Dave Richards' Weekly Column in The Woonsocket Call

Dave Richards for November 24thÖÖÖÖ

--Weíre only a couple of days away from Thanksgiving Day. Iíve said it before, this is my favorite holiday. The reason is simple. It is the most inclusive of all the holidays. It makes no difference what religion you observe, or even if you observe no organized religion at all. Being thankful for what we have is appropriate activity for people of any race, gender, or nationality. You donít need to exchange gifts, you just express an attitude of gratitude in any way which suits you, and nobody will hate you for being grateful. This is why I like the concept of Thanksgiving Day.

In the culture of the United States today, so many people have taken the opportunity to make the celebration of Thanksgiving into a four day weekend that the Friday after Thanksgiving Day has become a kind of holiday itself and Black Friday, which was for years retail sales industry jargon, became the topic of advertising sales. It seemed at first like harmless fun to have a big sale day to launch the traditional gift-buying season. Of course, there are always a few who canít control themselves and who go nuts at the prospect of ďsaving money at any priceĒ, and the shenanigans begin. Itís gotten to be now that even new car dealers have Black Friday deals for weeks before the day itself.

Thereís an offshoot of all this consumerism which is gaining momentum. Itís called Small Business Saturday. It was an idea which was already there before the huge financial company American Express became its patron and promoter, much the same way that there was a Christmas before Macyís.

Small Business Saturday is a simple recognition that statistically there are more small businesses than there are big retailers. And, though the big guys seem to monopolize wide spread and national advertising, there are more family-run businesses which are not represented in network TV ads which are successfully competing with the corporate big guys because they work hard and they care about their customers. It is wisely said that without the small businesses, local economies would collapse.

Now I want to tell you another thing about small businesses you may not know. And I think it is a great strength of small business. Small businesses can see and take advantage of the wisdom and good business sense in sincerely serving the customer, even if they donít stock what the customer needs.

I mean to say, if you needed a hammer and asked a friend for one, but they didnít have one, but they told you who did have one and you ended up with a hammer, that first friend did you a good service. I have experienced this good service a number of times while shopping at our family-run, small businesses locally. And Iím sure Iím not the only person who has walked intoÖÖ.well Iíll give you a true-to-life example which pops into my head right now.

I went to Pepin Lumber looking for a plumbing part to fix a toilet. They didnít carry it, but before taking a breath they sent me across the street to Vose Hardware, who had it. I learned that Vose reciprocates when a customer there needs something which Pepin stocks. I used the actual names of the stores there, not because others donít do it, but to make my example more real to you and to thank them and hold these two particular stores up as fine examples of how to treat customers. Many other local stores do this.

The end result is a customer who is satisfied and stores who, as you can tell by my words, are trusted and held in high regard for their professionalism. Itís a far cry from going to the Ďsuperstoreí, to find empty boxes where the product I came to buy should be and the stuff I donít want to buy is overflowing next to the empty boxes as if to say, ďyouíll buy what we have to sell to you and like it. We are a superstore!Ē. I donít feel appreciated as a customer at the superstore. I do feel very appreciated at the local stores I shop at and thatís why I go there. Because no matter how much the world may change, people want to feel appreciated.

Everywhere you go, when you deal with small and family-owned businesses you deal with people who genuinely care about you. Because they know that they canít afford to do business like the huge, seemingly uncaring corporate stores who operate as if thereíll always be another new customer to replace the ones they dissatisfy.

Hereís another great example Iíve seen personally, and Iíll mention names again, though there are other small businesses I could name. This happened to me just this past weekend. I was on radio duty at the Grand Opening and ribbon cutting of A Special Place Gift Store at their new location in the NeighborWorks Plaza on Front Street. Bethany, at Champs Diner, in the same plaza, sent over some food for the guests. Tom, the owner of A Special Place, asked me to go to Champs and spend some of his time supporting Bethany. He also asked me to do the same with Mike at Sacred Hands Massage and Wellness Center. They reciprocated in kind.

Itís this kind of cooperation and sincere caring for others which transfers down from the hard-working people running small businesses to their customers. And itís what sets them apart from the national chains. And it is why I will always shop local first. I think you should, too.

--That's what I think. What do you think? Comments to: dave@onworldwide.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332.

Thanks for reading.


This blog changes each Monday evening.
The column runs in the Editorial section of The Call each Tuesday.
Click here to return to our home page.