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A Forgotten Economic Lesson

Shouldn't stores be welcoming to customers?

By Friendly Bear  |  October 19, 2020

by Friendly Bear

The veterinarian I visited yesterday required me to wait outside the building while she examined my dog. No customer was allowed in the building. They keep the door locked.

Today at noon, I had an appointment to get new reading glasses. The eye glasses store required me to wait outside the building until they came for me. But, before I was allowed in the building, they measured my body temperature. This was pointless, as my normal body temperature is almost 2 degrees cooler than most people. Still, I tolerated it.

When a customer was allowed in or left, they unlocked the door for them and quickly locked it again.

The employee who runs the front desk commented that even when COVID is long gone, she wants to keep operating the store this way, keeping the door locked. Her words to me were, “I want to control the flow into the store!”

Another customer had arrived as I was pulling into the parking space. They turned him away and he was visibly angry. When I was leaving, he was allowed in the store.

In my misspent youth, I spent time in gun stores, soaking up the wisdom of the regular curmudgeons who wandered in to swap stories and societal analyses. These included a beef wholesaler-turned-gun dealer, some crusty retired detectives, ambulance medics, a few career Army guys, competition shooters, and a couple of mechanics.

One day, the beef wholesaler, who was unusually wise, quizzed me with, “What does GM do?!” With a look that showed my opinion of the question being silly, I replied, “Make cars.”

“No!” he emphatically retorted, “They sell cars.”

“GM can make all the cars they want, but they have to sell cars to make money.” The lesson was that GM must attract customers who want the product and want to do business with GM.

Today, it occurred to me that the employees of the veterinarian and the eye store do not understand how they make money. When it comes to customers/clients, you must offer a product or service they want, and you must be sufficiently accessible/pleasant/beneficial/trustworthy for them to want to do business with you.

Controlling the customer and locking them out seldom produces warm and fuzzy feelings.