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“Why not ask me to give you the product for free?”

In my latest novel, ‘Who’s Minding the Store?’ Derrick Payton faces customers who want him to match online retailer prices. The scenario you read in my book is all too real in every business across the country. Now why do you suppose businesses can’t match online prices?

Derrick handles the situation fine in my book. I’ve found myself explaining to customers how brick-and-mortar businesses can’t afford to match such prices due to overhead. We have employees to pay, utilities; rent (no surprise, right?). I soften the disappointment by adding, “You knew from the start you could buy your products for less online, and yet chose to visit my location. You did this because you appreciate face-to-face discussion with a trained specialist in the industry. And it’s this professional who gives you confidence in your purchase that makes it worthwhile.”

And that is the crux of why businesses cannot match online prices. To get top-rate service you need a staff full of professionals, and they need to be paid living wages, or else their mind won’t be on their work, which is to serve you. Instead, they’ll be wondering how they’re going to pay the bills to support their family.

I’ve come across customers who don’t care about anything other than price. I can live with that because that can be the nature of the business. People are, after all, earning less these days and need to take advantage of savings every chance they can. But now more than ever businesses need to educate customers the advantage of a professional giving you the confidence in your purchase so you leave happy with your shopping experience. If businesses continue matching online prices, profitability will take a nose-dive, and the first place a business looks to cut is staff. In other words, people!

The saying goes, ‘The number one controllable expense is payroll.’ That means you and me. Aside from my profession as an author, I’m a store manager and need to be profitable or else have the doors to my business close (Yes, this is where I got part of the idea for my story). I find myself many times explaining to customers, “I’ll be sure to offer you a competitive price, but I’d go out of business in a heartbeat if I matched online prices.” Most people understand, others as mentioned before simply don’t care. I suppose I’ll have to deal with that, too.

Online shopping is here to stay, but wouldn’t the loss of brick-and-mortar businesses be tough to swallow? I think about that every time I make an online purchase. I can understand buying a hard-to-find book or discontinued item no longer available. My own book isn’t available in every store and has to be bought online, so I know first-hand the need for online shopping. But how comfortable would you feel paying for appliances, plumbing, and electronics online without first talking about them with a trained professional? The answer isn’t difficult.

In my book this discussion takes place in one chapter, but the message is clear. We all need to support the businesses within our community. I saw this not only as a business leader, but a member of the community who also shops. What happens to the person next door could happen to all of us, and I’m only good with that so long as I’m left standing on my own two feet.

So the next time you make a purchase for appliances, furniture, electronics, and plumbing fixtures online, first visit your local business. After you’ve built a rapport with the salesperson answering your questions I’m sure you’ll feel happy you made an investment in a business serving your community.

Now sit back and enjoy my book! I had a lot of fun writing it.

David

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