Friday, May 18, 2012

Why Shopping Local Matters

Here at Grassroots we really push the whole buy local philosophy.  Our friends at the shops and restaurants downtown are always extremely generous whenever we need them and many of the owners and managers have become our close friends.  So whenever we can, we always encourage people to skip the big chains and shop at Greensboro owned stores.

But, I am going to be honest with you.  I rarely live by this ideal in my personal life.  When I am doing something for work, sure I will go local.  But at home it's all Target and Starbucks.  Until yesterday when my mind was completely changed.

My husband bought me a watch for our wedding anniversary.  He couldn't find the exact style I wanted in a store, so he ordered the watch directly from the designer's website.  Since they carry the same brand of watch in most department stores, he assured me that I would be able to take it to one of them and have the watch resized.

So yesterday, the watch came in and I took it directly to Friendly Center where there is no shortage of department stores to choose from.  I walked into the first one I came to thinking that I would be in and out in a few short minutes.  And that was true.  Except that I didn't get my watch resized.  The salesperson there told me that she was not allowed to touch my watch without a receipt of purchase from that store.  I explained the situation to her and assured her that they carry basically the same watch in their store.  No can do she said.

This happened about three times at different stores before I gave in to the fact that none of the big department stores were going to be able to help me.  As a last ditch effort I headed over to Schiffman's.  I'm sure you all know that Schiffman's is a high end store.  I of course assumed that if a rinky dink department store thought it was too much of a liability to fix my watch, Schiffman's would certainly have the same policy.

I walked in fully prepared to have a Pretty Woman moment ("I got money to spend in here!") on the first salesperson I saw, but was caught off guard by the quick and polite assistance I received.  A very professional gentleman greeted me at the door, offered me a drink, and asked how he could help me.  I gave him my story, ending with, "I'm sure you aren't allowed to help me either, but if you could just tell me where to go that would be very helpful."  But instead of brushing me off because I a. didn't purchase the watch from there or b. wasn't dressed like someone who could afford Schiffman's, he took me over to the counter and solved all my problems.

Yes, he did in fact resize my watch.  He also set it for me, showed me how to use all the many dials, and took it to the back to have it cleaned and polished.  And on top of all that, he didn't even charge me.  He just gave me a card and asked me to please bring all my future business to Schiffman's.

Believe me, I understand the importance of saving every penny.  I am married to an accountant, so I understand the value of a dollar.  Yes, I recognize that many people's objection to shopping local is that it is more expensive than shopping the chains.  And by all means, that is mostly true.  But how do you put a price tag on excellent customer service?  Or on great quality goods?  Or on people that are just genuinely nice to do business with?  I don't think you can.

And if it really comes down to dollars and cents for you, think of the gas money I spent driving from store to store trying to find someone to help me.  I should have just gone to Schiffman's in the first place.  Which is what I will be doing from now on.

If any of you have a story about a wonderful experience you had at a local business here in Greensboro, I would love to hear it.  Leave a comment here or send me an email (  I am happy to share any of your stories on our blog and promote any local business that you feel is top notch.  Until then, happy shopping!