When I first started in the lampshade business, B told me the term for coming into a showroom to basically get information and not purchase is called "showcasing". Sounds like a weird name for it but that was the name they used so I'm using it.
Let me switch gears for a minute. Ridgewood, Glen Rock, Westwood- They all have walkable downtowns. Mom & Pop stores still line those downtowns. I'd bet that anyone who moves to Ridgewood or Westwood would say one of the top reasons for moving to those towns included the downtown. In Glen Rock and Ridgewood, people never cease to stop complaining about numerous duplicate businesses and empty store fronts. It's been years of empty stores and people coming up with lists of what they'd want in those spots & brainstorming on how the towns could entice businesses. Everyone seems to want to live in a town with a great downtown area. It's a great asset for a town to have.
Do you want to harbor a guess as to why there are so many empty store fronts? One reason could be the quick running to social media to complain about every little thing instead of talking to someone who could actually help them resolve an issue. I've been super vocal about how that couldn't possibly upset me more. But that's not what I'm talking about today.
Showcasing. I was recently on one of the mom's exchange boards on Facebook. A friend of mine asked where she should go to get bike helmets for her daughters. Originally I answered because I didn't see it was in the group- I thought she posted it on her personal page. She mentioned that she didn't want ones from a popular chain toy store. It was assumed she was looking for better fit and quality. People started naming legit mom & pop local cycle shops. Then came what I like to call the steaming pile of poop answer- "Go to ________ Cycle to get fitted, then go on Amazon and get it cheaper."
I was in a mood that morning. Enough said, right? No, but this is one of my triggers. I don't think people realize that this is essentially stealing. Stealing knowledge. It's not illegal & you really can't prove it, so it isn't typical stealing, but stealing none the less. How? Well, if you just went to Amazon in the first place and ordered, that would be one thing. We all want good pricing. *I* use Amazon. For things I don't need assistance with! Things I can research myself. Not things I need a real, live, human being to help me with. I try to buy local as much as possible, but I can recognize that sometimes you just need to utilize that Amazon Prime.
It's also just sneaky & calculated to shop like this because you're making someone think they are going to get a sale. A sale they count on to clothe their family or put food on their table. The two women I got into it with on FB had all kinds of excuses. One excuse was that she calls it "price comparison". The other asked if I think she should tip the girls at Stride Rite for measuring her kids and then leaving to buy cheaper online. One, Stride Rite isn't a mom & pop. Two, she did waste their time and they probably work on commission. So it's something to think about for sure. Then she asked if I think that people who can't afford to buy at a mom & pop shouldn't be able to get their kids shoes or heads fitted. No- I don't. Do it yourself then. Buy a cheap foot measuring thing or a tape measure for their heads. I don't know. Most mom & pops will try to price match anyway if you ask nicely. If it's not going to make them LOSE money. I then had to explain in great detail the differences between "price comparison" and "showcasing". I'm still pretty sure neither of them understood me or cared.
There is a big difference between going store to store to shop for the best price on something. Ask questions. Do what you have to do. But if you do that KNOWING you're not planning on buying from any of the people you are using for their knowledge and expertise because you're just going to buy online, you are essentially stealing their knowledge. At least tip them for their time and energy! I said to the one- "I hope you tip them after you bend them over...", Cue the shock and outrage. The one woman thought she was being clever by looking me up, seeing I have a store, and asked if I expect to get tipped if someone comes into my lighting store, asks questions, then buys it cheaper online. Well, Mrs. Smarty-Pants, you can't really do that in my store. We make everything. You might think you're going to find something like it somewhere online, but if it's cheaper, it's definitely not the same quality. To us, if you are hoping to recreate a page in the Pottery Barn catalog, or you're willing to buy your lampshades at a big box store after seeing ours, then you weren't our customer to begin with. You're not someone who gets what we do. The whole point of shopping with us is the uniqueness factor. Quality factor. The idea that no one is ever coming in your house and saying they saw it in Crate & Barrel or at their friend Judy's house. I'm not worried about it. It's annoying to have wasted time, but that's about it.
My irritation and dismay with this is more about the empty store fronts in my own town. It's about the friends of mine who couldn't sustain their business because of shady showcasers. For instance, there is a cycle shop in my own town. The town next to the friend who posted the initial question. I like to support the cycle shop in my town and I also don't want to send someone in there who is only going to waste their time to use that information elsewhere.
I like a deal. Everyone likes a deal. But if you're in a mom & pop store, you're most likely in there for service. You're not in there just based on price. You need help. You need sizing, you need information, you need to touch and see something in person. All things you can't get online. I guess you could do one of those online chats some stores have, but most of the time, you're in a store because you want or need the whole package. All I'm asking is to please think before just telling someone to showcase or do it yourself. Realize that everyone is also just trying to make a living. People who own mom & pop stores are usually very passionate about their business. They've studied a craft, honed it, and made it a business. They most likely spend the majority of their time in their business and do their best to give amazing expertise and service. Think about all that before setting out to use them for what their worth then turn around to support the big guy who can give you a better price. It just comes down to common decency and morality. If you want a vibrant, bustling downtown to walk around in and cool stores to shop in, then you need to support them instead of trying to undercut them just to save a few bucks.
Call it good karma.