A business owner told me a story the other day about using Expedia, the online travel agency. He and his wife had to shell out an additional $1,700 more when an error was made in their travel reservation for attending a national conference.
Expedia’s itinerary had the business owner leaving Denver 45 minutes before his plane coming from Billings landed in Denver. When he brought this up to Expedia after they arrived at the Denver Airport, Expedia told the customer that he was responsible for reviewing his reservation before they started the trip.
Separately, the owner of an office furniture business told me his firm had bid to provide furniture for a new business. After several hours of meetings and conferences with the new business owner, the furniture supplier said the new business elected to “use the Internet and go to New York” to buy the same furniture. The new business owner told the furniture supplier that he saved several thousand dollars. Of course, our local business owner earned nothing for all of his time and effort.
A third business owner elected to go “down South” to identify and buy new furniture for his new offices. When I asked why, he told me he could get the best price out of town because nobody here could compete. He did not mention anything about service after the sale.
We have jewelry stores as clients. One jeweler told me a story of a client walking in, asking to have his watchband sized and then bragging about having a “10-year lifetime” battery in his watch. If the battery ever went bad, the only cost the customer was responsible for was to pay postage and send the watch back to the factory for repair. Our jewelry client told the customer that he could do the same thing for him, and the battery replacement was only $10. The added benefit was that the customer was never without a watch.
All of these stories are true. I could never imagine such things myself. Previously we have addressed the advantages of using local professionals. However, as these stories clearly identify, using the Internet and going out of town for professional services can cost more, cause more frustration and in the end, may not be worth it.
The business owner with the Expedia problem thought he was saving money. In the end, he spent more than the travel agent’s fee by several times over.
The office furniture store owner got “hooked.” He was placed in a no-win situation by another business owner who took advantage of his “free” design service.
My Dad used to say that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I really struggle with people who think that because it is cheaper on the Internet, “down South” or some other place, that the deal is better than using local service professionals.
Sometimes, if everything works out, that may be true. However, normally that is not the case. There are times when local service providers cannot, or will not, provide the service that you desire. Our firm has run into that challenge on several occasions. Then, I have absolutely no problem going out of town to find the right product to fulfill our specific client requirement. However, for many requirements, local service providers are capable of fulfilling most service needs and requirements.
The idea that the Internet is cheaper can be a fallacy. At the end of the day, once you end up adding up all the additional charges, fees and assessments that are normally associated with many Internet sales, it can be just as cheap to buy in town.
I met a person who was starting a maid service. All of her research, legal and accounting advice was obtained from Internet resources, all for “free.” When I pointed out that she might be receiving poor or wrong advice, she was chagrined that I would think that the Internet was not totally truthful. Sadly, this is frequently the case.
Remember, you get what you pay for. If the deal is significantly cheaper than what a local merchant offers, either you are not getting the same product, or there are restrictions in the fine print that you may not have read.
The local merchant is willing to help you make the best purchase with your precious resource dollars. Although the local merchant may charge more than the Internet, if there is a problem, you have a friendly, local individual to deal with, not an automated telephone handler. Again, you generally get what you pay for. Use a local professional, pay the going rate and say no more. In the end, you will be much happier and more satisfied.