The phrase, "this is a local shop" surprisingly featured in the top 5 comedy catchphrases of all time. The ghastly premise of the comedy was that the grotesques who manned the shop used it as a front for all manner of degradations and murders.
My experience in Perth over the last few years has been that the opprobrium heaped upon 'the local shop' by that comedy is ill-deserved and worthy of reconsideration. While it is true that some marginal savings can be made by shopping online and trawling for bargain prices, I have found that multi-nationals and faceless .coms provide poor service, lousy aftercare, and ultimately bad value of for money. A few 'local' examples will demonstrate the point (and just so that you know - I'm not getting commission here, these are just personal recommends)
The Beanshop in Perth roasts and sells their own coffee. It's completely fantastic. We've tried various other coffee's, we've used supermarket coffee's and we've sourced cheaper ones too. There are several things that draw us back to the Beanshop though. For a start, the quality of the coffee is the best, then there's the option to have it as beans, ground - and if ground, done so to suit your machine, then there's the whole range of fairly-traded coffees they offer. If you want to drink fair-trade espresso-ground coffee - no-one else will supply that combination for you. Then there's the advice, on coffee making, equipment, contacts for machine servicing, and that's before you come to the fact that visiting the store is worth it to chat to the staff, over a free sample of their coffee of the month. The Bean Shop
I recently bought a second-hand drum-kit for my son. When setting it up, we realised that one of the ratchets on the cymbal stand was completely broken. I took it back into the shop, and without questioning it at all, the owner handed me a brand new boom-stand, which was set up again within an hour. I was very glad I hadn't spent £50 less and got the kit on ebay, from some anonymous seller, who may or may not have co-operated, who may-or-may not have tried to blame the courier, or who may have just said, 'it was fine when I sent it out'. RWJ Drumstore
The customer service we received from the huge chain store Comet, and what we got from local company d3 Audio Visual, couldn't be more different. Comet were a complete disgrace, when the DVD recorder they sold me packed up, their level of customer service was so appalling that I blogged about it here. When d3 installed a surround-sound system for our TV, they gave us a pretty good deal on an ex-demo amp, and installed it for us. When my kids wrecked the install by pressing random buttons on the remote, botching up the lovely sound that d3 had created, they cheerfully came and did it again. Local companies value their reputation, and go the extra mile to protect it. Some companies have such a control of market share, that the individual customer is of no consequence. I haven't set foot in Comet since that experience. I'd go back to d3 in a flash though. d3 Audio Visual
We made a big mistake when we bought a bike last year from Tesco's. It was £30 cheaper than the bikes on offer in the independent bike shop in the town. In retrospect it would have been far, far better to save up the extra £30 and go to a shop who understand bikes. The Tesco bike wouldn't stay in gear. Several bike rides proved very irritating for our son, as the gears clicked, jumped, and constantly slipped. On hills when the gears are under strain, it was unusable. The problem? It's cheaper to use brake cable than gear-changing cable on bikes. The Tesco bike had brake-cabling on the gears. The designed springy-ness of brake cable wrecks the performance of gears. We ended up paying the local shop to bring the Tesco bike up to standard, and that's where all future bikes will come from - even if we have to save a little longer to get them. We bought a bike-rack for the car this Spring. The owner of the bike-shop came out and helped us get it all fitted onto the car for the first time, safely. You don't get that kind of service online! J.M. Richards Cycles.
When we go out for a coffee, we have the choice of the delightful unique French cafe in town or the overpriced, drably impersonal Costa. I find 'chain' cafe's useful in a town I don't know well, as you can walk in, knowing exactly what you can expect. Conversely, what's the point in going to a new town, if every High Street looks exactly the same? No, we'll give Costa a miss and go and enjoy freshly baked croissants instead at Cafe Breazh.
If we need a snack-on-the run in town, we have the choice between The Tower Bakery, who make all their produce within a mile of the town centre - or the halogen-lit garish plasticity of Gregg's, whose wares are driven countless miles around the country. In my opinion there is something rather satisfying in sinking ones teeth into a Tower Bakery Fudge Doughnut, letting the fudge delight the tongue and the custard squirt around the gums like something from a Roald Dahl book! It's even better to add to the sheer indulgence of the experience, the thought that local jobs are protected, and local businesses helped to thrive as I do so. Tower Bakery.
The up-front discounts offered by the multi's, and the .com's can be very alluring - and I have taken advantage of them from time to time. I'm sure I will again, if they are prepared to offer massive discounts. On the other hand - more often than not, their discounts prove to illusory, and what local businesses offer in terms of advice, help, follow-up, customer-service, and friendliness is usually worth a lot more than the marginal savings available online.
Have you had similar experiences? Or are there any local businesses near you that you'd recommend?