Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Trouble with Supporting Small Businesses

I'm guilty of shopping at chain stores, even though I know I should support local. This has become especially noticeable now that we live in a small town. We have a charming town square...



And plenty of small businesses, both in our town and the much larger neighboring city. When we first moved here, we ordered pizza from a mom-and-pop pizza shop. It went about like this...



They told me when I called they normally don't deliver on Mondays, but they'd make an exception because they weren't busy. When the pizza guy showed up, he realized he'd forgotten the credit card slip. He handed me the pizza and drove all the way back to the store to get the slip and bring it back. It was just...a mess. The store closed a few weeks later.



Last weekend, we tried again. This time it was barbecue. We called the most popular restaurant in town and got the message that they'd be closed until July 18th.




So we tried another local barbecue place that specializes in to-go orders. I Googled them, sure I'd find their website. Nope. All I found was a Facebook page that didn't even have a menu. How does a to-go place not have information online?



That's okay. We'd just call. I searched for the phone number and then found a picture of the business's front window. Once you get past the bad grammar, you see that they have their phone number posted in bold letters on the window:



We called the number. It had been disconnected. I looked at the business's Facebook page and saw a post from someone mentioning it. The business owner said he'd lost his cell phone and offered an alternative number. My husband called it. It went to voicemail, where a barely coherent voice told him to leave a message.



We decided to go with a chain restaurant.

I try to support local businesses, but they don't make it easy. As someone who regularly writes articles geared toward small businesses, it bothers me to see so many business owners fouling it up. For the record--if you're going to run a restaurant:

1) Have a website.

2) Have your menu on your website.

3) Have a working phone number.

4) Have a proofreader check your sign before you open your doors.



Do you ever get frustrated with poorly-run businesses?

54 comments:

  1. Yikes. Local, non-chain restaurants are my favorite. I've only had a few issues with them. You would think business owners would do their very best to stay in business.

    Thank you for leaving a comment about 52 Likes. My promo is winding down, but you can always tweet it or share on FB. :)

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    1. I'll just read it and include it in my best books! I'm full this month, but I'll put it on the list for next. I think I participated in the cover reveal...just missed this one, sadly!

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  2. Oh yeah. This town has a mall that they are just letting die year by year. The owners refuse to put any money in it and one by one the stores have closed. Very sad.

    Thanks for the help with Thunderclap:)

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    1. We have four malls left. One is dying...it's the last of the old malls in town. Unfortunately, it's the closest indoor mall to where I live now. However, there are three thriving malls...a huge "Mills" outlet and one in each of the two mega-rich areas of town. Those three are actually growing. We have a lifestyle center ten minutes from my house--I can get almost everything I need there but we're still missing a Bed, Bath, & Beyond and a Target. We'll probably get a BB&B, but Target is 10 minutes further at the next exit, so I'll keep having to drive 20 minutes to get to it!

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  3. Yeah that's part of living in Podunkville!! Hate it! So ready to move!

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    1. That's a good point! I lived in Nashville and supported locally-owned businesses...they always seemed to have their act together. We have a ton of chains here, but to support small businesses means dealing with what I dealt with Saturday. Every time I think I'm supporting a local business that's really good, I find out it's a chain!

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  4. Your town square is beautiful! I noticed a lot of things you mentioned when my daughter and I were trying to plan for the flowers for her wedding. It drove us insane that none of the floral shops had websites or any pictures whatsoever to show us! And crazy hours!

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    1. People go online first. The sad thing is that until a competitor puts information online, they can get away with it. Usually what happens is the bigger businesses put up websites and win most of the business, then all the businesses whine that nobody in that town supports local. I have noticed that the smart small businesses seem to dominate social media. There are a couple of local places here that go on our local Facebook pages and post their daily specials, post pictures of their items, etc. That's great...but the All Seasons place just completely misses the fact that they need a MENU online while they're doing the social media thing! I just want to go into their store and help them...first by removing that darn apostrophe from their sign.

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  5. This does seem to be a situation where you put real effort into supporting local and they failed at every hurdle. Having my own business now with Wittegen Press, I want to be consistent and professional, but it does take organisation, and these restaurants just didn't get that.

    I have noted in my dealings with local businesses in the UK that gardeners seem to be universally bad at organisation. They are very much of the 'manana' attitude and couldn't manage a repeat order if they tried. I wanted to book my gardener in to trim my garden once every six weeks, but no, I had to call each time to organise the visit, or it didn't happen. My sister's gardeners are great guys and excellent gardeners, but the way they decide if they are going to cut her grass is to drive by and check it if needs it, so there's not really a fixed pattern of when they arrive (she just has the money to pay them in a little pot on the sideboard for the odd times they turn up). ;P

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    1. That same problem exists in the states. In fact, any time you need anyone to do anything, you can bet they'll be total flakes. Contractors, landscapers, electricians... I don't get it! I see frustration all the time from people in Facebook groups--they post things like, "Does anyone know a person who actually wants to WORK and can come fix my (door, dishwasher, etc.)?"

