Service of Updating Information

March 27th, 2014

Categories: Communications, Courtesy, Manners, Retail


Checklist 2“Beadwildered” in New Jersey wrote me to share her recent experience at a small store – an incident that gives major clues to why, apart from the major changes in retail and the stress of having to close a business–this one hit the skids.

Central to this tale is the lackadaisical way in which some update business information on websites, which ends up frustrating potential customers and wasting their time. Reminds me of the NYC hotel at which a friend booked a room over the Internet. Only by luck did I call the place before she arrived to learn that it was no longer in midtown, [which was essential to her stay].  I can’t blame it on the web either. The days of print-only weren’t much better. Arriving at movie houses in NYC only to learn that the movie was no longer playing or the showtime hours were incorrect taught me: Call before going.

This is what Beadwildered wrote:

Beads on black dressI needed to buy some small jet beads to replace beading that has fallen off a cocktail dress.  Once upon a time, they were easy to find at a fabric or craft store.  But try finding a fabric store in the suburbs anymore. And the craft stores are all big-box stores out on the highways.  As it happens, I do have a local fabric store, but the owner said he can no longer get small packets of beads. He recommended a bead store three towns away. 

I looked at the website and the photos showed packets of beads.  While I drove the 20 minutes to the store it began to pour. When I got to the store, it was partially dismantled. 

A woman inside came to the door to find out what I wanted.  “I hope you’re not closed after I drove all this way,” I said. 

“We’re closed for good,” was her reply.  But she reluctantly let me in out of the rain. 

“Hadn’t you seen the sign? It was up for 19 weeks,” she said in a very disdainful manner.

“I live three towns away and rarely get over this way,” was my defense.  I drive out this way once in a while, but this is not the kind of store that stands out and catches your eye. 

Bead storeI told her what I was looking for, mentioning that I’d seen packets of beads on the website and didn’t think to call as a result.  “We haven’t had those in years,” she snorted.

She reluctantly let me poke around but kept saying I wouldn’t find what I needed.  As I looked, I commented that it must be hard to run a bead store in today’s world.  She indignantly said she’d been in business for 19 years but it was done now. 

Finally, she asked if I had a sample and I showed her one of the beads I was trying to match.  She snorted more loudly that they had nothing of the kind.  

As I went back out into the downpour, I reflected that if she’d always been this nasty and arrogant, she did everyone a service in going out of business. Granted, since she was no longer selling I no longer qualified as a potential customer.  But how hard would it have been to be nice?

Store closing signThe bead store owner had 19 weeks to note on her website that she was closing the store. Depending on one vehicle of communication–a sign–is never enough. And she obviously didn’t update the information on the web if she hadn’t carried the featured bags of beads for years.  In addition, the advantage of a small business is service. Granted closing a business that’s been in your blood for almost two decades is tragic. Beadwildered might not have thought twice about the inconvenience of her fruitless trek had the owner broken down to lament the loss or apologized that she’d gone out of her way for nothing. 

Retail is grueling, even when a business thrives. Retailers have nerves of steel to survive the whining and bilking that some customers depend on to chisel and defraud businesses big and small.

Are you acquainted with small retail businesses that flourish or any that have closed in large part for reasons they cause? What are some businesses that do a remarkable job of updating their communications with customers? 

Communication skills

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4 Responses to “Service of Updating Information”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Yes, I’ve arrived somewhere to find a favorite store gone more times than I care to remember, the latest incident, last month. If I call, it’s to learn whether the establishment has what I need. This is a no brainer if the store is far away!

    The majority reason given for stores closing is a greedy landlord. Latest example: Taxes rise by 3%. Landlord slaps tenant with a 15 to 20% raise in rent. Shop closes.

    As for being snorted at, no one has dared so far.

    PS Tutoring lessons in scaring snorters cheerfully given!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I admit that if I see something on the web, I’d believe that the place carries the item and would make the journey. The last thing I’d expect is a closed business when it’s on the web: Beadwildered has taught me that lesson!

    What I neglected to recognize in my comments on the post is that items like beads used to be the kind of thing you’d find in a small store. There’s a general store with zero fashion appeal in a sad little upstate town that’s the only place I’ve been able to find white iron-on patches. I fear for its life.

  3. NJW Said:

    I once had the unhappy task of presiding over the demise of a multi-company international conglomerate. My job was to extract as much value as possible at as little cost as possible from the group’s carcass. Nobody but the bankrupt owner, who was in no position to do anything about it, cared one fig about what happened to all the people who had been working for all those companies, some all their adult lives.

    My sympathies are with poor lady who lost her business after nineteen years, no doubt forced out of business by the steamroller competition of the “big box” behemoth chain stores which dominate retail today. Adversity is no excuse for rudeness, but it is an explanation.

    If I were forced out of business, had lost all I worked for all those years, my job and probably all my savings as well, the very last thing I would do is worry about what my website said. I might not be very polite either to somebody wasting my time.

    That most courageous of presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, had his “Break the Trusts”. I suggest next election we elect a man as courageous he was, willing to “Shatter the Chains”. That is how we can get good, caring service back into our stores.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    For as long as I can remember–far before I owned my own business–I would feel sadness for people who had to close their business. Retail and restaurant closures are more obvious as we pass the venues daily but the pain is the same no matter what the business is. I still remember the chocolate ice cream soda at a small place in Mount Kisco, NY where my mom would take me and my nephews for a treat eons ago and I miss the tarts and coffee cake at two favorite bakeries now long gone.

    That said, most people go through traumatic times–family deaths and illnesses, spouse losing a job, foreclosure–and they don’t chop off the heads of strangers. Being assaulted verbally and up close is daunting.

    In addition, while noting “going out of business” may be the last thing the store owner would think of updating on her website, she might have updated what the store carried and deleted what it didn’t. Panic can make you forget some of the things that might help you stay in business.

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