Saturday, September 25, 2010

Shopping Local

I empathize with local restaurant businesses that confront the challenge of competing head to head with franchises on a daily basis.  When eating out in restaurants I prefer to eat at local, non-franchise establishments when possible. Today I stopped by a new cafe that recently opened in Apollo Beach.

It was an obvious copy-cat hybrid version of Panera Bread and Starbucks. Tilework and new flooring helped set it apart.

The restaurant's debit card processing machine wouldn't accept my payment.  The clerk was nice and allowed us to go ahead and eat with the promise that she would try it again when we finished eating.  She blamed it on the Internet connection.

We ate our lunch and 20 minutes later the clerk tried the card again, but it still didn't work.

My wife walked over to the grocery store to an ATM to get cash.  Since this was not our bank's ATM there was a service charge.  In the end our $15 lunch cost us $18.

The thing that sometimes sets the local businesses apart from the franchises is their willingness to do the right thing in instances like this, so I expected the owner to offer a discount to offset the $3 cash advance fee.  Doing so would have insured our return for future visits, but the owner chose not to offer a discount or an apology. In fact, he even suggested that we leave a tip. Unbelievable! It was his faulty debit card equipment that created an inconvenience for us and he had the audacity to suggest that we pay even more above and beyond the cost of the meal that was already priced significantly higher than a similar meal at Panera Bread or Starbucks.

I'm willing to pay more for locally owned, because more money stays in the local economy, but the locally owned business should exhibit the same professionalism the franchise companies provide if they expect to compete long term.

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