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  6. Most small business struggles to keep up with the big business. Restaurants will only get my business if they are clean, offers good food and good courteous service. To run their business they need good staff and people needs to know their hours of business and their location. Good prices doesn't hurt either.

    Too bad you had to hunt down your meal.
    Hugs,
    JB

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    1. Sadly, it's just a lot of work to support local businesses! But if I find one I like, I'll go back. The bbq place that is closed 'til the 18th is very well known as being reliable, courteous, and friendly...guess they just wanted to take a vacation so they closed the whole place down rather than having everyone take their vacations separately.

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  7. Oh wow! Thankfully with the local places we go to we've never had these problems. It's hard to believe people would run their businesses like this. The barbeque place is the most shocking!

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    1. Yeah...I don't trust a place that doesn't know where to put an apostrophe!

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  8. At least you tried to stay local and seemed to make a good effort to do so. What I find interesting where we are living now is that they have the downtown area with lots of shops and restaurants; great for tourists and its always busy summer and other times of the year, but all the shops close at by 6:30 p.m. With people walking around the square, you would think they would stay open til 9 p.m. at least to attract potentially more sales. Can't quite get that.

    betty

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    1. I noticed in Charleston that many businesses were flexible with their hours. If things were slow, they'd close at 9pm or so but on Monday night when we were there, the city was hopping and businesses like ice cream shops and souvenir stores were still open at 11pm when we were heading back to our hotel.

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  9. What a mess! lol! I guess they didn't really want any business. We do try to shop local, but there are fewer and fewer in our area anymore to support.

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    1. That is true...unless small businesses can get it together, the chains will dominate. They have the corporate support they need. It then becomes easier for a local person to just open a franchise rather than starting his/her own thing.

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  10. I've seen quite a few die off because they are slack arses. They want to work when they want to work, and you can't do that if you own a business.

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    1. You have to be willing to pour your heart and soul into it. I think Dave Ramsey said the worst business to open is a restaurant because people are fickle. New, trendy restaurants draw crowds for a while but then the crowds fade. At that point the quality starts to decline and it's a downward spiral.

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  11. It's like this in my hometown. We are small too. Nearly all of our local businesses have closed down as chain stores keep coming. A long time local grocery store closed n 2000 as its owners began retiring and sold the store to Safeway. When Staples arrived in 2000, it drove a long-time local stationery store out of business; now Staples itself is gone. Another local business, a bike and sporting goods shop closed down partially; as did another that sold appliances. The appliance store also did electrical repairs, so they kept that portion but closed the retail store part. The sporting goods/bike shop also did locksmithing. They kept that portion of the business running but stopped selling bikes and sports equipment. A local toy store opened a few years ago, but was just now shut down. The timing wasn't too good on that one. Would have worked better in another decade. These are but a sample of how local businesses have performed recently in my hometown.

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    1. I think at one time, businesses were handed down from generation to generation and there was no competition. People learned the family business and that was what they did. Now anyone with an idea thinks they can open a business and they usually have no idea what they're getting into!

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    2. Yes, that was true of the grocery store--it was owned by three generations of the same family. And the bike shop was owned by a family as well. The folks who owned the grocery store also owned half of our town! Their property management business still exists.

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  12. okay this is my life lol. I try SO HARD to do this too, support local places. We have some cute places in the town of huntington. But any time you try and order or shop there, they make it impossible. Either ppl are rude, or it's not run properly, or prices are just not doable for my wallet. I always ask myself, would Robert Irvine (that scary chef from Food Network) approve of this place? Lol and more often than not, he'd flip his lid lol

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    1. It is sad that all too often you can buy something online through a site like Amazon for far cheaper than at a local store...and bonus--they'll deliver it to your front porch!

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  13. Yep, and they come and go and then come and go. It's hard to support some place that doesn't even take themselves seriously.

    Have a fabulous day. Great post. ☺

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    1. I agree, Sandee! You wonder if they realize that with that behavior, they'll go out of business in no time.

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  14. This is sooo true! I've had this kind of trouble since moving to a small town, too. And the lack of reviews/yelp/anything makes me nuts, too. I like to know if a place is decent before I go, but it's often just a crap-shoot.

