Today I made a purchase on Amazon.com that I really wanted to make locally. I called three local purveyors of said product - the results weren't what I wanted.
Essentially, a hardware item broke and it's a bit of a specialty product. So I called the first of three local businesses that would, potentially, stock this item. It was about 8:40 in the morning so the first call had no answering machine whatsoever. Nothing. The phone just rang and rang. Ugh. I then realized that I was probably calling too early.
Just the same, I called the second purveyor and they actually had an answering machine with their hours and other information on it. Oooh, good. Big plus and I called back during normal business hours.
While I was waiting I shopped around on Amazon just to see what people said about this replacement part and what I might expect to pay. There were two options so I read the reviews. Reviews, especially those with tips and suggestions, are one of the big benefits of shopping from the comfort of my own confuser.
Shopping in the stores has become almost completely dissatisfying. You go in and there's someone looking at their smart phone completely engaged in a conversation about whatever - but not about learning more about the products or services the people who employ them have to offer.
When you ask a question about inventory or about the product or service the "help" seem completely incapable of answering that or any other question about their product or service. But I bet they can speak volumes about whatever gossip their smart phone delivers.
If you, somehow, actually find the product or service you're looking for and check the prices they're higher than on Amazon, where you can also read reviews of the product which might help in the decision-making process.
Buying locally will help the local economy and keep people employed. Dollars spent within the community circulate around and really do well for a community. What's more, a local purchase means you get the item now and that's a huge benefit, especially if the part is a plumbing part that I needed.
But my plumbing part was $90 a the local retailer, who couldn't answer my questions, and $52 on Amazon where I read reviews and was able to compare the two options. Oh, and then the said part would be here in two days.
Yes, I would be willing to pay more for the convenience of having this part today. Yes, I believe in supporting the local economy.
But it's also the merchant's job to have answers and provide some value for a higher price. And a price that's almost double is crazy. Especially when the person who answers the phones just gives the impression that they don't care or know from Shinola.
Even more, when I realized how much higher the prices are for this part locally I decided to start comparing prices for other things I regularly buy from them. Frankly, those prices are significantly higher as well. So this bad experience means that they've lost me as a customer. For good. And while their position in a bit of a niche market will probably mean they're going to continue to survive, they'll likely also wonder why their sales keep slipping.
But I'll tell you why. It won't be "the economy." It won't be "the president." It won't be because of people making on-line purchases. It will be their own lousy customer service and selling things at full retail without providing any value for that additional cost.