My father-in-law has long been a huge fan of the local hardware store. While he is rather anti big improvement store, he maintains his consistency by additionally avoiding the “world’s largest retailer” because of what he thinks they have done to the small stores in his small Texas city. Not surprisingly, he owns a small business in the same small city. Regardless where I stand on the big versus the small stores, I once again experienced great customer service at the hardware store near my home.
I am always impressed with how much stuff these hardware stores actually fit in their stores. No they don’t have pallets of the same item, but they generally have just enough. They remind me of the old general stores I see in movies which seemed to have practically everything. These hardware stores like the old general stores seemed to be more closely tied to the pulse and heartbeat of the community.
I walked in to my local True Value (A & G Hardware) store this morning and was greeted by Rick with a “Good morning. What are we working on today?” I explained that while trying to remove an old outlet in my 1943 Bungalow I snapped the head off one of the screws. Rick, shook his head in understanding because he was listening and then described a plan of action. “The screw that holds the outlet to the box is a #6 screw.” He went and got an electric outlet box to show me; using a #6 screw to confirm. “You’ll need to drill it out with a 9/64th bit and afterwards, since the hole will be bigger, use a #8 self-tapping screw to replace it.” I shook my head but crinkled my forehead trying to remember that, he added “I’ll write that down for you.” He grabbed a #8 screw and I grabbed a few hitch-pins for something else and we headed to the front counter. My total was $1.75 and I was out the door in 3 minutes.
Are you kidding me? There is no telling how long that would have taken me, had I gone to the big improvement store – and that is if I had been able to find someone to help me. You might be thinking the improvement store doesn’t want or need my big $1.75 purchase – and that might be true. But that is just this purchase. I’ve been back to my hardware store for many other purchases and will continue to go back. Even if I end up paying a little more for the same item; they are closer to my house, I can park 5 feet from the front door, I can get in and out much faster, and of course get knowledgable and great customer service.
No, I’m not boycotting the big improvement stores like my father-in-law would like to. They are good for many things and I visit and shop there for various projects. And there are many knowledgeable people there if you can find them and/if they aren’t helping another customer. But I love the customer service my small hardware store offers and will continue to shop there.
And that is where I think many of us small businesses have the advantage. We play in the same playground as many huge companies. Sure they can offer similar products often times for much less than we can. But the opportunity we have of differentiating ourselves and helping our customers is by giving our customers great value while giving them great service.