showing up at your door with money to give you when you haven’t held up your part of the bargain, i.e. being open when you’re supposed to.

And if it’s near closing time, you can bet I probably had to speed across town through traffic to make it to your store before you closed. That’s what happened to me last Friday when I zig-zagged through rush hour traffic to get to an establishment before it closed. I got there 15 minutes early with money in hand, but the owner had already left.

So you know what I did, dear local entrepreneurs? I went to a national chain and spent my money there instead. In this particular case, the chain was more expensive, but I knew that there was no way they’d close early. They respect their hours – period!

This has happened to me at a few other places, too. I made a 14-kilometre round trip once to a specialty food store only to find the doors locked up tight – two hours before (what I thought was) closing time. I’d even checked online. Unfortunately, though, the new business hours hadn’t been updated. When I advised the owner, he apologized profusely and offered me a discount coupon – which was obviously the right thing to do. But, to be honest, I’ve never been back, so the discount likely won’t be used.

Another time, I showed up at a small food retailer 20 minutes before closing only to find the doors locked. Yet again, it wasn’t busy so they decided to close early. I know this because the owner saw me trying to open the door, so she re-opened the store and told me why she closed early. I think that was another 15-kilometre round trip. I handed her my money after getting what I needed and she closed up shortly after that, I imagine. I’ve been there since many times. They’ve always been open, thankfully.

If you’re a local retailer, let me be clear: I want to give you my business but please respect your business hours. If you don’t, the big chains will, without fail. And if I’m in a particularly ornery mood, I just might not give you another chance.

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