My mom’s birthday is on Saturday, and as I think about where to find the gift I’d like to give her, I’m reminded of last year’s unfortunate shopping experience—and I’m hoping to avoid similar frustration this time around.
Last year I wanted to give my mom, a voracious reader, a book I thought she would enjoy. The local Barnes and Noble didn’t have it in stock (and as a last-minute shopper I didn’t have time to wait for shipping), so I hopped online to check out the list of in-stock books at a certain large-scale, well-known retailer.
Booyah! I thought as I saw the title I was looking for. The website said the book was at the store’s closest location, so I headed over to the store. I trekked to the (tiny) book isle and searched and searched, but I couldn’t find it. So I flagged down an employee and asked if he could help me.
“Ummm,” he said after glancing at the shelves. “Well. I don’t think we have that book.”
“But your website said it was in stock at this location,” I said, not too happily (yet still politely).
“Yeah. Um. Well, our website is managed by a third-party. They don’t really know what we have in stock at this store.”
Really? Really? So they’re paying some company to maintain their website, which supposedly lists available products, except those products may not really be available like the website says. Like it, in effect, promises.
This makes no sense.
I left pretty upset—and for the record, this wasn’t the first time I had become aggravated with this particular store.
Since this is a humungous, super duper retailer, no matter what the website says they’re going to stay in business. All because they have locations in just about every town, and because a majority of people shop there because of low prices. So as much as the situation stinks, this company can—and clearly does—get away with being dishonest.
What if a small, local business tried this sort of thing? It would lose customers quickly. And those unhappy customers would tell their friends and even more business might be lost. The company would most likely fold if it messed up repeatedly.
But not all is lost. I took with me a business lesson, which is handy as a business owner: do what you say you’ll do. Follow up if you say you will, keep items in stock if you say you have them, honor guarantees if you offer them, etc. It’s simple, really. Providing good, honest, quality customer service is key to running a successful business. Especially if it’s a small-scale business.