Nearly a year ago, I wrote about buying locally where I live. At the time, I said there was more to getting people to do that than just opening the door and saying “Come on in.” I talked of inventory, pricing, courtesy, out-of-town telemarketing, attitude, customer respect and not taking the customer for granted.

That column has been on my mind for several months as we have had more experiences with home remodeling, car buying, appliance repair and other instances of merchant/tradesman-customer interaction. Some of that interaction met the criteria above; too much of it didn’t.

This isn’t a gripe session. Those with whom we’ve done business already know if they measured up. We told ‘em; some in writing. Most were glad to know they’d met our expectations. And theirs. But some … too many to make us repeat customers … fell far short.

Some bad experiences related to insufficient inventories to promptly fill our needs or having competitive pricing. Others had to do with attitude, including phone contact. But the worst experiences were making and keeping appointments, courteous treatment, following up, calling back when promised/necessary and keeping appointments that were scheduled far in advance.

It should be noted, since there is almost always someone home at our place, nearly all appointments were left to the convenience of the business or tradesman involved. We offered to fit our schedule to theirs. And still we were often stood up.

One example with a local tradesman: larger final bill than bid guaranteed; nine missed appointments; telling us he “had to play golf” or take his wife to the movies at the time set for our appointment; personal criticism of our home, installing materials that looked better to him but we didn’t want or order then billing us for his “improvements.”

During some home remodeling the main contractor was great. But some of the subs missed appointments, failed to follow up with installation needs, showed up with materials not matching measurements, left before work was done or didn’t schedule work when it was known the work was due. Poor communication.

We were considering a local car purchase. But as I walked the local lot one morning, one of the salesmen walked up and loudly … and quite publically … berated me because, instead of buying from him, we had bought our last car out-of-town for reasons he had no way of knowing. I was considering one of his models for Barb because she was ready to trade. Hell will freeze over first!

There was the local business … advertising “custom” work for a window replacement on our motorhome … which told us to go “find the parts” ourselves, then bring them back for installation. A Eugene company drove 60 miles each way and filled our needs.

While I admire local organizations offering classes in how to get locals to buy at home, I’m here to tell you a lot of their seeds are falling on barren ground. Our experiences prove it. So do the many comments I received agreeing with the first column on this issue; even local business people who told me of their trips up and down I-5 and their use of the Internet and mail order rather than shopping in town.

There may have been a time … long, long ago … when distances between communities kept local people shopping locally. If they did, those times are gone. Electronics and targeted mass-marketing have made the entire world our shopping place and many of us are spending our dollars where we can have our needs filled promptly and fully. Then delivered to our door.

This is not rocket science, my friends. It’s the Golden Rule: “Due unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That means just what it says. And it certainly applies to commerce.

Basically, most of what we need can be found locally. If price/terms are competitive and if range of merchandise is similar, then local merchants have one thing no one anywhere else has: convenience ‘cause you’re just down the street. No worldwide marketer has that! So, at least in theory, the furniture store, the clothier, the appliance or car dealer has a leg up on every purchase. In theory.

The current economy has made us all shop smarter and be more price conscious. Our disposable income has largely been disposed of. We want value. We want selection. We want courteous treatment. We want to do business at home so we can have our needs satisfied promptly.

“Buy locally.” Good for business. But it’s got to be good for us.

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