Because We Were Willing to Build a Business Back Then

...the almighty dollar was not the driving force for every transaction

I remember the local hardware store when I was a kid.  It was owned by a wonderful man that would go out of his way to assist you with finding anything in the store as well as provide you with general fix-it knowledge.  He understood how to build a business.

Build a Business

Apparently he was also a jack-of-all-trades and was more than happy to offer his advice on how to fix almost anything.  And he always had the exact part you needed.

On the floor in front of his long counter was a series of bushel baskets with hundreds, no thousands, of nails & screws, each sorted in their own basket by size and by kind.  Drywall nails, you got it.  Finishing nails, they’re here too.  Galvanized, steel, roofing and box nails, anything you can possibly need.

You only need three 10d nails, no problem.  Just reach into the appropriately labeled basket and remove three and pass them to the owner.  He quickly slips them into a small brown bag and hands them over the counter to you…without charging you anything.  He knew that these three nails given for free would not cost him much and the reward of a grateful customer was well worth it.  This is how business was done years ago.

In today’s version of the story, if you want just three nails you must either purchase an entire box of 250 or a small pack of four to six, depending on the store.  If you want to buy seven, you will need to buy two packages.  This may not seem like a big deal but look into your junk drawer or tool box.  How many leftover nails and screws of assorted sizes do you still have that will probably never be used?

Do we really need this?  Of course not.  What we really need is the way things used to be.

Store owners used to understand the value of creating a relationship with their customers. Click To Tweet

That relationship was so valued that you only went to “Sam” for all your hardware needs.  He would help you.  He looked out for your best interests.  And, if Sam wasn’t available, his employee was there and he was trained by Sam to take care of the customers in the same manner.

Now, speaking about nails in a hardware store is not my focus, it’s only an analogy to show how service has changed from “yesterday” to today.

Gone are the days where the almighty dollar was not the driving force for each and every customer interaction.

There were no scientific methods of store design or signature scents to entice you to buy.  The store color was just a color, not a psychological drama into how one color persuades you to spend more than another.

We were willing to build a business back then, not just to squeeze the last dime from mom and dad.

We understood that a good repeat customer will bring us more money over the long run than any one-time big ticket purchase that leaves a bad taste in their mouth.

We never took advantage of a customer.  We only advertised what we had, there were no “bait & switch” tactics.  And of course there was never a price gouging strategy during bad weather or local hardships.

No loss-leaders suckered customers into the shop where they were hit later with inflated prices on the staple items.  Fair pricing was the motto all the time.  This is how business was done.  A smile, a handshake and common courtesy was the method of the day, period!

We understood what it was like to be a customer in need and how we felt when we were on the other side of the counter.  How would we wish to be taken care of from the shopkeeper or attendant when we are spending our hard-earned money?

Would we be appreciative of the service we now give to others? If not, maybe it’s time to make a change…

Is that too much to ask?

➤Leave a comment below and add to the discussion, thanks.

Copyright © 2017 Steve DiGioia

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5 thoughts on “Because We Were Willing to Build a Business Back Then

  1. Steve, I am certain that I am from the “old school” method of customer service. By my actions with one customer in the recent past, I gained a repeat customer!
    We started to offer a coffee/tea/cocoa service to students and employees in our small college bookstore location – simply because the coffee vending machine in the lounge kept breaking down. About a month ago, on a very slow day, I hadn’t warmed up any water for instant coffee or tea. Wouldn’t you know – one of the professors wanted herbal tea! I asked him to return in a few minutes and I would have hot water available. When he did return and he wanted to pay for the tea, I told him that because I had been caught unprepared, there was no charge. At first, he looked unsure of my good intentions, but I assured him that I meant it. Since then, he has come back a couple of times and purchased his tea from us. Imagine that – a good turn brings back a now-valued (and repeat) customer!

    • Lisa,
      Again, you show all to uncommon – common sense! That’s how it’s done and by the professor’s surprise it shows that we need more of this type of good will and practices.

      Such a little gesture has far reaching effects. Well done!

  2. I think what you’re driving at is, do we as vendors really have the best interests of our client’s in mind? It almost always takes a conversation to ascertain what is best for the client typically requiring lots of questions. When done successfully there’s a great sense of achievement.

    Guy Nadeau
    Panavid, Inc.

    • You summed it up very well Guy, thanks. I have always said, “do what’s in the best interest of the customer”, this is how a business is built. Once we treat them like a commodity we are doomed to fail, both ourselves and them. Thanks!

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