Two weeks ago I went to Barkansas, the tiny boutique pet store near my home. I buy Blue Buffalo dog food there: buy nine sacks, get the tenth one free. The owner’s little old Jack Russell comes up to sniff a greeting. Sometimes I take my dog, Callie, with me, and she shows off by shaking hands with the owner. I would like to teach her to shake hands with the dog, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.
I told the owner, “I need a better seatbelt for my dog. She keeps escaping from her harness.”
The owner took a couple of different dog seatbelts to my car and showed me how to use them. I selected one. “Bring it back if you decide it doesn’t work like you want it to, or if you don’t like it,” she said. It works. I like it.
Last week, I went to the store. “I have a brand new Subaru, and I’m going on a trip next week,” I said. “I don’t want my dog’s toenails poking holes in the seat leather, and I don’t want this car covered in her hair like my old one was. I also need a way to keep her dog bed from falling off the seat into the floor when I come to a stop. Can you help me?”
She said, “I have an idea. I haven’t tried these seat covers yet, but I’ve seen them in a catalog.” She found the catalog and the seat covers and explained the differences between the two models to me.
“Order this one for me,” I said, pointing.
Three days later, the seat cover arrived. I drove to the pet store in my older car to pick it up. The owner said, “Don’t you want to come back in your new car so I can help you install it? Then you can see whether or not you want it. Of course, if you try it on your trip and you don’t like it, you can always bring it back.”
I said, “Service like you give me is one reason I avoid Big Box Store.”
She thanked me and then said, “We started this boutique pet store to carry high quality pet supplies and to offer outstanding service. A customer came in yesterday and told me that Big Box Store now carries high quality dog food that costs less than ours. The customer said that Big Box Store’s new brand didn’t have soy, wheat, or BHA. I asked her, ‘Would you even know what BHA was if I hadn’t taught you?’”
The customer admitted that she would not. The owner then told the customer, “I can’t stay in business when you come in and count on me to educate you about products and use my expertise to solve problems, then go to Big Box Store to purchase the items I taught you about.”
Indeed, she cannot. I think she’s the victim of intellectual theft. The ersatz customer stole knowledge from the small business owner, but did not buy from her. If the customer wanted to save a little money by buying from the Big Box Store, she should have asked their employees to take the time to educate her about dog food. She should have asked them to explain what the ingredients were, and how each affected her dog. Wheat? Soy? BHA? Right. Like that would have happened.
Locally-owned, Mom-n-Pop businesses are the backbone of American life. Thanks Big Box Store, but I’ll keep parking my Subaru in front of Barkansas Pet Supply.