A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
Making business work takes a lot more than low taxes.
Two recent experiences, one good, one not so good, made me think about the business owner side of the equation. You'd think when times are hard, customer service would perk up. But that's not always the case. I'm beginning to wonder if it's even often the case.
Younger daughter and I went bike shopping in Tosa yesterday. We didn't pick the best time to do it. Not only was it fried-eggs-on-sidewalk hot, but at 4:30, the rush hour was beginning. Just crossing North Avenue is a perilous adventure at such times. Luckily, the store stayed open until 7 that day, so we stopped worrying about being rushed or about rushing the staff.
The bike store, which will remain nameless because one experience does not a whole story tell, is blessedly small. (Neither of us does well when presented with vast quantities of merchandise.) The cheaper bikes--read: the ones we could afford--were at the front, but we didn't know exactly what we were looking for.
Only one other customer was there. Still, five minutes of clearly aimless wandering failed to elicit any notice from the three men in the back. We could see them, but apparently they could not see us.
Now, as a woman of a certain age, I'm used to being ignored. But I was surprised that my lovely daughter did not inspire some eager customer service. We finally left, shaking our heads.
A brief "hello, I'll be with you in a minute," might have changed the outcome to a more favorable one for customer and owner alike.
A week earlier I'd had a very different experience with a jewelry store in West Allis. Not a jewelry person, I only have a couple pieces, and their value is sentimental. Both belonged to a great aunt who found them during her adventures in Africa. But after 70 years of wearing by Aunt Lila, my mom, and now me, the ring was bent, the chain broken.
A couple Tosa friends had told me they never went anywhere but Shallow Jewelers to buy gifts for their wives, so I gave it a try.
Three or four other people were there looking at serious jewelry. But I was greeted immediately, the young woman behind the counter got a repair estimate in minutes, and I was out the door, happy, with a promise of one-week turn-around.
Two business days later the clerk called to tell me they were ready.
When I stopped in, the owner said, "These are interesting. Tell me about these pieces." I told the story of a chemistry professor from St. Olaf's who went to Madagascar as a missionary and stayed for 30 years, picking up the necklace on a trip to Kenya. "I thought it was a Serengeti piece," he nodded. "That's pretty close."
"And if they ever stop looking like they look now, bring them back and we'll clean them for no charge," he added.
We talked a little longer, he telling me about his family business and their pride in their work. I told him I'd heard about them years ago and the comments were so positive they stuck. He smiled: "That's why we don't advertise."
Needless to say, if I ever have what marketers call "jewelry needs," I will go back to Shallow. The combination of love for product, reasonable prices, excellent customer service, and quality work is pretty irresistible. And it's the best advertisement in the world.
But I'm pretty easy. Even a smile and a greeting hook me. Bike guys, can you say "hello"?