After following the Wal-Mart controversy in the Hood River News, I thought some reflections from the consumer's perspective might be appropriate. The convenience and variety that local merchants supply is a community asset, but only if the merchants are dedicated to making customer service their first priority. Examples of lack of customer service: having to get my own exchange on a defective product with an $85 value directly from the company because the local merchant wasn't able to get it done after five months -- I had the exchange within one week; not being able to get a $3 refund at an expensive women's clothing store after needing to exchange part of my $130 Christmas present.
I have many good memories with local merchants and I don't like to appear negative. While I appreciate the fact that local merchants have to make a living, I contend that consistent, considerate service will insure that. A case in point: the owner at Shortt Supply, whom I did not know, let me take home an item of clothing for my son to try on so I wouldn't have a credit if the item didn't fit. She says she has done this often and the courtesy has never been abused.
So, while it will be a loss for both local consumers and merchants, perhaps Wal-Mart is all we will have if the local customer isn't valued more. On the positive side, at least Wal-Mart will give me back my money if something is defective or doesn't fit.