For those people who shop bricks and mortar stores… then buy off the internet

Cheryl Kees Clendenon Business 21 Comments

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I hope every person reading this will make a comment and weigh in. Whether you are a business owner, employee or just a consumer, I want to hear your thoughts.

Here is my truth: I welcome the potential customers who come into my small, locally owned independent showroom to kick some tires, ask questions about how we do business, get a feel for our products or just wander around.

I do, however, have an issue with those people (yes, lady in the hummer I am talking to you) who come to our showroom with the express purpose of looking at our (expensive) displays, asking questions of my (knowledgable) staff, and requesting (detailed) specs, product numbers and (color) copies of the products they are interested in….only to then go and buy off the internet. Do you think I am running a not-for-profit gig here lady???

I know this post may really tick off some people but this is the beauty of authoring your own blog. I can be controversial and Gawd knows I love controversy!  Let’s face it. We all shop on the internet. I do as well.

But, I do NOT shop on the internet for what I can find locally. If the price is markedly different, meaning so much so that it precludes my purchase, I discuss this disparity with the owner. Usually this is not the case and it is a small difference in price.  Often, people will reference the “no sales tax” as being the clincher for buying online. News flash: You are required by law to pay sales tax, called a “use” tax if the seller online does not collect it. If you want to cheat the government, that is not my business. However, it amazes me how many people do not realize the law requires you to pay it.The government is remiss in not fixing this problem. Simplifying the issue: it’s understandably tough for online vendors to figure out which tax applys where since many cities and counties not to mention states have varying tax rates.

Why not have a flat tax and then disperse the amount collected from that state to the state in question? Hell, we certainly waste enough tax money doing other silly government endeavours…why not this? I know my state, Florida could use the money and sure Arnie in California would agree he could use the money also!

It also amazes me and really perplexes me, why people do not realize how they impact small businesses in their community when they divert their dollars to the internet. Hello??? I am said small business:

**I employ 6 people. Most in their 20’s. I train them and give them business savvy they never get in 4 yrs of college. This is the absolute truth.

**I pay local taxes, intangible taxes, licensure taxes and property taxes. This helps pay for city and county services. Without which, you may not be able to fully enjoy your city. Think about it!

** I support varying community and charitable organizations with my time ( which there is precious little of as any business owner knows),my money and donations. Every church, school and police organization comes to us for donations. They are not soliciting internet sites who work out of their basement somewhere in America or overseas. This is your kids and grandkids who benefit from this!!

** I have given of my time generously, to sit on various boards in our community supporting children’s needs. I encourage my employees to do the same with time off to attend meetings and paying for their dues in local organizations.

There is a wonderful grass roots organization called the 3/50 project. They ask that each individual spend 50.00 of their budget each month in 3 different local businesses. That is 50.00 total. Not to tough for most people. If you are a small independent business, go to their website and register. You can download a flyer explaining the program and then give one to each person who walks into your business. I have done this with amazing results! It makes the lady in the hummer ( I mean really, do people not know how ridiculous they appear to others driving these contraptions?????) not as much of a threat to us.

Many times, people just do not know realize how much of an impact they can make if they are MINDFUL of their purchases. I find my customers and clients are so very, very open to listening to my “spiel” and are appreciative of the effort.I am not suggesting that no one buy off the internet. I am suggesting people support local businesses…and if they do not warrant your support, let the owner know and why. I would welcome this feedback myself even if I did not want to hear it. And, try “catching a business being good” like you would with your child. Let them know if you had great service or enjoyed their product. This goes a long way to being a good person as well making a hard working business owner proud to be in business.

Please do not misunderstand my beef. I love the internet. I love the news and the speed of which I can get it…although I still support my local newspaper and weekly. I love the people I have met via blogging. I consider the internet one of the most important changes in our culture in the last century. I do not love the uneven”playing field” in relation to sales tax levied on local business owners and not internet companies. It is an unfair advantage and is helping destroy communities. And, If you are someone who likes to buy only on the internet and you go into a local business and “shop” their displays or their knowledge:

SHAME ON YOU.

