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The Essence of Independently Minded

I walked into a shop yesterday to return something. I couldn’t find the receipt but the item in question still had the label on so I wasn’t concerned. It turns out I should have been concerned as they refused to let me return it. I was, I must say, rather surprised and not pleasantly so.

I then realised that if the person behind the desk answered my next question in the correct fashion I would have the perfect hook for this blog post. So I crossed my fingers and asked the question.

“Why can’t you accept this return?”  I said

“Company policy!” she said in a voice that suggested she thought I would totally understand. (Bingo, this is the answer I wanted!) And I do understand, actually. She’s telling me she can’t help because her hands are tied, and she doesn’t want me to “shoot the messenger”.

I didn’t shoot the messenger. I just wished the messenger didn’t have her hands tied to some overly strict rules laid down by a head office a zillion miles away.

This is why I tend to prefer shopping in boutiques and independent shops. Go in one of those and on the whole the person working there knows everything about what they are selling. They can offer advice and expertise. They are passionate about the shop because it’s their livelihood and their life. And, of course, if you go in to return something not only will they not quote a company policy at you, they probably won’t have a company policy. The policy is simple – love your customers and they’ll love you.

It’s the same in hotels. Go to a big chain hotel and quite often there are rules and regulations. There are policies and brand standards to be adhered to, written by a committee in a big board room. And they tend to be adhered to at the cost of common sense sometimes. Whereas if you go to a small hotel with fewer rooms the people working there are empowered to help you and bend over backwards for you. Not only empowered but super keen to help because the hotel that you are visiting is their second home and they love it. Many are family owned which always adds to the level of care.

These subtle but important differences are clear at every Small Luxury Hotel of the World I’ve stayed at. If you’ve stayed at one you’ll be well aware too. If you haven’t stayed at one I’d recommend having a look at the videos that will be coming out over the next few weeks. Beautifully shot and capturing the essence of independence.  Here’s a rather good one of The Arch in London (a very beautiful and very British Georgian property) to whet your appetite.

Let me know what you think of the videos and if you have a ‘company policy’ story to share or indeed a tale about when an independently minded shop or hotel really impressed you I’d love to hear it!

See you next week.

Melissa. x

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