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Jan 29

Closing time…you can’t stay here

wanting beer after hours
D’Oh! I never imagined closing time would be a point of conflict in what defines good customer service. Especially when business hours are clearly posted.

We post business hours everywhere. On the door, on the website, within our social networks, in The Weekly Brews beer mail,…on phone voice messaging. And we’re open to the public 7 days a week—

  • Monday, NOON to 8PM = 8 hours
  • Tuesday thru Saturday, 10AM to 8PM = 50 hours
  • Sunday, NOON to 5PM = 5 hours

—that’s 63 hours. Yes, we’re open 63 hours every week. And, yes, some folks who want to shop with us can’t make it within those 63 hours.

Acting out like Oprah!

Some folks totally lose it, throwing a public tantrum at my business doors when they arrive post-closing time. The act like Oprah, when she arrived after 6:30 p.m. at Hermes in Paris on June 14, 2005. The store had just closed and America’s beloved Winfrey lost it when not allowed inside, having a “Crash” moment, as reported by The Washington Post.

While I understand your frustration at my business being closed upon arrival, first and foremost, it’s a matter of safety.

Crime control centers say, “Do not allow customers or non-employees inside after hours. Be especially wary of anyone seeking entry before opening or after closing. Beware of emergency calls or attempts to get you to your business outside of regular hours.” And we know other business owners who’ve experienced the ill-nature of criminals after-hours, being tied and robbed. And that’s not something I want to be part of.

Hence, first and foremost, I am not attempting to separate you from the beer, it’s a a matter of safety.

It’s Sunday at 5:01…what’s one minute to you?!

Sunday’s closing time is 5:00 p.m. That means the doors are locked at 5:00 and shoppers inside are encouraged to bring their items to checkout. (This sentiment carries through to the 8:00 p.m. closing time on the remaining six days of the week.) Arriving at 5:01, 5:04, 5:12, 5:23,… all are after-hours, leaving the person in want, outside — just as recommended by crime control centers. Sunday’s closing time is clearly posted as 5:00, which means last entry into the store was in the 4-o’clock hour. I admit, latecomers have dared call me a Beer Nazi! Does maintaining a strict schedule for our safety and sanity make me a socialistic anti-parliamentarian anti-semitic beer collective?

In our first year of business, I made the mistake of letting folks in at that 1-minute into our off-hour, sacrificing our safety. However, I quickly learned that once inside, there is little a clerk can do to move the shopping process along. One minute can quickly turn into tens of minutes. You turn down the lights and turn off the music. You ask the shopper if you can help them find a specific beer. While one shopper may be precise, pulling a beer or two and heading direct to checkout, adding just two to five minutes to your day, another shopper takes their time, requiring the businessowner to sacrifice 38 minutes for their one-bottle purchase.

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here

“But it’s still early,” laments a shopper when closing time is announced. I realize it is early for you. I appreciate that you like my store and its products enough to come here. I am VERY thankful. But I’m also tired. I still have closing tasks ahead, as well as at-home chores. There’s dinner to be cooked, dishes to be cleaned, dogs to be loved, and a beer to be drank. (Will the beer be refreshing, thirst-quenching and light? Probably not. It’s likely to be a “take me away, stress-reducing ale” after being screamed at through the locked door.)

Please believe me when I say this: “I’m glad you want to come in. It’ll be a sad day for us when folks stop wanting to come in. I do appreciate you, I really do!” Not letting you in during the off-hours is nothing personal against you, and I welcome you anytime during our posted business hours.

But there are still some who don’t care about our reasons for adhering to posted business hours. They tell me, “Good customer service by a small business owner means more personal sacrifice.” They throw tantrums at my door, then go online and give my store a bad review because I didn’t let them in.

And evenings like that are a strong ale nights.

Perhaps this post should start a series, “A reason for another pour.” This one would be entitled Pour #67: My inability to please all customers.

Photo credit: Richard Sloan, March 8, 2010 - "Washington Beer" photostream on Flickr
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