Saturday, March 15, 2008

WTF is up with this?

Our little community is way out in the boonies. Our fabric shopping choices are limited to the evil Arkansas giant superstore and our local quilt shop (LQS). As a result, many people use the internet to fill in the gaps. What has always scared me is that the local shop might go away if it is not supported, so I have made it a point to be a loyal customer. I buy 95% of my quilting fabric there, my thread, my batting, and many patterns and books. If I do buy fabric online or out of town, I make a point of purchasing my backing and other supplies at the LQS. I also sucked M and D into quilting and they now shop regularly at our LQS. This is not the only way I have supported this shop…when people ask me about learning to quilt, I always refer them to the LQS pointing out that they have a great beginning quilting class.

Here’s what pisses me off…the LQS has a punch card system of rewarding regular customers. Once you have purchased 50 yards of fabric at regular price, you have earned a free 5 yards of fabric. Nice eh? With fabric at $8.50 to $10 a yard it is a nice bonus for being a loyal customer. Well, it used to be. A few “bad” quilters used to save up their punch cards and then come in and redeem four or five at once. For a small shop, that really hits hard. So the owner decided to put a 30 day limit on using up your punch card. I don’t know about you, but I hate to be put into the position to “hurry” and pick out my fabric when I don’t have a specific project in mind. My stash has plenty of fabric that sits there unused because it was purchased without a plan for it. Both SB#1 and I have lost our five free yards because we were in the shop 4 and 5 days after our 30 day limit. We’ve also heard the same story from more than a few other quilters.

When this happened to me this week, I spoke with the owner. I suggested that customers only be allowed to redeem one punch card every 30 days to avoid the issue she’d had with the “bad” quilters. I pointed out that we want her business to stay open, but that the 30 day limit for the five free yards was limiting and unfair to loyal customers. I pointed out that SB#1 had recently purchased an expensive sewing machine from her (if that’s not loyal, I don’t know what is), and her five yards weren’t redeemed since she was 4 days late. Her excuse is that her prices are going up every week (yes – fuel costs are making life difficult for all of us) and if she lets us go past 30 days she’s losing money. What? How much money is she going to lose when frustrated customers start shopping online? I know on the few occasions that I’ve purchased fabric online, I have been very pleased and found it to be easy, quick, and in some cases, less expensive than my LQS. Again though, I do most of my shopping locally to ensure the LQS stays open.

Let’s be honest, our LQS owner is not known for being warm and fuzzy. I don’t let that put me off, but SB#1 and SB#2 were honestly scared off by her stern personality and wouldn’t shop there at first without me to accompany them. My boss showed us a video this year called “Give Them the Pickle!” It comes from the old Farrell Ice Cream Parlors. For years they gave customers free pickles, but then decided to start charging for them. One customer wrote the owner complaining and wondering where the customer service had gone. The owner realized that in order to keep the customer happy, he needed to go the extra mile and his mantra became “Give them the pickle!” It went back to the old idea in customer service that the customer was always right. Do any of you remember those days? It’s something that has disappeared in the American business community and it seems a shame that small local businesses seem to have forgotten the only way they can keep the customer from going to the big box stores is by offering exemplary customer service.

Unfortunately, this incident has left a very sour taste in my mouth. I have been attending monthly quilting marathons at the LQS, buying loads of fabric for the projects and always spending more money that night when I’m at the shop. We have one tonight and I committed to it last month so I feel like I have to go. I think it will be my last and I expect that I will be spending more of my quilting budget online and at other shops that are within a two hour drive rather than with my crabby LQS owner.

What do you think? Am I just living up my nickname of being a Stitchin’ Bitch?



Brooke in WI said...

Well, I stumbled here from PW's site and read this and feel for you. My LQS is doing close to the same thing, bugs me to no end! But what made me post is your comment about 'Give Them the Pickle'. I wonder if you work for the same company as I do, because we watched that same video and now show it to every new hire. Do you work for 'the Mike's' too??

tj said...

...Hello, I happened over here via PW's site and read this post and can so relate to your quandary. I'm surprised you have hung in there this long with the LQS, I would've blazed a trail away from that place long ago! It seems small business owners want to play the woe-is-me card and complain that the big box stores are putting them out of business when them staying in business really comes down to loyalty and top notch customer service. It almost seems that the small town business owners feel that locals owe them their business and that they shouldn't have to "earn and keep" you to keep comin' back. Yeah, this is a burr under my saddle and has been for a long time - I too am from a small town and have dealt with this same scenario time and time again...

...Hold your head up high and order your supplies online or where ever you want - if that lady doesn't recognize you as a loyal customer and isn't willing to make exceptions then hit her where it hurts - the pocketbook!

...Sorry for the long comment - this kind of stuff really burns my biscuits! lol... ;o)

...Good luck! Blessings... :o)

Stitchin' Bitches said...

Brooke, I'm in education...the Give Them the Pickle applies to teaching too. :) Thanks for visiting. Stop by again.

TJ, Thanks for stopping by too. Small town stores are very frustrating. Thank heavens for the internet!


Melissa said...

That sucks. You ought to send them a link to this post!