[Setting: Coffee Shop]
GWEN: Jerry, how many times do we have to come to this.. place?
JERRY: Why? It’s our place.
GWEN: I just found a rubber band in my soup.
JERRY: Oh.. I know who’s cooking today!
GEORGE: Hey! Surprise, surprise!
JERRY: Hey, Georgie!
GWEN: I think I’m just gonna go.
JERRY: I’ll be here.
GEORGE: (Sees Gwen’s meal) Hey, soup.
JERRY: She didn’t touch it.
(George spoons through his soup, and finds a rubber band)
GEORGE: Ohh.. Paco! (Flicks rubber band toward the kitchen) Hey, take a look at this. (Hands Jerry Kruger’s check)
JERRY: 20 thousand dollars from Kruger? You’re not keeping this.
Which is to say “should we forgive poor service from friendly local suppliers because they’re friendly local suppliers?”
Cynthia says no, or at least that she’s at her limit for the “ ‘support the local business’ ideal”: she reports ordering an Airport card from the Little Mac Shoppe here in Charlottetown, and eventually cancelling her order when it didn’t arrive. She’s now placed her order, instead, at the Apple Store online. For a lower price and free shipping.
I just spoke to an employee at Little Mac Shoppe, and he told me that the problem was likely related to the fact that they have “been ordering things but they haven’t been shipping.” In other words, it’s not their fault, it’s somebody upstream.
While it’s easy to understand how that could happen — I don’t expect that, in the grander scheme of things, a little store in Charlottetown has much leverage with suppliers — it’s also possible to argue that one of the important skills required to thrive as a local merchant is the ability to get leverage, one way or another, so that you can meet the needs of your customers.
I’m usually willing to forgive more sins from a small, local merchant than I am from large chains. I expect the Atlantic Superstore to always have bagels in stock; if Norman at Brighton Clover Farm runs out of bagels, well, I’ll just come back on Tuesday when he expects more to come in.
If Wendy’s runs out of baked potatoes, I’ll talk to the manager (this is PEI, after all); if the Formosa Tea House runs out of sushi, I understand, and I order something else.
The question is: how far am I willing to go? I want there to be a local Mac dealer because it’s helpful to have a local set of experts, a local advocate for warranty work (the Little Mac Shoppe has arranged for two warranty repairs for me, and I’ve received excellent service both times), and a local source for supplies. Last year, for example, I needed a Firewire cable for a digital camcorder in the middle of the Zap Your PRAM conference. Dale at Little Mac Shoppe had one on the shelf, and let me borrow it without paying for it.
But should I (or Cynthia) be forced to wait longer, or pay more, for products to support this? I know that I’m willing to wait a little longer, and pay a little more. But at some point (presumably the point that Cynthia has reached), it’s too much and too long, and you just need something here, now.