I welcome all comments as long as they are in good taste. Agree with me or disagree. It is what I do LOVE about the internet. The open exchange of ideas. Please comment. ~~Cheryl

From Time Magazine Excerpt: “Buy Local”—you see the decal in the store window, the sign at the farmer’s market, the bright, cheerful logos for Local First Arizona, Think Boise First, Our Milwaukee, and homegrown versions across the states. The apparent message is “let’s-support-local-business”, a kind of community boosterism. But buying close to home may be more than a feel-good, it’s-worth-paying-more-for-local matter. A number of researchers and organizations are taking a closer look at how money flows, and what they’re finding shows the profound economic impact of keeping money in town—and how the fate of many communities around the nation and the world increasingly depend on it.

Read entire article from Time Magazine

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Comments 21

  1. You’ll get no argument from me – if it helps you to go into a local store, see and touch products, and above all get help and advice from experts like Cheryl and her team, then buy from them. It costs money to keep a showroom open – where are you going to go for that expertise when all the showrooms close down?

  2. Boy do I agree!!!! I spend a lot of time for my clients researching, and finding products. Luckily most of my income is design based, but it is nice to pick up a little on the products if possible. I offer my clients really good discounts on products, so when they find it on line for cheaper it is a surprise. I try to protect myself by not giving to much product detail (like stock numbers etc.) at least if they are going to buy it else where it makes them have to work for it. I always tell them when they order something on line and it comes in damaged or missing parts it will be their responsibility to return it and their problem if thy hold the job up because the products we need aren’t here.

    After all that is one of the things they pay me for (my profit on products) to be in charge of making sure everything run smoothly.

    I have an old saying that the law of compensation always catches up with you. You try to undercut someone it will bite you in the end.If you respect your designer and know they are really looking out for your interest, then allow them to make a living.

    I am very loyal to suppliers I have used for a long time and in turn they get my clients great deals. The client I hate is the one that after you have shown them all of your plans, go back to the showroom and try to get your deal from them without you, thinking they are going to get even a better deal. I had a showroom call me one time to let me know what was going on and then escorted my client out. She could not go back in without me. Embarrassing for her. This is one time my loyalty paid off.

    Now on the other hand there are some designers in our area that really stick it to their clients when it comes to mark up. Harder to do in this age of internet, but they pull it off somehow. There has to be a balance.

  3. Post
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    Sue: That is my point exactly. We are a design shop also. But, I have a design studio and sell products as well because otherwise I am other’s mercy. I figured a long time ago, if something is going to be late, damaged, out of stock…it would pay for me to be the person finding out. So, voila, we are in business. 11yrs ago. But you are so right about having probs with internet purchases. We get calls EVERY DAY from people wanting us to sell them some part or piece from an item they bought on ebay or wherever…and I tell them no. Often, people get screwed because the mfr does not warrantee items bought on the internet unless they have a bricks and mortar store.

  4. I know exactly what you mean. I worked with a ‘client’ once that paid my hourly wage with the understanding that she would buy from me. That is what our agreement stated. If folks don’t buy from me and state that upfront, I am fine. My hourly fee is higher because I do not get the cost plus from the sales. This client was looking at all the samples in her home as I do with my clients so she could get a feel for them over a couple of days in her own space. Not only did she not purchase from me, she would not return my samples so I had to replace them. It is a matter of integrity as well as supporting your community. Not to mention that if a brick and mortar store has inventory, it is eco-friendly to buy locally versus have to pollute just to save a few bucks. Its that kind of mentality that has driven us into our climate issues that we are experiencing today. BTW ~ Hummers should be outlawed given their abuse of the environment in so many ways. It does not surprise me one bit that the Hummer lady (and I say lady loosely) didn’t blink an eye to abuse your staff ~ its her pattern. I agree that if a B&M store is charging much more than an Internet source, just speak with them. I also think that B&M stores have to charge more to make ends meet given their low ball competition. Really no body wins when low balls come into play. We saw that time and time again with airlines. All it does is drive the price down so much companies bottom out hurting many in the process. Ok, I said my peace. Great discussion!
    Paula Grace ~

  5. Cheryl,
    While I certainly agree with the comments, we have to realize that 10% of the people are simply “Price Shoppers”.
    My Mother in Law is one of them, and has had several businesses. She cannot help herself, the one difference is that she is respectful of other small biz owners time.
    Great Post..

