Regular store once-overs can keep gradual, almost imperceptible changes for the worse from impacting customer perception.
I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in “neighbor” and “weigh.” Remember that grade school rhyme? What a useless saying … but I’ll come back to that.
When you own a small store you are in that store a lot—actually, it’s more like you live in your store. That is certainly the case for me, anyway.
I have found this can blur my vision when it comes to the curb appeal of my store. It’s important to me to have a clean, well-lit store. The other day I noticed a corner of the store looking a little dim. I knew I had a couple of bulbs out, but because I have almost double the amount of lighting typically required in a store my size, I figured a bulb out here and there wouldn’t make a big difference.
I decided to check all of the bulbs in the store and ended up changing 16 bulbs! I had had no idea. It made a huge difference when I changed them. Because the bulbs burned out one at a time, my staff and I never noticed. We just became used to the gradual change.
To overcome my selective blindness, I always grill close friends and family who aren’t often in the store about their first impressions. In fact, that’s probably the only reason I like to have my in-laws visit the store. I know they will give me detailed, honest information on how my store looks when they first walk in.
A friend recently pointed out a ceiling tile with water damage. I had seen it, too, and had been fighting with the landlord to deal with the roof leak. I hadn’t changed the tile because I wanted to make sure the contractors the landlord hopefully would hire eventually could see the exact issue. What I didn’t think about was the impression that stained tile gave to people visiting my store. I immediately took a picture of the damage and replaced the tile.
Landlord issues are the hardest to overcome. The strip center parking lot where my store is located is in bad shape. The landlord is aware of this and is taking his sweet time getting the lot replaced. I apologize and explain to customers whenever they make a comment to me, but how many aren’t bringing it up? How many people are hitting a pothole and cursing me about the condition of “my” parking lot? I stayed on the landlord until temporary patching was put down.
I understand his resistance. He is having the entire parking lot done in the fall, so he doesn’t want to spend one dime on temporary fixes. I get it, but I had to make him understand how his choices affect the perception of the center’s businesses.
Another check found our white bathroom door with handprints and smudges. I use that door every day and they probably are my handprints, but I never really noticed.
Also, I hate my sign; I always have. There are many reasons why, but it would be a very expensive change. It’s really difficult to justify the expense of a new sign when I have one that works just fine. If one of my spot-check friends ever mentions the sign … then I will move it up on the priority sheet.
Even with all the spot checks, I had one customer point out something in my store that had been there for five years! Let me tell
you—that stings. Vinyl lettering spells out sayings on my walls. One is a quote from a dog trainer, another has information about the products we offer and one is our core statement that says the foods we sell “contain high-quality protiens.”
For more than five years I had a spelling error on my wall and nobody told me. Not friends, family or the countless representatives who have been through the door.
The question is, how many people noticed it and didn’t mention it to me? I’m just glad I didn’t see it on some Internet meme making fun of me! I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor and weigh, and never, ever, ever in the word protein!
B.C. Henschen, a certified pet care technician and an accredited pet trainer, is a partner in Platinum paws, a full-service pet salon and premium pet food store in Carmel, Ind. His knowledge of the pet food industry makes Platinum Paws the go-to store for pet owners who want more for their pet than a bag off a shelf.
This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Pet Product News.