Score One for Local Business

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  When it comes to promoting independent, local business, one of my toughest sells is my own lovely wife.  She gets the principle and has shifted most of her business away from the chains, but I often get the feeling that it’s just to humor me.  The thousand-roll pack of toilet paper from Sam’s Club still shows up in the basement once-in-a-while.

One issue that’s been pretty cut-and-dried is grocery shopping.  For whatever reason, the St. Louis area has rejected national grocery chains in favor of two locally-owned operations, Dierberg’s and Schnucks.  There are a couple of national discount chains and specialty chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but by and large, the two locals own the full-line grocery business.  We’ve had Kroger and A & P, and others through the years, but the local chains have run them all off.  With the exception of Sam’s Club and their mega-roll toilet paper and their giant boxes of laundry detergent, and the other exceptions mentioned above, most of our grocery dollars have stayed at home.

The issue came up recently when Wal-Mart opened  a “Super Center” about a mile from our house.  Of course Mrs. B. checked it out.  “It’s such a nice store.  Their prices are lower.”  The usual arguments for sending money to Bentonville. I went and looked at it and it is nice.   Besides, who wouldn’t want to buy their baked goods and their transmission fluid in one stop? But she dutifully continued to patronize the local chain though I know there were a few things that she was picking up at Wally World.

Then something strange happened.  Last week the bagger at Dierberg’s  called her by name and said, “Mrs. B, we know you have other choices and we really appreciate your shopping with us.  You’re a loyal customer.  Thank you.”

“Thank you.”  No free loaf of bread.  No bonus coupons.  No complimentary cup of coffee.  Just a sincere thank you.  Imagine that!

And guess what?  As far as my wife is concerned, the Wal-Mart grocery department is no longer in the hunt.  No one at Wal-Mart has ever said thank you.  In fact she says the checkers are “grumpy”.

I know she’ll continue to buy paper products and cat litter from you-know-who.  And I’ll still go to Trader Joe’s for frozen Orange Chicken and giant cashews, but the bulk of our grocery business will stay at Dierberg’s where it’s been for years.

In the past few months, the local grocers have spent a fortune remodeling stores, running ads, and even cutting prices.  Some of that cost was necessary, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that service is dead or that all that matters is price.  People still appreciate service and they appreciate being thanked.  And, folks,  it doesn’t cost a thing.

One Response

  1. And therein is the meaning of social media — being social! Glad to hear one of the local stores won.

    @debworks Deb

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