I Tried to Shop Local

A few weeks ago I had decided to buy a new paella pan, thirteen inches of gleaming stainless steel. I had seen what I wanted at national kitchen stores like Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma in other cities, but since those stores don’t have outlets here in Sioux Falls I sought to find it locally.

My first stop was a downtown kitchen specialty store that sells the All-Clad brand I was looking for. They didn’t have it stock. No worries, if I can’t get it there, several national chains with stores here in town carry the brand, so I’ll try there. Alas, I struck out at Macy’s, Yonkers and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

So I went back to that small local retailer and asked if they could order it for me. I explained that I knew I could get it online but if I could support a local small business I would. They were my first choice. The woman at the counter took all of my contact information and carefully wrote down what I wanted and promised to pass it on to the store owner.

Two weeks passed and I hadn’t heard anything, so I stopped in the store again. The woman working knew who I was and she had heard them talking about my order but didn’t know the details. She again wrote down my contact info and promised to call me when the store owner arrived, which should only be a few minutes. About 4 hours later she called to tell me that they could order the pan, but it would take at least 3 to 6 weeks to arrive and they couldn’t really promise if I would get it even then. No thanks. I’ll get it somewhere else. So much for trying to shop local.

That afternoon I logged into the Zappo’s app on my iPad, typed a few words and a 13 inch All-Clad Stainless Steel Paella Pan was on its way to me.  That was on a Saturday afternoon. The product arrived at my office Monday afternoon. No charge for the shipping and I actually saved about 10% off the retail price.

So here’s my question, if you were that small retailer and you knew a good customer wanted something, and they preferred to buy it from you, why wouldn’t you do everything you could to get it for them? I think if I owned that little shop, I would have ordered it from Zappo’s, marked it up 10% (back to the regular retail price) and sold it the customer. But that’s just me. Trying to keep the customer satisfied.

If she had done that, this post would have been about how great her service was and I would have named her and her store. As it is, I’ll give the glory to Zappo’s.

– Jim

3 thoughts on “I Tried to Shop Local

  1. You were not treated well, that is for sure. But I hope you won’t write off all local merchants, or decide online is a better way to buy, because of this bad experience. I was amused by your piece because you live in the biggest town in the state. Some of us find it important to shop locally while living in towns perhaps 1% the size of Sioux Falls. I invite your comments to a piece I wrote last December: http://everythingmattersjones.blogspot.com/#!/2011/11/occupy-main-street.html

  2. Clearly, this business fell short in your case. I am ashamed to say that it is my business. Any number of excuses could be offered, but they would remain that…excuses,and would not do anything to solve this customer service issue.
    Lessons learned by Plum’s Cooking Co.
    1. Internal communication needs to be improved. I was told there was no rush. Just put it on the next order. Definitely not the customer’s problem. If a customer is not happy it is MY problem.
    2. As an owner I need to be on the sales floor more and have more personal interaction with my customers. I could offer excuses about all the hats I have to wear. Bottom line is if I don’t take care of my customers the other stuff doesn’t matter.
    I love the fact that you cared enough to voice your opinion. It truly was helpful. I hope you will give us another chance and we will do our best to keep your money in Sioux Falls.

  3. Thanks Caroline — I still love your store and I will continue to shop there. In fact, I have a couple of gifts I need to buy for Christmas, and Plum’s will be the first place I shop.
    And as a small business owner, I understand the frustration that you’re pulled in many directions. But in the end, spending time with my clients is the usually the best use of my time and the most rewarding for me personally. Unfortunately I have have to wear many hats and we all drop the ball at times.

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