    Also, thanks a million for your help! I'll email you soon! :)

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    1. We have a social media page just for our city that is somewhat helpful. But I came from an area of town that had the same page, only a kick-butt version of it! So you could go to Facebook at any time and find out what the best restaurant was. I think every city needs a Facebook page for that very reason.

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  15. There are SO many businesses in our area, I wouldn't even know where to start. We did hit a small town a few weeks ago, and it was difficult finding a BBQ place. Odd hours, no numbers--just like your experience. Turned out they weren't open. The place we did go ended up being, erm, interesting. Ah the joys of having a NYC spoiled palate.

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  16. I know what you mean. Many years back, my family moved to a rather remote area and it was hard to reach for things as small as a bobby pin, unless I had already asked my father/ brother to drive me to nearest mall about 30 minutes away.

    I cannot drive, so thats why the help, but otherwise too I like being able to get to things quicker!

    I think your town's square is lovely!

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  17. Most of the small business in our nearby town have been there for years and years. They do it right but others come and go. Some are just not good business men.
    Susan Says

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  18. We aren't in a small town but we do try to support local businesses but like you said, it can be frustrating because of the hours and such. At least we are trying though,

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  19. Ugh. Yes. I don't live in a small town, but I work in one and it's so frustrating. ESPECIALLY the restaurants without the online menu. It's not that hard to put together!

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  20. I agree that not all locally owned businesses deserve our support... but chain-bbq just ain't right!

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  21. I OFTEN get frustrated with poorly run busiinesses. And they aren't all small businesses either. The small ones change more easily though...

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  22. I do get frustrated. As a matter of fact, we go into Asheville to eat. The restaurants in our town are fast food. When I go to out I want to enjoy myself. Sorry I have not been by. My son has had health challenges. Still is having them. xoxo

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  23. sometimes you just wanna bang your head against a wall.. or maybe bang theirs? :)

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  24. Some of the smaller places are so poorly run you wonder how they stay open. Especially some restaurants

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  25. I guess that's the reason why so many small businesses fail? I mean, seriously. If you can't do a website and don't have a working phone, no one can be expected to support you.

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  26. Yes, don't we all get frustrated when you want to do the right thing, but the right thing is too hard at times. I guess a lot of these operators are older and not savvy with the new way of doing things with website, fb page etc. Still, it's good to try. :-)

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  27. I suppose it takes the smaller town businesses more time to catch up to with the current world. I would have laughed at it all, rather than get irritated. It sounds like the perfect plot for a sitcom, Stephanie. Get writing it :):) Wishing you all the best and I do hope you find a reliable take-out very soon. If not you could fly me over and I'll cook you all dinner :) Have a great week.

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  28. I live in a small touristy town so there are a lot of businesses here: restaurants, grocery, clothing, etc. Luckily, they all seem to do pretty well, ie, opening/closing at the hours listed, consistent service/products.

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  29. That's just terrible business sense all round. Basic things like consistent hours and having a way for clients to contact you are business 101. Having a website in this day and age is also a non-negotiable.

    I have a few hole-in-the-wall type places that I love and frequent but only because I heard of them through word of mouth. It's amazing they can stay open, when many others with similarly bad set-ups close every year.

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  30. I know what you mean Stephanie... I want to shop locally more often but the honestly make it harder and most often a great deal more expensive... I don't mind paying a little more but not nearly twice the price... I do look around though

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  31. Poorly run businesses are always frustrating. I'm quite fortunate because my neighborhood has almost everything I need, and the proprietors of the businesses are friends with everyone in the area. I rarely drive more than five minutes to get something I need.

    Love,
    Janie

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  32. The local place we most frequent is a Mexican restaurant in our town. Always had a good experience! But yeah, why wouldn't you do everything in your power to be good? Sometimes I wonder this when I come across authors that don't market their books. Wouldn't you want to put your book out there? I mean, as an author, you're pretty much a small business, I think.

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  33. There are few locally owned businesses around here, everything is a chain.

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  35. I love the store hours sign. So true of the independents:)

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  36. I also support local/small businesses. That's the problem though, it's hard to reach them.

    Those store signs are winners. Haha. Love them.

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  37. I rarely patronage local businesses beyond restaurants, and those are slowly dropping to the curb because one, I'm getting fat(ter) and two, it's getting expensive.

    Money is the number one reason why I don't do local. Number two is hours. The only free time I have to patronize a business is, you guessed it, after work, when, you guessed it, most non-food businesses are closed.

    Can't support local if they can't be bothered to be open for the 50% of the clientele that doesn't start their shopping until after 6p or on the weekends (which some non-food locals are, gasp! closed).

    Father Nature's Corner

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