A couple of weeks ago, I visited a small, independently owned pharmacy. I know that’s quickly becoming a rarity, but I’m glad I did. I’ve been to the chain store pharmacies, and I have to tell you that I often leave feeling like less of a person than a dollar sign. In other words, my experience with the large chain pharmacies and other types of retail stores are that they’re usually impersonal and there’s room for improvement for the level of customer service.
What’s Better Small Shops?
When I go to the large pharmacies that are associated with a nation-wide store, there’s usually one–maybe two–people working in the pharmacy. So, inevitably, I’m waiting on a line to drop off my prescription. Once I get to the counter, no matter what the medicine, I’m told that I have to return in at least an hour, at which point something that should take a few minutes (and used to), becomes a multi-hour exercise. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’ve picked up a prescription, the medicine is for someone who is not feeling well and the sooner they get the medication, the quicker they will feel better. I don’t think that big pharmacies understand how vital quick-turnaround is to people.
When you return to one of the large pharmacies to pick up your prescription, you’re back online waiting to get to the single person who’s working the counter. And, even if you’ve arrived past the hour, you may be asked to wait some more, so hopefully, there will be a seat available for you.
However, when you go to an independent pharmacy, the experience is different and better. When I picked up my prescription recently, I waited FIVE minutes. About five or six professionals were working in the pharmacy, who were personable and made it a point to get to know me as a person and not a dollar bill. The person who waited on me also asked me if I preferred to have my prescription delivered, which is not typically a service available at the large stores in my area.
The Best Reasons to Patronize Small Business Owners
My experience with the pharmacy is but one example of why I prefer to patronize and do business with small shops and you should as well. One of the best reasons to go to mom and pop shops is because they provide people jobs. As I mentioned earlier, the larger chains don’t care if you wait in line for twenty minutes or more because their priority is not you, but their bottom line. However, because small stores understand that they have to differentiate themselves, they hire workers to provide excellent customer service. The Small Business Administration has reported that small businesses add more net jobs than do large companies.
There are other reasons to do business with small stores and shops.
- Small businesses are not bureaucratic. Typically, if you’re doing business with an entrepreneur who owns a small shop, you’re dealing with the decision-maker. The larger the company, the higher the chances that your experience will be done to benefit the corporation–and not you, which includes bureaucracy. In other words, good luck finding a manager to speak to you if there’s a problem. But, with a small business, if you need special assistance or are not satisfied with a product or service, you’ll be able to speak with the decision-maker who can quickly make sure you’re happy.
- Keeping it in the community. When you do business with a small store, more of the money you pay for products or services remain in your community. For instance, a study done for Chicago found that for every $100 spent at a small business in that city, $68 remained whereas when customers patronized chain stores, only $43 stayed in the community. Larger companies have to pay immense amounts of overhead, which means more of the revenue made is going to the corporate office.
- Looking for Broader and Unique Products. If you want to purchase more products that are not the usual, if you patronize a small business, the chances are higher you will get to see a broader array of product offerings. As an example, before record players and records came back in style, small shops were selling them. These businesses were even selling record players when everyone was predicting the death of the vinyl record. It was after some time that the big box stores got in on the act and realized that people wanted to listen to recordings.
- Personalized customer service. As was mentioned earlier, when you do business with a small shop, you’re a person and not a number. That means that when you keep going back to the store, the more you build a relationship with the people who work at the shop, the higher the chances are that you’re going to get service that is personalized to you. For instance, let’s say you take the time to chat with the pharmacist who takes the time to get to know you. If he or she knows who you are and your medical needs, don’t get surprised when someday that pharmacist makes a recommendation for a better medicine you should address with your physician. In other words, you’re doing business with real people who want to get to know you and service your specific needs.
Next time you’re thinking about going into one of the national chains, take a few minutes to stop into one of the smaller shops in your neighborhood. I bet you’ll discover better service, more diverse products and you’ll be making a positive contribution to a small business owner who’s hiring more people than the large chain store.