Back when my husband and I first opened GROVE STREET kids, there were many days that I wouldn't have a customer for hours at a time in the shop. I used to sit in the back and watch episodes of previous seasons of L O S T so I could be caught up with the current season! Thankfully, those days are long gone and we are so grateful for our steady stream of customers, especially in this continually uncertain economic climate.
Some days are so busy, however, that I can often go without taking any sort of break until long after Buying Hours are over (2pm). Most days I don't actually take a break - I just grab a bite here and there between laundry loads, tagging & steaming, or other such mundane tasks that are a necessity to running my own business. But on those few crazy, chaotic days where I don't get to nibble in between things, I do find it necessary to bring the dollar bins inside, lock the doors and hang my "Back in 20 minutes" sign up so I can take a break and eat my lunch uninterrupted.
I never thought this would be an issue for anyone. In fact, I figured it was commonplace for small businesses. A small business owner, working by him or herself, must need to close up at some point in the day, right - to eat a bite, or use the bathroom? I remember when I first considered renting this store, I went to the only business that was functioning in the building at the time, the Candy Bouquet, to ask the owner, Jack, about renting in this building. But when I arrived, there was a sign on the door saying "Back in 20 mintues." No problem, I thought, I will come back in a half hour or maybe on another day.
So after opening GSK I promptly made our branded version of the sign, adding a "Sorry for the inconvenience!" I don't think I have used this sign more than once a week, if even that, since we opened, and rarely do I take the full twenty minutes says I will be gone. Most of the time it hasn't been an issue. But for some, unfortunately, they make no bones about just how much of inconvenience it's been. And some take it to the extreme and post it on Yelp. But that's another blog. Lol.
Upon my last experience of being handed my head on a platter after closing for 15 minutes one day, I was prompted to ask around (other business owners, primarily) how best to deal with this situation. I realize we are not going to be able to please everyone, all the time, but I certainly don't want our customers leaving our store disgruntled if I can help it. The solution I came up with was to offer a discount to folks who are inconvenienced by arriving at a time when I have temporarily closed. Who doesn't like a discount? So our new "Back in 20 Minutes!" sign has a tear-off coupon that can be redeemed for a same-day discount off their nominal purchase upon their return. I expect that, once word gets out, people will actually look forward to arriving when I have closed to eat my lunch!