  6. UUUUGGGGHHHHHHH! This happens in every showroom in every town, and is so frustrating in so many ways. The sad part is that it really is bad for the buyer to purchase these these types of products online for a number of reasons — the shipping charges alone (which you don’t necessarily see until later) may bring the cost well above what the local dealer will charge you, the product that you may be purchasing may turn out to be a knockoff or may be damaged, with little to no recourse to the buyer upon receiving. Also, if a product was purchased from another state, say an appliance, the local rep and/or servicemen may not even bother responding to a service call, as the buyer was not their client or their dealer’s client.

    Another problem may be in the model numbers — kitchen designers know their products and product lines, and also how critical the right model number is. We had a lady come into our showroom who had been working with another firm in our area. She asked if she could return a gas cooktop. I told her I would talk to our rep — turns out the client had wanted to “save money” by purchasing the cooktop themselves, but the problem was that they purchased a nat. gas cooktop when they needed an LP, and this particular product does not have a converter/coupler. Basically, the client had to eat the cost and purchase a new cooktop.

    And the sad thing is, in the five short years that I have worked in the K&B business, without fail EVERY SINGLE TIME that I have seen a client try to “save” money by either purchasing products or bringing their own subs on site, etc. etc. EACH ONE has ended up spending MORE on the particular thing they tried to SAVE on, either by having to re-do it, or by hidden fees, or by having to purchase another product. It would be funny if they didn’t try to pin the blame on anyone else but themselves.

    But back to the topic at hand — and I don’t know if hummer lady and her kin (oh she has many relatives) really realizes how her actions hurt small businesses. In Hawaii we would call them the “ideas” … upon approaching them in the showroom, they say,

    “oh, nooooo, I just looking for eye-deeeeeeeee-yas, yeah?”

    Really. Great. Now I have to stand here while you get your grimy fingerprints all over my stainless steel counters that I have to clean, because I am part of a small business, which means *I* am the cleaning crew. And it’s a family business, which means my family’s entire life savings, 2nd and 3rd mortgages, and years of debts to banks in the form of a business loan was all so that you could kill time on your lunch break, and maybe steal some cooking utensils off my kitchen displays into your fake LV purse. *I* don’t get a lunch break, and even if I did happen to be trying to down a few french fries while typing out emails, that clearly is not as important to you, the idiot, who has to ask questions like “is this a sink?” while pointing to … you guessed it, a sink. Maybe the faucet gave it away? Yeah, it’s so difficult to have an incognito steel undermount sink installed in a sink cabinet in an island display in a kitchen and bath showroom, so good job there 007. Now I am going to have to work even later tonight, lest my clients accuse me of goofing off.

    I think these people also fail to realize just how much they are mocked as they are leaving, like the guy who walked around the showroom, picking up decorations like fake flowers, asking “how much?”

    me: “Sorry, those are not for sale, they are decorations on the displays …”

    him: (after I told him this for the third time): “Then why did you open this store if no one can buy anything?”

    me: Ummm (?) … we do custom kitchens and baths, and those are just the decorations … (because maybe he missed the giant sign outside that said KITCHENS, BATHS, & INTERIORS)

    him: “Oh … so how much for these?” (holding up a glass) — he eventually left, muttering under his breath about how stupid I was.

