- Insider spoke to Chantell Nighswonger, the owner of Vida Moulin boutique in Phoenix, about how to shop responsibly with small businesses.
- She said some of the most harmful customer habits stem from the standards set by big-box retailers.
- "When we stand our ground on policies, we do it because we have to in order to survive," she said.
Support for small businesses has ebbed and flowed over the last several years, with the pandemic, global retailers like Amazon, and supply-chain issues all creating challenges for independent retailers.
We asked Chantell Nighswonger, owner of Vida Moulin boutique in Phoenix, what she hopes customers will keep in mind while shopping to make the lives of small business owners a bit easier. She said overall, she feels "really lucky" that customers are good and the staff is "well loved."
"We do get a few bad apples every so often," Nighswonger said. "It definitely isn't fun when it happens, and we do take it personally. When customers abide by our policies and treat us with kindness, it makes things a lot easier."
Here are Nighswonger's tips for doing just that.
Read the return policies
"The No. 1 thing we see a huge rise in during the holidays are returns," Nighswonger said. "Not just returns for recent purchases, but customers who attempt to return items from three to four months prior from a completely different season.
"Most big-box retailers wouldn't accept a return that late, so please don't make a small business feel bad if they can't accept your out-of-policy, out-of-season return. Please also read small businesses' return policies closely, as we are all different.
"We at Vida Moulin don't do refunds for any in-store purchases and have only a seven-day window for exchanges, as we carry very low inventory of each style and pretty much sell through our product every seven to 14 days. It's super hard for us to accept returns on styles we no longer have in the shop and have already removed off our site."
Double check the shop's hours
"Be mindful to check small businesses' hours before you attempt to stop in, or if you want to double check, give a call to confirm. We do not hold the same hours as, say, a mall, but we do always update our Google listing with any changes in hours that we may have."
Be patient with shipping delays
"Once an order leaves our shop, we have no control over what the shipping carrier does with your package. Please be mindful of this when you email us.
"We will always try to help you if a package has been damaged or gone missing, but also understand that we did not lose or damage your package. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad people in this world that would like to take advantage of businesses through online orders and the shipping process, so understand that tracking is our only protection as a small business to verify that a package has been delivered and is now in your possession."
Be kind to owners and workers
"Put yourself in our position or pretend your daughter, friend, mother — anyone! — is on the other end of your customer-service question or issue when dealing with a small business.
"When we stand our ground on our shop policies, we do it because we have to in order to survive as a small business. We just don't have the financial buffer that big-box retail does to consistently allow customers to ignore those policies. Unless someone is clearly being rude to you, please don't threaten negative social media posts or negative reviews simply because you were not careful to read a retailer's policies and adhere to them — most of us are really trying our best we can."