Is your behavior hurting businesses?

My husband and I visited family in Philadelphia and one of the places we explored was Reading Terminal. It’s a pretty famous tourist attraction with a variety of food and mercantile vendors. When we were looking at some of the goods we noticed many of the vendors had signs that said “No photos.” We thought it was a little odd, so I asked a vendor about the signs. I was told people would take photos and then look to see if the item was cheaper online. Apparently they were losing sales to online orders.

When we returned, a friend, who owns a small service and retail business, mentioned that she regularly has shoppers look around her store while asking questions about the items and upon seeing an item they like will order it online—then and there—in front of her. She mentioned a nearby shoe business has customers come in, try on shoes with the help of the salesperson and then tell the clerk they just wanted to verify their shoe size so they could order the same item online.

Are you guilty of doing this? If so, you may not be aware of how harmful this is to local businesses and our local economy. You are essentially taking advantage of your neighborhood business when you peruse their store and then buy the same item online.  It should go without saying that this is not mannerly behavior. In fact, it’s incredibly rude! Many local purveyors don’t have the staff, resources or inventory to post their goods online and handle fulfillment and shipping. And many of these stores have very small profit margins. Small businesses help the economy and give our cities and towns character. Don’t get me wrong, I do my lion’s share of ordering goods online, but I would never peruse a store to look for an item only to order it online.

One of the joys of purchasing goods from a brick and mortar store is getting to touch, try on and ask questions about the item. When we were visiting Reading Terminal we were drawn to the beautiful French linens. I figured I could probably find the same items cheaper online but I was right there. I could feel the tablecloths and see their quality and their colors in real life. I was able to ask the saleswoman questions about the sizes and how to care for the linens. It was a very pleasant shopping experience and I walked away with the item right then and there. I didn’t have to wait for it to be shipped to me.

The other rude behavior that hurts local businesses is “sampling.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been shopping at my neighborhood grocery store and have witnessed adults taking and eating food items from the bulk goods bins. It’s mind boggling to me that someone would do that. Perhaps these people think the amount they are “sampling” doesn’t have much impact on the store. But, given how many times I’ve seen people do this, I know the scale of this act must be impacting the store. If you want to sample free food go to Costco on a Saturday or Sunday. You’ll get samples galore.

Etiquette helps us to know how to act and behave, and manners demonstrate how to treat others. Next time you’re tempted to order something online that you see in a local store, or to steal some food from the bulk bins, remember your etiquette and manners. Your local store owner will thank you and you’ll feel virtuous for doing the right thing while supporting your local business.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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