    There is also a type of these showroom cruisers who are the “experts” — i love those ones. One man came into our showroom and told me how much the cabinets he bought at Home Depot were so much better in quality than ours, because the guy at Home Depot told him HD’s cabinets were made out of solid wood. I asked him if they were carved from a single piece of wood, you know, like a canoe — and the man assured me that they were. I also love how sometimes when people would ask me if our Italian line of cabinets cost as much as the cabinets in Home Depot. This question always came after my answer of yes, they are custom manufactured in Italy to our specifications.

    But my favorite is the serial cruiser — there is one in every town. One lady in particular cruised the showrooms in Honolulu for twenty years, thinking that she was so clever. What she failed to realize is that every NKBA meeting or event, there were stories and much laughter at her antics traded amongst the members. One day after we had first opened the showroom, a woman came in and asked to speak with Susan. Looking on the security monitor from her office, my mother exclaims : “Oh it’s HER! I guess I am officially open!”

    Sorry, I think I needed to vent. I do my best to be a nice, agreeable person but sometimes, it’s too much. Sorry to hijack your comment section Cheryl!

  7. Cheryl, I’m familiar with the 3/50 project, but our company also belongs to our local AMIBA (Independent Business Association), which advocates for local, independent businesses such as ours. I think Local First Arizonia, etc. are also AMIBA groups.

    We also don’t give out appliance specs without a reservation in the system 😉 This is not only to incent purchases, but you know how much kitchen plans change…this is our way of trying to only give the sizes of what they’re actually getting!

  8. Have brought up an issue that has been near and dear to my heart. In fact, being a small buisness, meaning now I’ve gone from 2 to 1 employee (me) – I now work by appointment only – I can’t afford to spend all that time with people who only pick my brain to then go buy somewhere else. I to shop w/local independent business as much as possible. I shop on line only as necessary – in fact, on line shopping is great but you can’t touch or feel and in this business that is so important – also people need to watch all the clauses and conditions when buying on line…many times it’s “buyer beware” – what you get is what you get. And on top of that I haven’t set foot in a Wal-mart in over 4 yrs – yep heard that right…I think it so important to help our local businesses – because it not only helps local people but also the city and state. So many city governments – such as mine – are run only on sales tax revenue – so If you don’t shop locally – your city pays the price – ours had to lay off police and fire because of the the lack of funds. I’m sure my thoughts are not popular either but they are my thoughts and I appreciate you giving me a place to share them.

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    Author

    Well, thank you all for your comments. I think the post hit a cord with a lot of people as I have had comments on fb also. Sometimes you just throw up your hands. Just today, I had a customer ask us if we could match an internet site on at toto toilet. It was almost 40% off retail. Answer: no. But at least no one spent time with this person, ran copies etc before getting to the point.
    Robert: yes, sure, some people are looky loos, Not referencing those people but the people who purposely “use” your showroom and experience. If I get wind of this happening, I don’t hesitate to confront the person and explain to them how my business works.
    Without shaming them, I hand them a flyer from the 3/50 project and let them know what we, as a company, contribute to the community in which they live. 2 things happen then: they start to “get it” or they walk out. Either way, It is better than having the person waste my time or my staff’s time. I understand the people who are in need of saving on their budget but in my line of work, you should not be looking for my type of products if you cannot afford to pay for the expertise that goes along with it. Let the DIY people do their thing at big box places…I am ok with this if you do not abuse my business. They will get a DIY product generally and if someone is truly talented in putting items together, making a cohesive design, and understanding all about the “parts and pieces” then I give them a hand!! But these folks dont need me anyway.

    It is the ABUSIVE people who do NOT know jack diddly squatola that drain my knowledgable staff for info, copies, drive them nuts with varying pricing options etc that send me over the edge. Luckily it does not happen all that often.
    Adrienne: Hang tough. Try talking to some of these people forth rightly and see what happens. My experience is that some people just do not understand what it takes to run a business and may be converts if you tactfully explain about your knowledge base. This has worked for us.
    And to the rest of you hard working folks: keep it up and I think over time, the word gets out that buying on the internet can be disaster if something goes wrong. I know many internet companies that have gone belly up. I use this in my “spiel” ..use it too. Now more than ever!! You should know who you are doing business with! This comment always hits home with folks.

