I laugh at people who profess (often loudly) to be anti-corporate America, anti-capitalism, and great advocates for the environment.  I laugh because they do this while wearing designer jeans and organic cotton t-shirts made in dirty, carbon spewing Asian factories with cotton shipped from South America (no harm to the environment there!). Oh, and they are sipping their coffee; coffee made from the beans grown on that small mom & pop farm in the back country of that small country that doesn’t even know what fair trade or fair labor means, in one of those reusable “green” mugs for which the production process used more fuel and gave off more emissions that did more damage to the environment than a disposable cup would have. And, it was painted in a factory that didn’t even know what lead-free paint is. All purchased on Amazon.

OK, so I am being a little extreme. You must know the type though; they are so vocal and proactive but are not informed on the issues and how their purchasing decisions directly contribute to the problems. I try to see all sides of an issue so I can make informed decisions about the products I buy and businesses I support.   And, Go-Go Babyz is a family owned corporation that produces products overseas. Of course we do not use dirty, polluting factories that employ unethical practices, but we are part of corporate America. So, I can’t really completely shun the idea of corporate America. My point is not to discuss ethical business practices or the impact Big Business has on the environment, it just seems that so many casual discussions about business end up there. I just want to talk about big business versus the mom & pops.

I was inspired by a few recent experiences I had over the holidays. I have three that stand out in my mind. The stories involve a large, medium and small company. The first experience is with Amazon. I must admit that I did most of my shopping online with Amazon this past Christmas. It is so convenient in every sense of the word. The only drawback is that you can’t touch and feel what you’re buying. There are reviews, multiple pictures, detailed shipping information and much more. I get so much information from the selling pages that I feel like I am talking with a sales associate. If you have to return an item for whatever reason, it is simple. They provide a superior online experience; their assortment is extensive, and the customer service is exceptional. This is a company that did over 25 billion in 2009. I don’t think the final numbers are in, but I am sure they did more last year. I know there are plenty of bigger businesses, but that is big business. The exceptional service is why I will patronize a large business like Amazon. They make it so easy.

The next example involves the medium-sized business Crate and Barrel.  Again, I ordered something online. I paid for expedited shipping because I needed the item for a specific occasion; however, I did not receive it when promised. I called customer service and they handled it within five minutes. They tracked down the item at a store closest to me and had them hold it for me to pick up. They also sent me a return shipping label so I could send back the original item I ordered.

My last example involves my favorite coffee shop. No, it ain’t Starbucks. It’s a little family-owned shop in Willow Glen called Elva’s Coffee Stop. Not only do they have the best espresso, but they also have some of the friendliest baristas around. Everyone is very nice and the majority of them know my name and say hello and goodbye directly to me every time I visit, busy or not. They take the time to do that – that is something special. I am sure that most people remember the TV show “Cheers “right? I have to say that there is definitely something about going to a place “where everybody knows your name.”  It makes you feel special. And when the product is good as well, it’s a no brainer that I’m a regular customer. Let me add that Elva’s is really not close to my house; I can pass several Starbucks on the way to Elva’s.

I remember my grandparents dined at a couple of restaurants because the staff recognized them and always made them feel special. I have eaten at those restaurants with them and thought the food was pretty terrible, but I understand why they liked going.

The common denominator to all these stories is superior service. Of course the product has to be good, but I am willing to sacrifice a little to get better service. I am not as hardcore as my grandparents were. I never went back to those two restaurants after they passed away, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to support Elva’s if it wasn’t good coffee.

I guess my point is that as with all things in my life, I try to find balance. I would love to say that I only support small, independent companies or those that are ethical, environmentally friendly, and donate to charity. But I don’t. I just try to be an informed consumer and support those that make a good product and treat customers well, and I try to spread my patronage around. Could you imagine what it would be like if no one supported the big guys? It takes a lot of resources to provide what many of the “Big Bad American” companies provide us. We provide the revenue and they do the rest. A great many of them make our lives a whole easier and better. For example, and I now this may be controversial, but Microsoft; I know some people hate Microsoft but look what they have provided us over the years. They have made our lives easier and convenient in so many ways. Many tedious tasks have become easy and efficient. And, despite their big bad reputation, they do a lot for sustainability.

I also understand it from a business perspective. Go-Go Babyz is a growing company and in our industry we have to work with a lot of these Big Business type companies and you know what? Many of them are a pleasure to work with. Since we make a product, we have to deal with consumers so we also know all about customer service and continue to learn more every day.  We learn from our own experiences in the office as well as from our personal dealings with businesses such as Amazon, Crate and Barrel, Elva’s and others. We learn from our experiences, good and bad, and bring the lessons into the office because without our customers, we are nothing.

 

Happy Consumerism,

– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad

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