Letters to the Editor (7-24-19)

Reader thinks Hillsboro has business bullies

Business bullies are business owners or managers who verbally abuse customers they don’t like. Business bullies think you owe them your business. They believe you are somehow privileged to patronize them.

Whatever they may have known about earning your business long since faded into an engraved image of themselves on your next dollar. Here in Hillsboro, they’ve been known to literally tell the customer to, “Get the hell out,” if they don’t like the customer.

Outside of their business, you see these bullies glad handing around town, participating in patriotic tributes, serving on community boards, supporting Chamber of Commerce or attending church. Some even create their own customer appreciation events like pancake feeds. Business bullies are found in the service sector as well.

Businesses in small towns like Hillsboro are the life blood of the community and it’s tough to be in business here.

The notion that everything is cheaper in the country is false. Whoever said so was out of their mind. It may have been true in the past but now, everything costs more in the country as local businesses are challenged to represent enough products at competitive prices without the buying power of the discount stores.

So what makes the difference? “Hometown” is more about attitude than anything else. It’s what keeps a mobile society shopping here instead of going elsewhere. Some of the newer business upstarts around town seem to recognize the importance of a service attitude in business.

There is always a price point balance in competitive business regardless of the location but some of the business bullies around town are not willing to accept that they need to be competitive. Any challenge that exposes their extortion or unfair business practice is sure to draw out their intimidation routine or threats.

The key factors controlling how shoppers respond with purchases anywhere are: customer service, convenience, competitive pricing and availability. Truth be known, except for customer service, there is no reason to shop locally anymore. Customers can easily shop online for more convenience, less hassle and less expense. Or, customers can shop where they work in McPherson, Newton, Wichita and Salina, where business bullying doesn’t occur.

Customers are responsible for civility as well but customers are often irritating. Fact is, evicting a customer is probably within the right of the owner but not for complaining about pricing or challenging the services, and “Get the hell out,” is far too extreme.

Turning the tables on a challenging customer by bullying, abusing and threatening is indefensible. How an owner or manager reacts determines standard operating principles for the employees. As a business owner, using objective responses outlining the policies and practices of the business are perhaps better than training employees how to effectively use a tire iron on customers they don’t like.

What does effective customer service look like?

One of the best local examples is Dollar General where there is a constant flow of customers. Employees are trained how to properly respond to customers. Customers often receive a friendly greeting at the door. There are customer response mechanisms and security cameras in place to provide a means of reviewing, among other things, successful interaction with customers. Promotions and wages are subject to evaluations of customer responsiveness.

There is a service attitude at Dollar General and the customer always comes first. When a problem is reported, management has procedures for reviewing the incident and making decisions concerning the employee’s behavior towards a customer, including interpretations of intent. Aggression, frustration or foul language towards a customer is never tolerated.

“Get the hell out,” tactics by local business bullies bring about the collapse of integrity in the entire business community. It’s difficult to promote shopping locally if only one “Get the hell out,” attitude exists.

Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce would sponsor anti “Get the hell out,” training to entrepreneurs and employees in their infected community. Without treatment, a negative outcome for the local economy is inevitable.

Stan Thiessen


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