  10. Wow, I think your honesty will hit a nerve with many. It is very sad what some will do to save a penny or two. I grew up in retail, understand how small businesses run. Customer service is key….people have to be willing to understand they will never get personal service from an internet company. Heck, truth be told, I get cranky when I go into Home Depot and have to wait on myself 🙂

    For many years I worked for a high end furniture/accessory store in Northern Virginia. The owner was adamant about having everything private labeled. For this exact reason that you mention. We would work so hard, commit many hours helping, designing (did not charge a fee) for customer’s to take our ideas and go else where to save a few dollars. In her mind this is what worked (till she retired)…..hard working, tax paying, rent paying, employer providing jobs in the local communities just seems to get lost on the low life hummer driving people. I can go on and on….but I’ll shall end here.

    Thank you for bringing up a topic that many more should be made aware of. I like to think some that have never worked in retail or known anyone with a small business just don’t understand and hopefully this will help shed just a little more light on how hard people like yourself work. xo

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  13. Wow, Adrienne, I’d love to know where your shop is. That way I can make sure NEVER TO GO THERE. I too, have worked with the public and they can sometimes be frustrating but your obnoxious attitude is WAY OVER THE TOP!

    I work VERY hard, often 80 to 120+ hours per week at a job that is nether enjoyable nor creative but it pays the bills. I do not have the luxury of having a business that ties up my life’s savings as I am my sole support. I do, however, love design and beautiful things. I used to work in a kitchen showroom and adore tile, cabinets, and countertops (and I would walk out in traffic to see a beautiful alchemy sink). But I must do what allows me to pay my bills. Especially in this troubled construction market. So my one source of relaxation and pleasure is to go and look at the latest products and the beautiful displays. If you think that justifies your “stories and much laughter”, then you need to grow up and get a real job. As for wasting your time, I just want to be left alone. I am an adult and know how to ask for help if I need it. I don’t need you asking every 5 minutes!

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    Author

    Thank you Kayley for weighing in. I think Adrienne was just venting. I just got a chance to meet her recently in person and found her to be delightful and honest! But that is what the comments are for…to allow the free exchange of ideas and you bring up very good points also. I do not think any business owner minds and even welcomes, as we do, people looking. It is the blatant disregard for a business owner’s resources when some people come in knowingly to “shop” your displays and expertise to only go on to buy on the internet. Trust me it happens and is just plain rude. True “window shoppers” are never a problem at all as you never know when they might refer your showroom to another person or friend who might need your services!! We welcome anyone coming in to our showroom but put a quick end to those people who are very obviously using us. And I do not care if they get mad. I have enough really awesome clients that yell my name from the rooftops that I can afford a few disgruntled internet shoppers that get mad that I will not give them model numbers etc. Thank you for commenting!

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  18. I write from a unique perspective. I am the owner of an very specialized internet company and we also have a store front. We sell light boxes to treat depression. Very few store fronts exist for this market. I have people use my staff and our expertise sometimes for 45 minutes only to tell me they will think about it. I’m sure some end up ordering, and I’m sure that some then go onto Amazon or Craig’s list. I have had people ask questions for 20 minutes and then ask me why they shouldn’t just buy the product at Target. I always reply by asking if they have called Target to have all of their questions answered by a minimum wage high school kid who doesn’t know what a light box is. Then I ask them who they will call if they have additional question, need to return, or need a replacement part. They get very quiet.
    We are one of the “bad guys” according to the other posts, although we fill a valuable need and help people all over the world treat their depression with drug free options. We have been in business for 15 years, stand behind our products, offer amazing customer service, and fill a need that people cannot find locally.
    As a p.s. I shop locally first, and always recommend local restaurant and shops to people who come into our showroom. We’re not all bad!

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