A couple of years ago, I found that a brand new shop had opened up in my town and I sought it out fervently. I found that this store sold crystals, meditation CDs, incense, and a few other things, but most importantly, the owner was trying to hold classes and sell reiki/reflexology healings. As time went on, I came to this small store repeatedly; the owner was sweet and listened to my shared frustrations and had some similar ones of her own, which was immensely relieving to me. Often there were others I met at the store who had similar tales of searching for a place like this and finally finding it, and feeling like they were coming home when they stepped through the front door. The feeling of security was so tangible here I frequently turned to this store when I was feeling lost and without direction.
These last few weeks, however, have proved incredibly difficult for me in regards to my relationship with the owner. My birthday was December 12th, and took my soonest opportunity after this date to treat myself. My boyfriend tagged along and we ended up finding a few more things that we each wanted to purchase (surprise, surprise). I explained to the clerk that I had only enough money for the rose quartz, and asked if she could hang onto the smaller items for a couple of weeks for me. After all, I’d be paid again in two weeks and pick them up then. She set the items aside and finished processing my purchase.
Well, I stopped by a week ago, to see about picking up those purchases when I got out of work early. (Did I mention the shop is usually only open from 10 am to 5pm? so I have to rush over on my lunch hour or try to get out of work early to make their hours.) Turns out they were closed for the holidays, but were re-opening on the 28th for their huge end-of-the-year sale. Awesome! A few friends of mine were coming to visit Thursday for the New Year, and they were thrilled to hear about the discounts for the shop. But when things didn’t go quite according to plan, I called the shop to see how late they’d be open – mm, nope, not late at all, they were closing promptly at three PM. Plus they’d be closed Friday and Saturday for the New Year, and they’re never open Sundays. I wouldn’t have a chance to introduce my friends to the shop.
Today as I ran a few errands on my lunch hour, I had a few spare moments so I stopped by this store once more – only to find it was closed.
Now I am frustrated. There was no sign on the door saying ‘closed for new years’ or anything of that nature. The sign for the ‘regular’ store hours, though, was clearly displayed. I was too upset to think about writing a note to the owner and leaving it in her door, but now I wish I would have. I feel somewhat cheated because I took the time to read the sign when I was there last week and didn’t see anything about their hours for New Year’s. I’m also upset because I’ve specifically gone out of my way to purchase things from this shop to support the local business – even though that meant spending more than I would spend if I went online, and yet, when I try to shop from her, she’s closed.
I guess these last few weeks just multiply my frustrations from past disappointments from this store. I sought spiritual development in a group and got a hefty price quote. I looked for ways to bring my boyfriend gently into this store, to show him what I saw and loved, and his presence drew criticism from one I respected because we are living together and not married. Every time I wish to share a story, I am given a smile and a nod and then shown a pricey new product. I feel more like a prize than a person.
I wish that I had spiritual resources in person that matched my online friends.
I understand that this store I visit is a business; it can’t run off of favors and hugs and warm wishes and ‘please’s and ‘thank you’s. I understand that the owner has to make a living; I would not deny her, nor her employees, this. (This is one of the reasons why I have, up until now, been advertising this business to anyone remotely interested.) However, I feel there is definitely something amiss in a business that adopts a “charge first, share feelings later” policy. I’ve worked in customer service, and I know that people can – at times – be quite nasty. But I also know that a happy customer is excellent advertising. It’s part of what keeps people returning to a business.
I guess this really calls into question what I believe goes into making a good business, and I feel pretty lucky that I’ve had the experiences I’ve had so far. Someday I want to run my own business, a lot like the store I talk about in this post. A business built around spiritual practices is a pretty touchy situation because everyone has different opinions on what is acceptable to charge money for. And if your business is built on a precarious position, it’s hard to keep business flowing for fear of tipping too far one way or the other. I wonder if my local new age shop owner is experiencing things like this… and if she hasn’t, I wonder how this has affected her business… Will these lessons help me build a better business of my own someday? I sure hope so.