How (not) to be a jerk when you shop local. – Toasty Baby Store & Sunflower Diaper Service
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How (not) to be a jerk when you shop local.

Chris Williams

You're probably being a jerk. 

Most people have no idea how rude their behavior is while shopping at a local store. Specifically, I'd like to talk about showrooming. Showrooming is when you get all the benefits from a local store without actually purchasing the goods or services they offer. 
Note before we get started: If this seems a little personal, it is. Toasty Baby is my business, and the way you behave when you're here is personal to me and my family. 
How to not be a jerk (with real life stories of jerks): 
1) Put your phone in your pants. 
Actually, this ins't really true. If you're texting a friend or companion to show them the super cute diaper print or amazing carrier you found, by all means keep it out.
However, if you're adding an item that you found in our store to a registry or wishlist from another store (YES, websites that sell "everything" are stores), I'll still smile at you but, true story -- I'll either cry between .5 to 3 tears when you leave and/or vent to other retailers who understand the frustration. 

Think of it like this - would you sit in a family owned restaurant, eat free chips, find something off of the menu you like and sit in their restaurant and order something similar from UberEats? 

2) Don't say the bad words. 
The bad words are Amaz*n, Wi$h or any other price-gouging, local economy draining online retailers. 

True story: Last week, a shopper came in and asked some clarifying questions about diapering. Like many parents who are just getting stared, she had been given some diapers and had also purchased some on her own. "What are those fastener things, snaps or whatever?" 

I showed where the Snappi fasteners are in our store, how to use them and the color combinations available. Holding the pack of Snappis she liked in her hands, she asked how much they cost. When I told her the price, she said, "Oh, so the same as Amazon?" and put them back on the shelf. 

Ouch. Seriously?!
3) Don't assume my prices are higher or can't negotiate. 
Black Friday, last year I got a phone call asking if we had a particular carrier, which we did. 25 minutes later, two couples show up and ask to try on the carrier, which is something we offer that no other retailer in a 45+ mile range does. They had been to 3 "big box" baby/department stores

They try on the carrier, seem very happy with the carrier, and pretend to look around at other things, and leave without another word. 
What happened? I can't be sure but more than likely they used a ubiquitous 20% off coupon to a Big Baby Box and assumed my price was too high or they already had in mind to use their coupon. 
Without getting too technical, here is what you need to know about pricing at stores like mine: My advertised prices are generally controlled by the companies that may the goods by agreement. The key word is advertised prices. Generally speaking, I can sell you an item at whatever price I want, but I can't advertise that price. I'm not encouraging you to haggle, especially if your main technique is whining or complaining, but you should know that store owners are often be willing to negotiate (price match, coupon match, etc). The worse thing that a store owner like me will do is say no. 
Chris, why would you call your customers jerks? 
Really, our best customers already "get" what it means to support a local business and already understand their own actions. THANK YOU!!

The people who practice the behaviors that I'm complaining about here aren't, in fact, really customers in a meaningful sense of the word. Sometimes they complete the minimal transaction to alleviate the feeling of shame for what they're doing, but they rarely come back.

Because that purchase you made wasn't just from Somewhere Else, its was from SomeONE Else. You spend time with us in our space (that we keep for you) with our products that we've thought fully and carefully curated (for your sake) with the staff we pay (to assist you) who answered your questions, but when it was time to reward that effort by purchasing, you buy it somewhere else. 
Many stores like ours have closed their storefronts and closed altogether. They often explain their decision with phrases like "due to market conditions" or "to reduce the cost of overhead". When they talk at home or to other store owners in private chats, their biggest complaint and reason for closing is showrooming. 

Over 11 years, Toasty Baby has had an amazing group of local customers that we are incredibly grateful to. What we do is a labor of love for the community and for the social good that we promote. We'd like to see these mutually beneficial relationship continue for more decades, but that will cannot happen if more and more people treat our store like a showroom. 


Naturally yours, 
Chris Williams 
Owner, Toasty Baby 

4 comments

  • Debi – the big furniture would be especially tough for showrooming! I hear what you mean about having to be selective about which brands you bring in. SO MUCH of the kids industry is cheaply/Chinese made junk made by companies who do a terrible job at protecting the value of their brand. I need to make a trip to Franklin to see you soon :)

    Chris Williams

  • @ Penny – I didn’t mean to misrepresent you! I didn’t know Red Raspberry stocked carriers!

    Chris Williams

  • Great post! Uninformed people just don’t get the impact their behavior has on small retailers. It’s not JUST my bottom line. It’s my dinner table. They’re practically stealing when they use your shop this way. We see it too, but thankfully, not in quite the same way. I’m also exceedingly careful about the brands I bring in. I won’t compete with cut-throat online sellers if that’s how a brand allows their goods to be handled. I also stopped carrying many larger (train tables, etc) items because those are the ones that caused the most headache (heartache). People don’t tend to quibble over a craft kit you can get for $2 less on the www.
    Specialty retail is a passion-driven business. I really respect your honesty and boldness in sharing your struggle. Protect what you love!

    Your specialty retail friend to the south,

    Debi
    Toodleydoo Toys
    Franklin, IN

    Debi

  • Brave post but necessary especially in our line of retail where we barely cover costs. We have clients try on our carriers and want to nurse in them wear them around, sweaty from the hot sun, and have the audacity while wearing them to ask us to look up prices online for comparison! I don’t think we’re 45 miles away from you though, right? Another friend of mine with a retail store in Florida has people walk in off the beach and try them on all sandy with their damp swim suits on! We can spend an hour talking about carriers, diapers, or various supplements and then have them leave to purchase online and then later complain about the product they thought they could get cheaper. We’ve had clients want to return used cloth diapers because they changed their minds or break items in the boutique, opening essential oil jars or supplements worth nearly $100! We’ve been yelled at for not being able to break $100 bill, for not carrying more popular but poor quality brands, and I too often want to tell the rude customer that always thinks she’s right that this isn’t Walmart. However, we suck it up and trust we’re building a community of mothers who get it and those who don’t just aren’t a good fit for us. We have the clinical practice to sustain us though and through the short years we’ve been in business, we’ve watched many boutiques open and close their doors to the regret of the community. It just isn’t a retail adventure that’s very sustainable, particularly within a culture with the mindset you’ve mentioned above or with those who shop with a Walmart mentality. If small businesses aren’t supported though, choices will be significantly limited and quality will go way down to adjust for the industry demands. Keep speaking truth, Chris. I feel your frustration but I fear it will only get worse before it gets better.

    Penny

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