On Local Businesses!

In today’s topic, I’ll be discussing a practice that has slowly been rising and spreading quite a lot over the past years: local businesses. I’m not talking about those big companies run by a huge team of employees that are set up by locals, but I’m specifically referring to those small businesses run by the youth sector, at home, online, at their small premises, etc.

Let’s take a look at the pros first. Since part-time jobs are limited, if not nonexistent, in the UAE, especially for teenagers and young school/college students, setting up these small businesses is a great substitution. It is their opportunity to express independence and management skills, and create their own source of income. Even if people don’t look into it, but it actually prepares them for the big world, where they will have to deal with and communicate with various types of people, at work or in their daily lives. Plus, it looks great on CVs.

However, this isn’t an educational blog, it’s a personal one, and so it’s now time for the cons, things that have been bugging me for quite some time now, and not just from my experience, but from other people’s as well.
In the past, I used to have a good perception of Emirati businesses. They can be trusted, they’re professional etc. Unfortunately, I have realized now that many of them have proven me wrong. And it’s time to address such issues! Be aware that this is my own view on such businesses, and my personal opinions, so yes, you might not agree and yes, it doesn’t apply to all of them.

Recently, I have purchased a pet ferret from an Emirati online petstore, owned by an Emirati animal lover. Contact me separately if you wish to know who the seller is. I’m going to be reviewing this store as well as use it as an example for this topic. Let’s rewind to the beginning of the week: Monday, 13th of May. The 16th was my friend’s birthday and the pet was supposed to be her gift. I contacted the seller by whatsapp and informed her I would like to reserve it and have it delivered by Wednesday, a day before the birthday. All was well until Wednesday actually came around and there was no sign of the ferret…nor the seller.

I had contacted her before 3:00 PM in the afternoon which was the delivery time we had decided on and a little while later. No replies. It is 5:00 PM and then later 7:00 PM and still no reply from her. At that moment, I was starting to get fed up. I’m sure there’s probably some law against the number of times I called her, but still no answer.  And what threw me off the most was the fact that my texts were read, but no replies were made. Now why did I keep on pursuing her instead of just ignoring you ask? It was because I really wanted that gift for my friend. Otherwise, I would have ignored by like, 4:00 PM xD But ugh you don’t know how dumb I feel  for being that desperate. Lesson learned. At the time though, not just yet. When it looked like a hopeless case, I contacted other businesses for a substitute ferret, and actually found a couple dealers that were very cooperative and nice.

By 12:00 AM midnight, she replies. And what was her excuse? She forgot her “business phone” at the office and the reason why my texts were read was because it was with her friend the whole time. Seriously? Not only did she completely ignore our deal, but she didn’t even make the effort to at least contact me any other way to inform me of the situation. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if the friend actually answered one of my calls and told me about it.

Later on, long story short, I discover the pet isn’t even with her but with someone else who was the previous owner but had complications with the pet and decided to sell it back through the online store. I did my research and thankfully managed to contact the girl who was extremely sweet and made sure the ferret came home to me safely, all the while, the seller over on whatsapp didn’t utter a word. The ferret (along with pellets, food, cage, toys, shampoo, blanket and treats all thanks to the previous owner who was responsible) arrived on Thursday afternoon. Just before the party. If it wasn’t for the previous owner the pet would have probably not even arrived. And I had to pay an extra 200 AED for delivery that I wasn’t even informed about.

Now with that story aside, this is why I think local businesses should be your last resort when purchasing anything. First, they show no incentive for providing good service. They already have a substitute source of income, aka mommy and daddy, so one or two unsatisfied customers isn’t a huge deal right? Second, their prices are so over the top it’s not even funny. I die a little inside each time I see a purchase being made when it could guarantee a life-time source of happiness for an African family. What is it they’re trying to do? Become a famous prestigious brand like Louis Vuitton or Chanel? That takes years and years of hard work that’s not over the internet. I’ve been to Michaels, I’ve been to AC Moore, and I’ve seen how little it takes to make some items sellers provide for outrageous prices. You’d be astonished.

And then here’s the solutions I can provide for those who truly care about what kinda businesses they run.
1) If you’re an online business, check your email, phone, website all the time. Yes you’re human, but you’re a human who chose an online business so stick to it. It’s a package deal.
2) If you make no contact with them face-to-face, and won’t present a bill/receipt, always inform them of everything about the product their purchasing. Price, delivery cost, location, description about it, anything! Anything that is related to the product, we want to know it.
3) Maintain a professional entity. Obviously, don’t be rude, be the opposite instead. Treat your customers right and show them their time and money is important.
4) Just because you’re local, doesn’t mean you’ll become any less if you decrease your prices to a reasonable value. I promise!
5) If there happens to be any complications, inform your customers beforehand. It is more professional and more often than not, they won’t even mind.

Again, I don’t refer to all the local business, but the many experiences I have witnessed. In the end, some of them are quite good, but it takes some looking into it before one should decide on a potential seller. Kinda like eBay.

That will be all folks! Thanks for reading! Let me know what you guys think :)

– Reem AlHashmi

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