For Want of a Shoe . . .

I was talking to my friend Bill Burtless this morning about his struggles trying to find football cleats for his gigantic-left-tackle-son. Michael (we call him “Blind-Side” for obvious reasons)[1] needs an unusual size of cleat, a size the big-box store didn’t carry and which the teenager working at the big-box store was unable or unwilling to help Bill order.  No big deal, you don’t go to a big-box stores for service.

 So Bill did what he though was the smart thing – he went to a local store.  The local store was unlikely to carry this odd size – the big-box store, with its huge inventory, didn’t have it. Smaller local stores can’t carry that kind of inventory – they often are able to carry only the most popular sizes.  But Bill knew that going in.  Bill was there for service.  He should have been at the right place.

It turns out he wasn’t at the right place.  The owner told Bill he didn’t carry that unusual size, and Bill should “go try to find it on the Internet”.


If you are a small business owner of a local brick and mortar store, take note – customers do not shop at your store because you have the biggest selection.  You don’t.  They do not shop at your store because you have the lowest prices.  You don’t.  They do not shop at your store because it’s more convenient to drive to your store than it is to order from Amazon.  It isn’t.

Your customers come to you for service.  Service is what sets small business apart.  Someone who is knowledgable about the products and can help you get what you need.   There are people in this world who will pay a little more and drive a little farther to get good service and to have a good customer experience.  If you can create that experience and deliver that service, you will survive.

Telling a potential customer, who is there for service and willing to pay for it, that you will not be bothered to help them and that they should go search the web for themselves demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what entrepreneurship is all about.

I hope this owner was just having a bad day. If so, that bad day cost him any future business from my friend, and likely from a number of other Bill talks to.  If, however, that is the standard level of customer service offered at this store, I don’t expect it will be around long.

Which is too bad, because I like locally owned stores.

[1] If the reason isn’t obvious to you check out The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game By Michael Lewis


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