I’m shaking my head right now. Call it confusion, a lack of understanding or maybe even bewilderment. I’m really puzzled about something that I’ve been observing with more frequency. I’ve noticed several entrepreneurs building walls. Not necessarily in the physical sense but metaphorically. And the walls that are being built are designed to keep customers OUT! Huh? Why would any entrepreneur want to build a wall that keeps a customer out? You got it – that’s what has me scratching my head.
Let’s start with a sign I saw on the door of a shop in a resort town in northern California. The sign requested that customers NOT bring their dogs into the store because the store owner had dogs of her own inside that were “nervous” around other dogs. I’m truly not making this up. It’s become fairly common in many communities across the country to see people taking their dogs into stores, restaurants and other places of business. And it’s become a generally accepted practice for such businesses to welcome dogs. Rather than leave her dogs at home, this store owner basically told all customers with dogs to stay out of her store. I wonder how many sales she’s lost by building such an unfriendly wall.
Next, let’s talk about credit cards. I know American Express charges fees on credit card transactions that are much higher than Visa, Mastercard and some of the other cards used by consumers. What puzzles me is the fact that some businesses won’t take the American Express card. Costco is the worst large-scale offender. In 2017 the company dumped American Express in favor of Visa – not Mastercard or any other card. In this case Costco made the move to enhance its profitability and not to benefit the customer. I’ve spoken to several entrepreneurs who offer the explanation that the fees are just too high and that’s why they won’t accept AMEX. What they fail to understand is that they are also building a wall to keep customers out when they make decisions like this that ignore customer convenience.
It’s Friday night and my wife and I are dining at a restaurant that we really enjoy. Our mouths have been watering all day in anticipation of the Panko-crusted calamari strips on the appetizer menu. But wait – we are informed that the restaurant is “sold out” of the calamari. On a Friday night! How does this happen? I’ve ranted before about restaurants that run out of a particular menu item and I’m going to do it again. Except this time, I’ll expand the idea to encompass other products as well. In this day and age of technology, businesses that don’t effectively manage their inventory are really missing the boat. I realize in non-restaurant settings, it may be impossible to carry an inventory so complete that every SKU is always in stock. But care must be taken not to advertise specials on items that are sold out; and floor displays should be pulled when the items are out of stock. I went into a major national pharmacy every other day for a week looking for a particular item that was missing from the shelf. More walls being built . . . my solution – order it from Amazon.
Everyone will be able to identify with this next “wall” and sometimes it can be so huge that there’s no getting over, under or around it. You walk into a public restroom in a store or restaurant and it’s gross beyond belief. There’s an unidentifiable crusty substance in the corners where the wall meets the floor. The trash bin is overflowing; pipes are corroding; soap dispensers are empty; toilets and/or urinals are disgusting; only one dispenser has paper towels, and the list goes on. When we start looking around at the public space outside the restroom, we notice that it’s far from sparkling clean. This “wall” has been built so high that we can’t even see the top of it (and we probably wouldn’t want to touch it even if we could see it)!
I’m sure you have your own examples of Wall-Building Entrepreneurs. Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call to all entrepreneurs to take a hard look at every aspect of our operations and identify any “walls” we may have erected that keep customers out. Then in the immortal words of Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987, in a speech given at the Berlin Wall, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.